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BERNARD-MOOMAW RODEO STOCK COMPANY (1933-45)

BADGER MOUNTAIN

Inducted in 2002

bernardThe Bernard-Moomaw Rodeo Company, founded in 1933, provided stock during the second decade of the Ellensburg Rodeo. First teamed with Tim Bernard, the Leo Moomaw family provided bucking stock to the Ellensburg Rodeo for thirteen years between 1939 and 1991, ranking them alongside the Christensen Brothers (ERHOF ’98) in the annals of Ellensburg Rodeo stock contracting history. The Bernard-Moomaw Company won recognition throughout the 1930s and 1940s rodeo world for their bull Droopy. Bernard and Moomaw were among the first Northwesterners to breed and contract Brahma Bulls. Their most famed bucking broncs were Two Spot, Zombie, Swift Current, Blue Blazes, Jack Wade, Black Widow, Levi Strauss and, of course, “Badger Mountain.” Dubbed “The Badger” by top hands, this famed bronc thrice won the coveted title of National Bucking Horse of the Year. Tim Bernard and Leo Moomaw are both Inductees to the Omak Stampede Hall of Fame in tribute their role as 1934 founders of that rodeo. In their final contracting year, the Ellensburg Rodeo Board gave each man an engraved watch expressing gratitude for their contributions to the Labor Day weekend rodeo. Leo Moomaw and Tim Bernard were north central Washington stock contractors. Leo Moomaw, one of seven children, was born to Sam and Ellen Moomaw in Addy, WA in 1894. Although he suffered polio as a youngster, his love for horses helped him overcome any ill effects as he rode to gather the wild horses that roamed the area near what is now Chief Joseph Dam above Bridgeport. That was the start of his rodeoing career as a bronc rider, roper and later a stock contractor. In 1915 a group in Davenport decided to have a rodeo and they contacted Leo to furnish horses. He and some buddies gathered from the hills and drove the wild stock to the site. That started him in the rodeo contracting business.After a stint in the U.S. Army during WWI he resumed his rodeo business with Don Condon and they were in demand whenever cowboys needed bucking stock. Most often the rodeo string was driven to the shows from the ranch near Monse. Meanwhile a cattleman-bank loan officer moved into the Okanogan Valley having trailed a herd of cattle from northern Oregon across the Columbia River to his newly acquired ranch near Loomis.Tim Bernard, born in Chinook, Mont., in 1897, moved with his family to the Prosser area where he attended high school. He worked summers on ranches in Montana, attended the University of Washington and became a loan officer in a Spokane bank. But ranching was in his blood and he was bit by the rodeo bug having had successes as a roper. Before long a partnership formed between the savvy horseman Moomaw and the cattleman-businessman Bernard. “A handshake formed their bond of trust,” daughter Peggy Moomaw Nelson writes in her book in progress, “The Buckin Horse Man,” a biography of Leo’s storied career. Moomaw’s broncs and steers and a trained crew under his guidance provided quality rodeo and Bernard’s business and sales acumen sustained the partnership from 1933 through WWII.They shared a vision that would bring rodeo into small towns and large cities where crowds would be drawn to see top quality stock and the best cowboy and cowgirl competitors. Tim headed out to sell their idea and Leo prepared the stock to travel, which became even more difficult in 1937 by adding Brahma bulls and Mexican bulldogging steers. (It was an $1,145 investment at the time, Moomaw’s son Wade recalls.) The company was among the first to bring Brahmas to Northwest rodeos. It wasn’t long until the Moomaw-Bernard reputation grew and rodeos across the region, including Canada sought their services. By 1940 they were into Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas as well as Calgary’s Stampede and Cheyenne’s ‘Grandaddy of them All’ Frontier Days. Their partnership also was a key to the start of the Omak Stampede. In 1933 with two other men, they staged the rodeo with portable fences at the Omak athletic field. It was not a financial success and Moomaw-Bernard had to dig into their pockets to bail out that first event which now is known world-wide. Moomaw-Bernard Contracting Co. (MBC) became known for its rodeo efficiency even before bucking chutes were used. They caught and tied the stock in the order they would be used, facilitating saddling which sped up the shows. And competitors knew the prize money would be paid fairly and that MBC stock would give them a good opportunity to be at the pay window. The partnership had many great bucking horses and bulls, but its most famous was Badger Mountain. Leo’s talent for recognizing bucking stock paid off in 1932. He had heard about a 6-year-old bald faced bay at the Williams Brothers ranch in Douglas County. Neither of the brothers could ride the horse nor break him to plow. Leo took him to the Waterville rodeo grounds for a trial. He got a young cowboy, Henry Michel, to get on the big horse. Michel had just won the Pendleton Roundup bronc riding and with it the Northwest championship. After just four jumps out of the chute, Michel was thrown and carried back to the chutes to recover. Satisfied with what he saw, Leo traded one of his broncs for the horse that would be known for the next 25 years as Badger Mountain. In his first three years in the arena, the big bay bucked off every rider who tried him. Over the years, the horse perfected peculiarities in bucking style that “laid low the aristocracy of rodeo cowboydom,” Moomaw-Nelson writes in her book. Badger Mountain was selected National Bronc of the Year three times and was rated with Midnight and Five Minutes to Midnight as the three greatest broncs of the decade prior to WWII. His rearing, slashing, shaking style had cowboys and fans talking and publications including Time magazine writing about his prowess. As for his Ellensburg Rodeo visits, Badger Mountain threw many a rider but gave championship rides in both the ’39 and’40 rodeos. He was retired in 1950 to Bernard’s ranch and in 1954 was buried on a high knoll near Tonasket. The partnership sold their bucking stock to Ring Brothers of Wilbur, WA in 1946. But in 1953 Leo returned to rodeo to partner with Joe Kelsey and they provided stock to Ellensburg (1953-58) and many other rodeos in the greater Pacific Northwest until he retired in 1960. The late Cliff Kaynor, who was an Ellensburg Rodeo director and past president, often said Leo Moomaw and Tim Bernard were men of their word and helped Ellensburg Rodeo through some difficult times. The Colville reservation stockman ranched until his death in 1969. Bernard continued ranching and later moved to Moses Lake where he had a livestock auction business. He died in 1979. Both men have been inducted into the Omak Stampede Hall of Fame.Many rodeo men acknowledge the Moomaw-Bernard stock contracting partnership had a significant influence on the sport of rodeo, especially in the Pacific Northwest and for generations of cowboys past, present and future.