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RED AND ROSE WALL

TORNADO

Inducted in 2005

rose wallWhen famed rodeo trick rider and stock contractor “Strawberry Red” Wall unexpectedly died in 1932, the news spread quickly throughout the world of North American rodeo organizers, competitors, and fans. One cowboy bard even composed a poem in his honor, “Adios to Strawberry Red Wall”:

A cowboy of the Western ranges,

A cowboy of picturesque design

That the West had used for a pattern

To set forth the man true and fine.

He came up the ranks to leader—

As a showman he topped them all;

Much was the applause that was rendered

At the shows of “Strawberry Red” Wall.

Einar L. Wall was born to immigrant parents in Seattle, Washington, and soon dubbed “Strawberry Red” because of his flaming hair color. Of Norwegian ancestry, the “Wohl” family had changed the spelling of their name to “Wall.” As a child, Red carried on his parents’ old-country traditions by wearing wooden shoes. Red Wall learned cowboying skills by breaking horses at Seattle’s Star Stables, owned by Ray Pratt, father of Red’s wife-to-be, Rose. Red soon became an accomplished horseman and trick rider, known for “Roman Riding”—riding two horses at a full gallop, standing with one foot on each mount.

By 1919, Red Wall was riding broncs in the burgeoning western rodeo scene, winning top honors in Seattle and the Calgary Stampede. After he and Rose wed, they began careers as circus stars, not in rodeo. The Walls worked as trick riders for the Barnum and Bailey Circus for over five years. “This is a great life,” Rose wrote her mother during their circus days. “Lots of fun and excitement and so many nice boys and girls.”

In May of 1925, however, Red Wall made a career change, and wrote his mother “to let you know I’ve left the Circus to manage the Edmonton Stampede Rodeo. Rose…will come later.” Strawberry Red had returned to rodeo as a producer and partner of Canadian stock contractor Peter Welsh. Together, Wall and Welsh put together what one rodeo historian has described as “the greatest string of bucking horses the country has ever seen.” Their most famous bucking horse—“Midnight”—became an inductee to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, alongside his heir “Five Minutes to Midnight.”

Wall and Welsh split up in 1926, and Red and Rose formed the Strawberry Red Wall Rodeo Association, furnishing stock and production expertise to rodeos across America, including Madison Square Garden. In 1931, he purchased Ben Jory’s top bucking stock. Walls’ advertisements touted “the finest bucking horses and rodeo equipment in the entire Northwest,” featuring “Roman standing races…clowns…trick & fancy riding” and the expertise to produce the full range of rodeo events. Although the Walls boasted a “Bucking Buffalo,” their most important legacy was their introduction of “India Sacred Cattle.” The Walls were among the first North American rodeo stock contractors to produce what is known today as the “Brahma Bull” riding event.

Red Wall died prematurely (at 40 years of age) in 1932 from injuries related to his rough trick and bronc riding and work regimen. Rose inherited sole ownership of the Wall Rodeo Association, which she managed for nine years. One contemporary newspaperman wrote, “Mrs. Rose Wall, a smiling little lady just five feet tall, is ‘boss’ of 150 bucking horses, 20 long-horned steers from Old Mexico, and a score of ‘sacred cows’ from India.”

Rose furthered the Wall Association’s important Ellensburg connections. Rodeo President Harry Anderson had hired the Walls in 1931 and the Wall Rodeo Association served as the Ellensburg Rodeo’s roughstock contractors through 1938. In 1935, Rose married Ellensburger Buff Brady Sr., father of famed trick rider and movie star Buff Brady, Jr. (EHS graduate and 2001 ERHOF Inductee). The Wall Rodeo Association found the Kittitas Valley a prime winter headquarters. According to John Ludtka in The Tradition Lives On, the Walls’ famed roughstock herd grazed the Kittitas grasses “under the watchful eye of Ernie McEwen,” Chet Morrison, and other local cowboys.

Wall Rodeo Association broncs that oldtimers remember to this day are Miss Hush, Crawling Valley, Starlight, Chestamere Lady, Diamond Maggie, Hundred Grand, and So Happy, a horse named in honor of a respected Kittitas Valley Indian family. Wall broncs “Midnight,” “Five Minutes to Midnight,” and “Milky Way” won national fame and induction into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

“Tornado” also won fame throughout the nation, and many an Ellensburg Rodeo cowboy “ate dust” beneath the hoofs of the strong and crafty Tornado. The late Chet Morrison (ERHOF Inductee 1998) won day money on Tornado in 1935, and Chet’s widow, ERHOF Board member Bertha Morrison, remembers the bronc well: “Tornado was a ‘brown’ horse, and a real hard bucking horse to ride. He was ranked among the top bucking horses in the world.”

With the advent of World War II and wartime fuel rationing, the Ellensburg Rodeo took a two-year hiatus in 1941 and 1942. Although the Ellensburg Rodeo returned as a wartime “horse show” in 1943, the Red Wall Rodeo Association did not. Rose Pratt Wall retired from rodeo in 1941 and eventually moved to Bothell. Red and Rose Wall, and Tornado, were gone, but not forgotten:

The shows you promoted were honest,

To that end you gave of your best,

And you laid before the vast public

The true spirit you knew as the West.

You have gone now to ride the sky ranges,

At the ranch that’s open and free.

At the Master’s roundup you’re riding—

At last, “Home on the Range” you shall be.