Inducted in 1998
The descendants of Reece and Maranda America German Gage rode into the history of the Ellensburg Rodeo in 1923 and remain there to this day. Reece and Maranda Gage migrated from Texas to the Kittitas Valley in 1885 and ranched in the northeast corner of the Valley near the mouth of the Clockum Canyon on what is now Gage Road. Their children were Joy, Robert, German, Calvin, Donna, Pearl, Myrtle, Merle, and Alice. Their sons Joy and Robert took up cowboying early on and led the transition of the Gages from the cattle range into the rodeo arena. Both would impact the Ellensburg Rodeo as volunteers and competitors and through the work and cowboy skills of their children and grandchildren.
Joy Gage (b. 1893) rode broncs in the “Sunday rodeos” and exhibition events prior to 1924. Then he won the prestigious Kittitas County bronc riding event at the Ellensburg Rodeo (his ’24 championship saddle from is now on display in the Kittitas Valley Museum). Joy went on to compete in Tenino, Issaquah, and other shows, and he worked for the Ellensburg stock contractors Red and Rose Wall. Joy Gage later trained horses and farmed in the Yakima Valley. Joy’s daughter Josephine (“Jo”) Gage Barkely carried on his legacy via her 4-H Pony Club, “Barkley’s Bandits,” and the Central Washington Pony Club’s awarding of the Joy Gage Perpetual Memorial Trophy. To this day she remembers her father aboard a sunfishing bucking bronc, tipping his hat to the Ellensburg Rodeo crowd!
Joy’s older brother Robert Gage (b. 1880) married Buena Riggs in 1906 and they brought fourteen rodeoing children into the world: Tressa, Harrell, Ethel, Esther, Clifford, Robert Jr. (Shorty), Peggy, George, Fred, John, Betty, Marian, Ellen, and Seth (Sonny). The Robert Gage family figured importantly in early rodeo as both volunteers and participants. The family home on the corner of 6th Avenue (near today’s Fair Office) was adjacent to the 1923 rodeo grounds construction site, so the Gages were literally in the middle of the action. Tressa L. Gage-Mundy-Graham and Esther Gage Van De Grift remember that summer of 1923 well. Their father “was a volunteer working with horse teams,” Tressa recalls, and Esther notes that 14 year-old Harrell Gage helped too. Women volunteers “built an open fire on the parking strip in front of my folks place and cooked a big tub of beans to feed the people,” Esther recalls. “Tables were set up in the little orchard on my folks’ place for the bean feast.”
Esther continues, “My folks watched the Rodeo one year with six sons—Harrell, Clifford, Shorty, George, Fred, and John—all participating in arena events.” Harrell Gage rode bucking horses and so did Fred and Sonny, who became RCA members. Shorty Gage joined the RCA as a bronc rider and later became the Ellensburg Rodeo’s longtime scorekeeper. Cliff Gage was a timed-event competitor, roping calves and competing in the wild cow milking (Cliff is perhaps the only living charter member of the Kittitas County Roping Club). George Gage was a member of the legendary Cowboy Turtles Association (progenitor of the RCA) and rode roughstock throughout North America during the 1940s and 1950s.
Soon, a third generation of Gage cowboys and cowgirls hit the rodeo road. Bob’s son Jerry rode broncs and bulls and became a respected rodeo clown. Cliff’s son Steve was a rodeo competitor and George’s son Gig rode roughstock, clowned, and still competes in the Wild Horse Race. Cliff’s daughter Ruth Ann competed in all-girl rodeos and rode with the Ellensburg Rodeo Wranglerettes (ERHOF ’97). Cliff served for many years as Assistant Drillmaster and Drillmaster of the Wranglerettes.
Thus, in all facets–volunteer work, behind the chutes, and in the arena–the descendants of Reece and Maranda Gage stand at the core of the history and traditions of the Ellensburg Rodeo.