"This is the kind of
horses we are trying to raise," said Hyde Merritt, as he waved
his arm out of the pickup window at the geldings standing
looking at the driver of the truck. "They are good horses
in our rough country, they've got a lot of cow in them, and
there's never one of them unsound. They're just what we need
for the ranch, and they make good rodeo horses too," he added.
"Really," Hyde continued, "it's a rodeo kind of horse that
we've been trying to raise ever since Dad started. But those
kind work at everything we need to do."
"Dad" in this case is King Merritt, a name that has been synonomous
with rodeo and good horses since the early '20s. He knew the
kind of horse he wanted, and he began buying and raising them
before Hyde was born. But, through the years, Hyde and his
brothers and sisters kept the same idea in their horses, and
today those horses are much in demand for rodeo as well as
But let's go back, back to where those horses originated,
and see what happened to bring about this "Merritt kind of
horse," or as Hyde calls them, "the rodeo kind."
Foals like this grow up to be the rodeo kind
Hyde & Dede Merritt
as they stand in the front yard of their home
Merritt was born in Calhoun, Georgia, in 1894, but a short
time later his folks moved to Natchitoches, Louisiana, where
they ran a livery stable. Later they moved to Chickasha, Oklahoma,
but after a short stay, decided to go back to Louisiana and
the livery stable. King returned to Louisiana with his family,
but he decided right quick that he had liked the continual
moves west, and he wasn't going to be satisfied in Louisiana.
After one night, he ran away from home, riding one of his
father's mules to Texas.
Over the next three or four years King got his first taste
of cowboying. He worked on the Matador, Four Sixes and J.A.
Ranches of Texas, and it was during this time that he probably
first learned how to use a rope. King liked Texas and the
cowboy life, but a memory of a movie he had seen in 1908 about
the Frontier Days Rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyoming kept popping
up in his mind, until finally, in 1912, the youngster pulled
out for Wyoming.
Hyde said, "Dad arrived in Cheyenne during a May snowstorm,
with a silver dollar in his pocket, and a white shirt on his
back. He went to work for the Swan Land & Cattle Company,
one of the English syndicates, up in Chugwater, and rode to
their headquarters in a horse-drawn corn wagon."
King worked for several ranches in the south-eastern Wyoming
area, and then began buying land, finally settling in Federal,
a small community a few miles northwest of Cheyenne.
"Dad began rodeoing in the '20s," Hyde said, "and it was then
that he began collecting those good horses."
"King Merritt mounted, with Hyde (left) and Sonny on
either side of him. The picture was taken at Pendleton Oregon
One of the first top rodeo horses with which King was associated
was Baldy, the famous roping horse that was ridden by so many
of the greats, including Ike Rude and Clyde Burk. Hyde said,
"Dad rode Baldy when Ike owned him, and liked him so well
that he went to Oklahoma in 1938 and bought Old Red Buck,
who was a brother to Baldy.
Then he bought their sire Red Man (this Red Man was by Tu
Bal Cain), and used both of them on some remount mares he
"After two or three years," Hyde continued, "Dad bought Black
Hawk, who was by San Simeon by Zantanon, and out of Little
Sue, the doggin' mare of Jimmie Nesbitt's. He knew the doggin'
mare, so he felt like the horse would be the right kind.
"A few years later," Hyde went on, "Dad bought Gangster. He
liked him so well, he then went to the Bell Ranch in New Mexico
and bought a full brother to him, Patron, off Albert Mitchell.
Gangster and Patron were by Keeno, and Dad bred them for several
"In the meantime, he bought different studs, like Pecos P,
who was a hell of a match racehorse down in South and West
Texas, and New Mexico. He had crippled himself by cutting
his knee on the jagged edge of a water tank. That's the way
Dad had the opportunity to buy him. We bred him for several
years, along with Patron and Black Hawk."
mounted on Bullet, the horse Hyde says is probably the most
famous steer roping horse of all time."
a number of other well-known horses through the years, including
Bullet, who Hyde said was probably the most famous steer roping
horse of all time. King first saw him at the rodeo in Fort
Worth, where the little horse ("he never weighed over 950
pounds when he was in the best condition of his life") drug
a 1,600-pound bull out of the arena.
cattle business takes up the largest part of his ranch operation."
Hyde said, "Bullet was a horse that would turn right back
through himself. He had a lot of action and was just honest.
Everything about Bullet was honest. And he would talk to you.
