Jim Peters, an old cowboy gone.
Jim Peters, a rodeo legend with hundreds of cowboy and rodeo fans in Southeast Texas, passed away on Christmas Day. Peters was 77 years old and his obituary modestly said he was a rancher. He was much more than that.
Peters was born in Jenks, Okla. and worked any type of ranch work anyone would hire him to do. He first competed in a rodeo at the age of 15 and continued in rodeo until he was 53. However, he rode his last bull at the ripe old age of 75. The occasion for that was a rodeo produced by the Cowboy Church of Jasper, Peters’ church.
“I rode for a little over seven seconds, until I lost my grip and bucked off,” Peters said. “I was sore for a few days, but it was worth it.”
Records in the PRCA office show that he competed from 1949 until about 1961 on either a permit or as a cardholder. Overlapping in those years were the rodeos he competed in and rodeos he worked as a clown. Peters is best known and most remembered for his years as a clown and bull rider protector. In Peters day fighting bulls the clown/bullfighter only wore baggy jeans and a shirt. There were no pads like the bullfighters of today wear.
He is also remembered for working with his long time traveling companion, a small mule named Sidekick. Sidekick was highly trained by Peters and also possessed a large vocabulary. Among Sidekick’s best tricks was the ability to kick a volleyball over rodeo bleachers. After Sidekick died, Peters had his head mounted and hung on the wall at his Kirbyville home. Regretfully, Sidekick was destroyed in a fire that destroyed Peters’ home.
“Jim Peters was the best man I ever worked a rodeo with. He was very fast and agile and always did his best to protect a cowboy. I am proud to have had Jim as my friend,” longtime rodeo announcer Coleman Peveto said.
Peters was nominated to become a member of the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2010. He was not selected, probably because the majority of his career had been in the Southeast Texas region and he was not well known in the West Texas rodeo area. Another complication was that during the years when he was active record keeping was “hit or miss.”
Even though he worked and competed in several hundred rodeos, the books were not kept and recorded as accurately as they are today. In spite of the fact that there was not enough paper trail to place Peters in the Hall of Fame, there is no one more deserving than him to be there.
In July 2010, Ray Cotton honored Peters and Dickie Richards by recognizing their contributions to rodeo at the summer rodeo at the Texas Longhorn Arena. The two old time cowboys were each given one of the Longhorn’s custom buckles.
As Peters was given his buckle, tears formed in his eyes. The old cowboy was touched to be remembered and honored in such a manner. He was more used to giving than being given to.
Peters knew the award was coming. He and his wife Connie had come prepared.
They brought a decorated cake to share with their friends that attended, and Peters did something else he was noted for; he brought a big bag of candy to pass out to the kids in the crowd. In his days as a clown he always brought a big bag of candy and during the events he was not needed in the arena for, like roping, he would go into the stands and pass out the candy.
“When Jim had Sidekick, that mule would try to follow Jim into the stands,” Connie Peters said.
“If you could count friends in money, Jim Peters would be a millionaire,” Peveto said.
Meeting and talking with Peters, it was evident that you had met a modest man and a man that would be a generous, loyal friend. He is remembered by his friends at the Cowboy church as being a man that would do anything he could do to help any of the youngsters wanting to go into rodeo. He had a wealth of information and would spend any amount of time to share information and tell stories to anyone at anytime.
Nearly every town in Southeast Texas had an arena or, as in Orange, two arenas, in the 1950s. The majority of those arenas are gone now and the cowboys who competed in them and worked in them are passing away. Things that will never pass away are the memories of the cowboys like Jim Peters.