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The Great Endurance Horse Race begins

We are continuing the story of The Great Endurance Horse Race, sponsored by the Denver Post in 1908.

One of the entrants was William H. (Billy) Kern, a pioneer of Pagosa Country.

It was six in the morning of May 27, 1908, when the Denver Post sponsoring train dubbed the “Pony Express” pulled into Evanston, Wyo., the starting point of the race.

The finish line was 600 miles away, in Denver.

Late season snow flurries covered the ground. Evanston seemed determined to set a new Wyoming record for rip-roaring Western hospitality.

Out of the freight cars came the horses, some loaded at Denver and others at various stops along the way.

Dick Turpin, a coal-black half-breed thoroughbred came out bucking and, with his rider, Jack Smith, the only entry from New Mexico put on a miniature rodeo for the enthusiastic crowd.

Adding to the excitement were two white broncos: Bob Brennan’s Luxus, and Otto Rush’s Scotty; and another thoroughbred called Archie. Almost unnoticed by the gaggle of reporters was a chunky strawberry roan, picked up in Severance, Colo., and led by a big, unassuming cowboy.

When the dust settled, all of the horses, riders and their equipment were weighed for the record. Only the really serious — 25 riders and horse partners — were left by May 30, but they were an interesting collection. There were 13 so-called “cold bloods,” referring to broncos. They averaged 897 pounds and their riders plus their equipment averaged 184 pounds. Completing the roster were 12 “hot bloods,” divided into six full bloods and six half bloods averaging 955 pounds, with their riders and equipment averaging 188 pounds.

Favorites among the hot bloods were Hambeltonian, thoroughbreds, and standardbreds. The cold bloods talked of Charlie Workman’s big brute, Teddy, of Arthur Holman’s big-muscled roan, of a blaze-face called “Cannonball,” of W. H. (Old Man) Kern’s rawboned bay called “Dex,” and of James (Wild Jim) Edward’s eye-catching little sorrel, Clipper.

It was almost first light, six a.m. of May 30.

The townspeople were still sleeping after the night before’s festivities, all except the riders who had the good sense to rest up for the grueling race.

Dan Vance, on Shorty V, was the first to amble up to the starting line on Main Street. He was soon joined by Dave Wykert on Sam, Nebraskan Dave Lee on Cannonball, Bob Brennan on white glistening Lexus, then the others with New Mexico’s Jim Smith riding the high-stepping Turpin lining up last. Soon, after lining up across the Main Street of Evanston, the riders heard “Go” and the race was off, 25 horses and their riders on their way to Denver.

Naturally, that Cody, Wyo., horse, the big, bucking brute of a bronco, Teddy, took the early lead at a fast lope.

Hold on to your hats. We’ll finish in next week’s column.

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