When you roped a steer on him, he'd look back and nicker when
he thought you were supposed to be done tying. And generally
you were, because he handled the cattle just right for you.
"I never did lay a steer down on him in practice. Once when
I was still in the Army, there was a steer roping at Torrington
and I had entered it. I asked Dad what he thought I should
do and he said. 'Just go rope him, Bullet will do the rest.'
Sure enough, I went and roped him, got my trip, and Bullet
did the rest." Bullet was by Jack McCue by Peter McCue. Last
December he was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of
Fame in Oklahoma City.
King was buying rodeo horses, but Hyde said his dad was always
one for a match race, and the horses he was buying were known
for their quick speed.
"Dad was a match racer. He would never turn away from anyone
who wanted a match race. Of course, he outran everybody with
Gangster. He wasn't a quarter-of-a-mile horse, but he outran
a bunch of them at a quarter of a mile. He was best at 220
yards. I was light enough to ride him, and, of course, my
sisters jockeyed him a lot.
"Then we acquired Beggar M," Hyde continued. "He was by Beggar
Boy. We roped calves on Beggar, and match-raced him too. And
we had another old horse, Nigger, an old black, rough-headed
horse. He had a figure five on his jaw - came from down around
Junction, Texas. He
was an all-around horse. We match-raced him, roped steers
and calves on him, and Sis (Hyde's sister) won the cutting
at Denver on him in 1945.
steers and calves are branded before they ever leave the ranch
for the first rodeo. Here Lory, right, runs the cattle into
the chute, while Chip works the headgate."
"In the early
'40s we had a buckskin horse we called Tex. Dad bought him
from a horse trader in Fort Worth. He was a George Clegg-bred
horse, and was a good looking horse. He had only one good
foot - both front feet were nerved, and the right heel on
the right hind leg was cut plumb off from a wire cut - but
Dad would match race him.
"We roped off him too. Those tough ropers would follow us
around just to ride him. My brother and I would haul him,
and those other guys would rope off him and beat us. But we
survived by getting mount money from those tough ropers."
and his family sometimes trail cattle between the ranches."
King died in 1953. He was a former World Champion Steer roper,
and was the first AQHA Director from Wyoming. Hyde noted that
he brought the first Quarter Horse stallion into the state,
Old Red Buck ("There were some horses here called Steel Dust
horses, but there wasn't anything registered."), and he judged
the first Quarter Horse show held in California. He was one
of the founders of the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association,
and was president of that group when he died. In 1977 he was
inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame's Rodeo Hall
"Today Hyde limits his
competition in the rodeo
arena to team roping and steer roping."
"After Dad died, my brother Sonny and I just kept going along
the same lines Dad had been. We had another brother, Cotton,
who had been training racehorses, and he was one of the good
trainers of the time, but he died of polio in 1950. The
girls - Ramona, Ginger and Sis - stayed active for a long
time too, and they rode a lot of horses for us. Sonny and
I took them to Miles City one time and outran a Thoroughbred
horse from South Dakota with Begger M. Then we wanted to go
to a rodeo in Utah, so we gave them 10 bucks apiece and sent
them home on the bus. That was after they had won the race
for us," Hyde laughed, "and they've never forgiven us for
"These roping calves were destined
for Cheyenne Frontier Days."
Through the years, Hyde has probably stayed more active in
the horse business than any of the other Merritt children.
Before his dad died, Hyde and Cotton had bought a horse called
Ambrose from Coke Blake. ("He was the last of the Blake horses,
and was sure nice looking. One time Raymond Hollingsworth
said that he would win a halter class with just his head sticking
out of the stall.")
Hyde said, "I bought a grandson of Joe Moore, a horse called
Chico Moore. His dam was a mare called Miss Bootlegger, who
was reputed to be the only mare that ever outran Shu Fly.
Chico could run, and he was a good horse.
Valentine was Hyde's number one sire for several years.
The horse died this past year at the age of 24."
"Then I acquired a horse called Blue Valentine," Hyde continued.
"He was by Red Man by Joe Hancock, and was out of a mare by
Valentine. Ken Gunter of Wilcox, Arizona, raised him. Dell
Haverty of Thermopolis had the pick of Gunter's colt crop,
and he picked Blue. I've had access to the horse all his life,
but I bought Dell out 10 years ago. The horse died this summer,
at 24 years of age, but I got a few mares to foal to him this
"Hyde has competed in about all
the timed events.
