PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas – All trails lead to Houston for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, but surrounding areas are also joining the fun.
Today, 11 trail rides participate in the event and parade, including the Prairie View Trail Ride Association, named after Prairie View A&M University, a historically Black college.
The association, which was founded in 1957, consists of seven groups, nine wagons, and hundreds of members that travel nearly 100 miles. It’s referred to as one of the most historic and longest trail rides (the longest trail ride is 239 miles, Mission Trail Ride begins in San Antonio, Texas). In total, between all trail rides, some 1,300 miles are covered, originating in more than a dozen different cities and towns throughout the Texas Gulf Coast.
The trail riders make their way toward Houston riding horseback, buckboards and covered wagons. Some of the horses on the trail rides are rescued animals, according to the Texas Independence Trail Ride, a group that also has three-century-old wagons.
KPRC’s Zach Lashway and crew were invited to stay overnight on the trail with Prairie View Trail Ride Association. Lashway joined them in Hempstead, Texas for their hog roast.
As the sun set, hundreds of Prairie View Trail Association riders gathered at their individual group campfires with family and friends. Within the association, the groups reminisced about their history.
Myrtis Dightman, Jr. is Trail Boss President Prairie View Trail Riders Association.
“Sixty-five-years of trail riding. We are the oldest Black trail riders probably in America but for sure in Texas, organized trail ride. It’s a lot of excitement surrounding Black Cowboys,” Dightman said.
Ronald Turner is Assistant Trail Boss Prairie View Trail Ride.
“I ‘growed’ up on the trail. We try to promote kids and agriculture and show them the way,” Turner said.
For Mary Mayfied, trail riding to the Houston Livestock and Rodeo is a family affair.
“I have been out here since 1963. I will be 79 years old in a few months, so we called this the future cowboys, because this is our future.”
Herbert Bundage is the founder of Wild Bunch Riding Club out of Magnolia, Texas.
“Nineteen eighty-four is when we organized the Wild Bunch,” Bundage said.
Bundage explained where the group’s name originated.
“When we came out, it was to have fun. A lot noisier than everybody else, so they tagged us with the ‘wild bunch’,” Bundage explained.
Regardless of the club, all Prairie View riders journey, camp and feast together.
Kelvin Arnsworth is master of the hog squad.
“This crew has been together for 24 years,” Arnsworth said.
This group prepped and roasted a 250-pound hog for more than 18 hours.
“God has blessed us. Today is the best day of our lives. Knowing that I am still living. And I can associate with my family and friends, and I can do this one more time,” Arnsworth, who went on to say he is sick. “I just got off the chemo table, stage four colon cancer, stage four liver cancer.”
Black cowboys date back to before the beginning of the cattle-driving era, but just because they have been around, doesn’t mean they have always been visible.
Prairie View trail riders have won several awards over the organization’s 65 years of existence, including 2011 Spirit award, 2012 and 2013 Division II Best Trail award, 2014 Best Wagon Spirit award, 2017 Best Appearance Trail Ride Group and Division II Outstanding Trail Ride group, 2019 Top Trail Ride award and in their 64th year the Trail Ride Spirit award and the Division I winner for the first time in the history of the organization.