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McAlester Prison Rodeo

Oklahoma City architect Todd Crowl was quarterbacking the McAlester High Buffalo football team around the time of the 1973 McAlester Prison Riot. He retains vivid childhood memories of watching Big Mac’s famed Prison Rodeo, whose 70-year ride ended several years ago.

Prison rodeos were fun, because of the prison population taking part in the rodeo, and some of the games and activities that would be politically incorrect to do today. One example was “Money the Hard Way.” They put a $100 bill on the horn of a bull. Then they turned the prisoners loose in the arena on the prison rodeo grounds.

Money the Hard Way was a fan favorite. No one forced the prisoners to participate, it was just whoever wanted to go in. There would be at least a hundred guys. Among the prisoners, it was a macho thing. If you stayed in the stands, you were considered a sissy.

There were some bold guys that would actually go straight for the bull and try to get the money off of him. There were guys getting bulled and horned. They would just kind of scrape them off. Just like fans go to an auto race to see a car crash, folks went to a prison rodeo to see a prisoner get gored by a bull!

Fortunately, bulls aren’t multitaskers, they focus on one person, so they would set their sights on one guy and charge him. They would either bull him, or the guy would jump up onto the six-foot wall to get out of the way.