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There is an iconic photo (right) of the wonderfully well-named saddle bronc rider, Buck Hand, at the Pendleton Roundup in 1936. Buck is one shutter frame away from being bucked off a well-formed black gelding named Dynamite.

Just beyond Dynamite’s left shoulder is the “snub” horse and rider. In the days before bucking chutes, the bucking horse was led into the arena by another rider and the cowboy mounted the bucking horse from the back of the saddle horse. The photo captures the moment of release. The snub rope is still dangling in mid-air, and Dynamite is shown exploding into his bucking action.

The arena director is cautiously peering under the neck of the snub horse. The day sheet is tied to his leg and his performance production card is in his back pocket where he shoved the paper in order to free his hands to help Buck Hand get on the back of the amazing bucking horse “Dynamite.”

There are number of wonderful details to notice about the photo, but the bucking horse, Dynamite, dominates the frame. This is appropriate because, in 1936, Dynamite was the focus of everyone’s attention. Cowboys could measure their careers based on a successful ride on Dynamite, and spectators were buying tickets to see the result of the contest. At the time of the photo, Dynamite’s bucking prowess had been a featured attraction at rodeos across the Northwest for 17 years.

Dynamite was a top bucking horse from 1919 to 1937. Over Dynamite’s lengthy career, he performed at almost every regional rodeo large and small, including the prestigious rodeos of the time: Ellensburg, Lewiston, and Pendleton. He bucked off many of the top bronc riders: such as World Champion Howard Tegland at the Ellensburg Rodeo and World Champion Frank Woods, who was flown in during the barnstorming period of aviation for a match ride at the rodeo in Okanogan, Washington.

Leo Moomaw, legendary Northwest stock contractor from 1915-1960 and Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame Inductee (2002), said about Dynamite, “I always consider Dynamite the best bucking horse I ever owned.”

In 1919, Leo Moomaw traded a team of work horses to Joe Hudspeth in order to obtain Dynamite. “Joe owned him first but found out he could not ride him and no one else could either.”

The black gelding would not be a saddle horse, and Leo Moomaw had found his superstar bucking horse. Leo’s connection to Dynamite would grow along with his pioneering rodeo company and establishment of rodeo itself as an event and an industry.

There are two types of photos of Dynamite. Many photos from the time show Leo proudly holding the halter and lead rope with a completely relaxed Dynamite calmly looking into the camera. The second type of photos show Dynamite in action in the rodeo arena — jumping in the air and kicking, and most likely tossing the cowboys who tried to ride him.

Dynamite was Moomaw’s first animal star and remained the star for a long, distinguished career. For 18 years, Dynamite travelled the Northwest by truck, rail car, and by trail from rodeo to rodeo. Dynamite was always a feature bucking horse and the highlight of the rodeo performance. Because of his high level of performance and the length of his career, Dynamite is recognized as one of the extraordinary animal athletes worthy of the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Leo Moomaw relates the story of Dynamite’s passing. “In July 1937, I took him to a rodeo at Nesplem, Wasington, but he didn’t act right, so I did not buck him there. On the way home, about 5 miles from the pasture, he dropped out of the horse herd, so I left him and left the gates open after we got home. Next morning, he was with the saddle horses and seemed to be alright, so I put him with the rest of the horses. He went about 2 miles and died, and my men and I buried him where we found him and put up a marker. This was on July 7, 1937, about 10 miles NW of the ‘Wild Goose Bill’ Ferry.”

Dynamite received the respect of a rodeo superstar until the end. The Moomaw family was among the first rodeo “stock contractors.” Their business innovation was to make the animal athletes the stars of the performance. Leo Moomaw traded for Dynamite when he was first beginning his rodeo company, and Dynamite was the headliner of Moomaw’s rodeo herd for almost two decades. Dynamite’s success was essential to the success of the Bernard-Moomaw Rodeo Company and also essential to the success of rodeo events in Ellensburg, Lewiston, Pendleton, Omak, and many others in the Northwest.

Rodeo is a partnership of men and animals to accomplish something great, and Dynamite is an example of that partnership both in the arena and beyond the rodeo performance.

Daniel Beard is a rodeo stock contractor and Morgan Middle School history teacher who serves on the board of the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame Association.

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