June 6, 2012


When I was on the road photographing my GO WEST series (1995-2003), I would make a pit stop in Iowa to see my Parents, my Grandparents next door and my Grandma out on the farm. Once when I was on the farm I was digging through old photographs and my Grandma handed me a suitcase which had belonged to my Great Grandma Mayme. It was full of many rodeo snapshots she had taken, newspaper clippings and family photographs.  I reached in and picked out this faded yellow newspaper clipping of a bronc rider at Madison Square Garden - the bronc rider was Two Time ('42 & '48) All Around World Champion Cowboy - Gerald Roberts. I looked at the photograph of Gerald and wondered if he was still alive. I did a little research and to my thrill found that he was living with his wife Pat in Abilene, Kansas. So I figured it was time to go to Kansas and meet Gerald. It just felt like the thing to do - how could I miss this chance to take a trip back in time.
 This was a great part of my travels - finding connections between my photography project and my family and sort of putting the pieces of a puzzle together which would lead me to my next chapter. I have to say, photography has always led me to some great people and great adventures. I don't know so much that I am a photographer - it is more like I use photography as this tool for time travel and a way to visit the past and open doors to meeting true American originals.

Meeting Gerald was just fantastic. I felt so lucky. It was as if I had stepped through that old newspaper clipping and into another world. He was so kind to let me come to his house a couple times and put some of his stories of riding at Madison Square Garden and flying to rodeos with Casey Tibbs on tape. I was living in New York City at the time, and liked thinking of crossing Gerald's previous path around the Madison Square Garden area as well as other cowboys and performers from earlier times.

I really enjoyed getting to know him and his wife Pat some. Gerald was a real gentleman from another era and I wish he was still around as I know so many others do.

I got these two photographs from the Cowboy Hall of Fame archives

Gerald's granddaughter put together a great website on Gerald about his rodeo days,  Hollywood stunt work and more.     http://www.geraldroberts.com/rodeocowboy.html

Gerald stands out with style : Madison Square Garden 1956 
31st World Championship Rodeo 
 Detail of above photo - Gerald wearing light hat and scarf in center

Gerald at his home in Kansas in 2000

Thanks Gerald.