This picture of him roping calves was taken about the Wyoming
State Fair a few years ago."
Hyde is using another stallion, a son of Blue Valentine that
he raised, Gooseberry, who is out of a daughter of Plenty
Coup. He is breeding daughters of Blue Valentine to Gooseberry,
and although that is very close breeding, he is pleased with
the results. He said, "We have two crops of foals that way
now, and we really like them. We don't have any bad dispositions,
bad heads, crooked legs or anything as a result of that close
the stallion [on the right],
is by Blue Valentine and is the leading sire on the ranch
we did that," Hyde continued, "is that we scoured the country
looking for another close-up, old-time, Hancock-bred horse,
and couldn't find one we thought was suitable. Gooseberry
is my kind of horse, so we thought we would try it."
Hyde has one other stallion he is breeding, another Hancock-bred
horse - one he got from Hollis Fuchs - Quarters Time. The
young horse is by Quarter Hancock out of a mare by Little
Buddy by Buddy Nile.
Hyde said, "In our mares today, we have some of the blood
of all the studs I've mentioned. We sure like the Hancock
horses, and especially old Blue's colts. They have a mild
disposition, and I've never known one to try and buck you
off. They're pretty popular. As a matter of fact, they're
really popular among these team ropers.
"These horses are good anywhere you put them, in the rocks
or in the arena. We never have to shoe one of them, but we
try to stay with a black-footed horse. And we never have an
unsound horse. I think that's because of the black feet and
good bone that Blue put on his colts.
"Of course," Hyde continued, "Dad was always a leg man. In
judging Quarter Horse shows, both he and I would look at the
legs and watch them travel, and go from there. You don't have
a horse without legs. And that's the way we raise our horses
here on the ranch."
Today the "ranch" Hyde is referring to consists of several
places which range between Cheyenne and Tie Siding, a small
community south of Laramie. He is still raising the rodeo
kind, and not only horses, but also cattle, and even children.
Hyde and his wife Dede, whom he met when both were riding
in a match race as kids, have three sons - Chip, Lory and
Randy - and one daughter, Heidi. All have been exposed to
rodeo, and, like their father, never quite got over it. Chip
runs the ranch at Tie Siding, and competes in team roping
most weekends. Lory is on the University of Wyoming rodeo
team, where he team ropes and ropes calves, and Randy lives
in Cheyenne, where he works for a construction company, but
still helps on the ranch, and rodeos.
Heidi and her husband, Dave Sedar, live in Casper, where Dave
is assistant credit manager of the Wyoming Production Credit
Association. Dave team ropes, and Heidi runs barrels.
Hyde hasn't quit competing yet either. He followed in his
father's footsteps and roped steers for a number of years,
but hasn't roped any since about 1977 due to a knee injury.
("I can't get down and I was just donating to the champion.
I can rope 'em and get 'em tripped, but I can't get off my
horse fast enough.") Hyde does compete in the team roping
and steer stopping, an event where time stops when the steer
is roped and faces the roper's horse.
The Merritts are raising the rodeo kind in another way too,
in the cattle that are stocked on the ranches. Hyde annually
imports Mexican steers, bringing them across the border -
into Arizona during the winter, and then shipping them to
Wyoming in the spring, after the last threat of snow. The
number he brings across varies from a low of about 400 head
last year, when a number of restrictions were imposed by the
Mexican government, to a high of about 1,400 head. This year
he imported approximately 900 head of corriente cattle, which
are valued highly for their use as roping steers.
Also, Hyde buys roping calves in Florida, and brings them
to Wyoming about the same time as the steers. He rodeos them
all summer, and then winters them, selling them as yearlings.
"The Hancock blood shows in nearly all Hyde's foals."
Hyde furnishes the roping and steer wrestling stock for Cheyenne
Frontier Days, Wyoming State Fair, Wheatland and various other
PRCA rodeos in the area, as well as for the National Finals
Steer Roping and all the ropings that are sanctioned by the
Wyoming Steer Ropers Association.
Hyde said, "We're rodeoing every weekend, all summer long,
furnishing stock when we are not going to a roping somewhere.
Sometimes I wish it wasn't like that. It seems like I never
have anyone at home to run the ranch."
That's how it is when you raise the rodeo kind.
... Including "The Rodeo Kind" in the line-up of articles
already available on HancockHorses.com was originally the
idea of Fred Gist and was submitted to us by John Gist.**