Wick Peth (1930- )
The Ellensburg Rodeo's roster of world class bullfighters/clowns includes many rated the best in the business. Names like Slim Pickens, Elmer and Homer Holcomb, Jasbo Fulkerson, Wilbur Plaugher, Chuck Henson, Gene and Bobby Clark, Bob Romer, Rob Smets, Miles Hare, Loyd Ketchum, Butch Lehmkuhler. The list goes on.
But the man honored by the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame is the man with the grey wig, denim shorts, striped shirt and cleated shoes, Wick Peth. His peers voted him the premier bullfighter throughout his long career. He's known as the "father of the modern, cleated bullfighter," He appeared at Ellensburg seven years, his first in 1955 and his last in 1982. He was inducted into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys' Association Hall of Fame in 1979.
Soon after he began his work in the arena he noted he'd be better prepared as a bullfighter if he didn't have to "clown" earlier in the show. That only enhanced his abilities as did his use of cleated shoes, but didn't lessen his desire to be in the best possible physical condition. He worked at his dexterity and that helped him weather hits by the bulls he fought. He didn't tell jokes, pull stunts. He didn't wear makeup - he says at one performance he forgot to put it on and decided it wasn't necessary to distract bulls from fallen riders. He just became the very best at his trade - fighting bulls.
Wick Peth's career in the arena extended from 1949 until 1984, his
first rodeo near home in Sedro Woolley. He worked eight National Finals
Rodeos and all the big shows, including
As for his longevity in this dangerous work, he was quoted, "you have to believe you're different, that you are not going to get freight-trained, caught between the bull's head and a wall or trapped in a corner," according to an article by Bill Crawford for Prorodeo Sports News. Peth added, "you'll find out different if you stay in the business very long, but, hopefully, you will have experience and the kind of confidence in yourself and your ability that can come only from experience...not from some blind faith in being immune to injury."
Wick's brother Buzz also participated frequently in Ellensburg's arena winning the all-around cowboy title in '69 and '72 with firsts in wild cow milking and calf roping as well as placing high in the bulldogging. He mugged for Ellensburg cowboy Smoky Kayser in winning the wild cow milking in '66. Another brother, Jerry, won the Ellensburg steer wrestling buckle in 1959.
The Peth family is well known in rodeo circles - but the best known is the man in the baggy denim shorts and grey wig...the premier bullfighter in rodeo's colorful past.