Schaller Bennett, Frank Bryant, Lou Richards and Lee Scott
Inducted in 2003
When asked why he became involved in so many Ellensburg Rodeo volunteer activities, Ellensburg businessman Lee Scott used to say, “Well, someone has to chop the wood.” Schaller Bennett, Frank Bryant, Lou Richards, and Lee Scott were all “wood choppers” and they have earned recognition as ERHOF “Honorees.”
Schaller Bennett was a respected Kittitas Valley “oldtime cowboy,” rodeo competitor, and rodeo volunteer. Born into a Issaquah logging family, Bennett came to love horses while driving logging teams above Lake Sammamish. Schaller craved the “cowboy life,” and in 1925 he and wife Lula moved to the Kittitas Valley to live out that dream. They ranched on the Umptanum and Parke Creeks, building a small herd of their own. Every summer Schaller ran his cattle alongside other herds on federal land near Lion’s Rock, and the Bennetts made a tradition of summering at their Lion’s Rock cow camp.
Schaller Bennett’s rodeo career began in Issaquah bronc riding competitions. He captured the Kittitas County Bronc Riding Championship an unmatched two times, in 1927 and 1931. Schaller rodeoed throughout the Northwest in the 1920s and 1930s but was seriously injured while bulldogging in the 1938 Ellensburg Rodeo. Although retired from rodeo, Schaller kept ranching through the death of Lula in 1948 and his second wife Mary in 1974. By the time of his death in 1983, Schaller Bennett had befriended and tutored scores of young Kittitas Valley cowboys who looked to him as a role model. Schaller Bennett was one of “last of the old-time cowboys.”
Frank Bryant pioneered the crucial alliance between the Yakima Indians and the Ellensburg Rodeo from 1923 through 1940s. Bryant was a local game warden, credited with introducing Chinese “ringneck” pheasant and Yellowstone elk to the valley. Bryant lived near Liberty and spoke “Chinook Jargon” a language invented by 19th century white and Indian Northwesterners to facilitate communication. In 1923, the founding rodeo board asked Bryant to coordinate Yakima Indian participation in the first Ellensburg Rodeo. 150 Indians attended, and by 1937 Frank Bryant could report over 100 teepees in the encampment and Indians representing over 20 tribes. “It is by far the largest gathering since the rodeo’s start,” he noted. Bryant was still on board when the rodeo resumed after a two-year World War II hiatus in 1945. He met with Yakima leaders in White Swan, securing promises of 100 mounted Indian participants in full regalia for the ’45 rodeo.
Today, the Ellensburg Rodeo is well known in part for its Indian participants. The Indians’ encampment, open to visitors, and their participation in the opening ceremony, traditional dancing, parade, and rodeo flat races and other competitive events, are essential to the Ellensburg Rodeo tradition. Frank Bryant, working in conjunction with the Yakima Indian people, shares much of the credit for the establishment and nurturing of those traditions.
Lou Richards was one of the “founding fathers” of the 1923 Ellensburg Rodeo. He worked as a Rodeo Board Director and Arena Director for over two decades during the rodeo’s formative years. Richards, a local cattleman, was there in the beginning when community members began to plan the first Ellensburg Rodeo. Under County Extension Agent Leonard Davis, Richards served as “straw boss” of hundreds of volunteers who formed the work crews that built the Kittitas County Fair and Rodeo grounds in the summer of 1923. Richards and his men built an exhibit hall and a grandstand with seating for 5000, plus fences, corrals, and a race track.
Elected to the first 1923 Ellensburg Rodeo Board, Richards in 1930 took the all-important post of Arena Director coordinating the arena action and keeping the show moving. He served until 1946. It was Richards who helped to plan and coordinate the array of fast-moving and entertaining rodeo events, races, and contract acts that characterize the Ellensburg Rodeo to this day. In 1937, Richards led the Ellensburg Rodeo across the “picket line” of the Cowboy Turtles’ (precursor to today’s Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association), when the professional cowboys went out on strike. In ’38, he agreed to some of the Turtles’ demands and welcomed them, noting “It’s like a homecoming to see all the boys back.” Lou Richards served as Arena Director until 1946, leaving one of the longest and most distinguished service records in the history of the Ellensburg Rodeo.
Lee Scott (1891-1983) was an energetic and respected local businessman who became a tireless worker for the Ellensburg Rodeo. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1891, Lee and wife Anne moved to Ellensburg in 1912 to buy and operate what would become Model Laundry and Cleaners. A tireless promoter and booster, Lee Scott joined the Ellensburg Rodeo Board in 1927 and served through 1935; he remained active in the rodeo the rest of his life.
Among Lee Scott’s many rodeo chores was the coordination of downtown businessmen and service organizations in support and marketing of the rodeo. For example, Scott helped begin the practice of businessmen dressing in western clothes and selling and wearing “rodeo pins” each rodeo season; to “enforce” this practice, Lee formed a “Sheriff’s Posse” akin to the “Kangaroo Court” and “Chamber Cowboys” of the modern era. Lee Scott also organized the annual rodeo dance. Lee Scott’s son Chuck served on the Rodeo Board from 1968-1982 (President ’72-’73) and granddaughter Kelly Scott Mills was 1969 Ellensburg Rodeo Queen.
Lee Scott “chopped a lot of wood” in support of the Ellensburg Rodeo. Indeed, Scott and his contemporaries Schaller Bennett, Frank Bryant, and Lou Richards helped build the volunteer tradition upon which the rodeo was, and still is, solidly based.