Stephen F. Austin State University

The Ames, Texas Rodeo and Easter, a tradition (June 2013)

The Ames, Texas Rodeo and Easter, a tradition (June 2013)

The Ames, Texas Rodeo and Easter, a tradition
By Robert L. Schaadt

The Annual Easter Zydeco, Trail Ride, and Rodeo Weekend is this Fri. and Sat., March 30-31 at the Trinity Valley Exposition Fairgrounds.

The events start Sat., 9 a.m. with the calf roping. The trail ride starts at 2 p.m. followed by a dance at 6 p.m. with Brian Jack & the Zydeo Gamblers and Lil'Nate & The Zydeo Big Times at 10 p.m. The Sunday Easter Rodeo starts at 3 p.m. followed by another dance with J. Paul, Jr. & the Zydeo Nubreeds. Admission is $15 for the weekend or $10 per day for adults and $5 for children 5-12.

The rodeo holds five ASGCA approved events. For rodeo information call Darrell Petry at 210-452-7598, A. Howard 281-409-1542, or Ervin Hebert at 936-402-6020. For trail ride information, contact Rochelle at 936-402-2076. The purpose of the Ames Easter Rodeo is to support Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church located at 101 Donatto Street, Ames, Texas. The church's rodeo committee plans the event.

The History of the Ames Easter Rodeo as told by Christine (Mrs. Cleveland) Domain along with her daughter, Maxine Domain. When Christine Trahan, daughter of highland farmers and ranchers Lewis and Octavia Trahan, graduated from Liberty Training High School in 1938, she did not realize that she would become a central figure in an Easter Rodeo for 74 years, but that is actually what happened. Her family along with her husband, Cleveland Domain, started the rodeo and kept it going for many years, even providing the Domain Ranch as the rodeo grounds.

And she continues to serve on the church rodeo committee in 2013. Christine Trahan Domain remembered as a little girl helping shear the sheep they raised when the wool buyer came out from Houston. Her father and brothers Pete and John were rice farmers too, even farmed rice in Galveston County In 1939 members of Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church of Ames, Texas decided to provide funding for the church by holding an annual Easter rodeo.

The first rodeo was held on open property just northeast of the church grounds. Cleveland Domain, T. P. Trahan, Lewis Trahan who served as time keeper for many years, Tony Travis and Emile Fontenot were among the founders of the big event. The early rodeos were so successful among the residents of Ames, Raywood, Liberty and South Liberty County, that the church members built wooden bleachers, fences and shoots for the rodeo arena. The entire church membership pitched in to make it all a big success. They even sold beer to raise money and to quench one's thirst on a hot day, making Jax a popular concession. Food was abundant and everyone had a good time celebrating life and Easter with a family-community wide event. Music has always been a part of the event too.

Early bands featured the accordion playing the French dance music, sometimes a combination of Cajun and la la music, eventually including early rock and roll and the new forms of zydeco that incorporated blues and French, rock and roll tunes. The bands featured either a button or piano accordion, a washboard used for rhythm, drums and a bass or guitar or a combination of instruments that played waltzes, shuffles, two-steps and other dancing music. Some of the early bands included The Saxons, the Grady Gaines Band and the Willis Prudhomme Band. To supplement the local wild bulls and horses, Ralph Holmes brought his stock up from Anahuac.

The Y. U. Jones Ranch of Houston supplemented it with their bucking horses and bulls for a number of years. Some of the best cowboys, riders and ropers, helped from the beginning such as Owen and Warren Jackson, Ralph Homes, Leo Frank, Tony Travis, Gaze Ozan, Cleveland Walters, C. Whittington, and many others. The stock was wild and it was a rough rodeo at times.

The Ames Easter Rodeo became a major stop, one of the earliest, on the professional Texas Black Cowboy Rodeo Circuit, attracting the professional black cowboys and cowgirls from all over Texas and was sanctioned by the their professional organization, but it was not segregated unlike some of the white rodeos. Anyone could ride and rope. It continues to be a major rodeo in Texas attracting the best that compete to win money, buckles and halters.

During the first rodeo, Cleveland Domain roped his calf, got off his horse for the tie down, and broke his leg by stepping in a rough spot on the ground. Christine Domain mentioned that she rode in the barrel races and flag events for a number of years until a fellow rider, Augustine Thibodeaux, went flying off her horse without major injury, but it made Christine pause long enough to decide to quit riding in rodeo events. Maxine Domain reminded her mother that at one of the rodeos, the bull and rider went flying over the fence and landed in a coverable car to the amazement of everyone, but everyone recovered and bull went back into the pen.

At the next rodeo Y. U. Jones had a ruptured appendix and all of the cowboys spent the night in Ames holding a vigil. Mrs. Domain and one of the other cowboy wives cooked for the 25-30 men. Jones recovered. The rodeo was held every Easter except for the year that they rerouted FM 160 through the church's rodeo grounds to location in 2013. This ended the Ames Easter Rodeo being at the church. After discussions held at the church, the Easter Rodeo moved to the grounds of the Cleveland Domain's 150-acre ranch located south of Ames on FM 160 for a number of years.

Mrs. Domain and her family, along with J. P. Trahan, and Emile Fontenot continued to hold the event at the Domain Ranch for a number of years following Cleveland Domain's death in 1954. Eventually the Easter Rodeo became too popular and with hundreds in attendance, it grew too large for the ranch. Rather than building a new arena, the church committee decided to move it to the Trinity Valley Exposition on FM 563. If you have never been to the Ames Easter Rodeo that still provides significant funding for Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church, then make 2013 the year that you and your family experience the rodeo, the family atmosphere, the friendly people, watch the great rodeo action, eat excellent food and dance to the zydeco music. You will never regret it.

This history is not complete, but it is a start. Maxine added: "I am sure that we need to mention more names, but most of the people were too busy 'doing' rather than recording the history. We have lots of young people now who are becoming the new leaders, but that is another story."