Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cyra McFadden, Rain or Shine

Rodeo Week at BITS continues with a daughter’s memoir of her father, the larger-than-life rodeo luminary, Cy Taillon. With his golden voice and gentlemanly manner, he invented the persona of the rodeo announcer. And he won the devotion of rodeo cowboys and fans from San Francisco's Cow Palace to Madison Square Garden from the 1940s to the 1970s.

Not surprisingly, what this story reveals casts the man in a somewhat different light. Before fame finds him, he’s the hard drinking, gambling, womanizing ne'er-do-well who married the author's singer-dancer mother after a one-day courtship. Following the rodeo circuit out of a home base in Montana, they fought and loved each other passionately, a Scott and Zelda of the Western plains, and then broke up.

Following a spectacular crash at an air show in Great Falls in 1946, at which Cy used the microphone to calm the startled crowd, he became the hero he was destined to become. Assuming a life of propriety with a new devoted wife and two new sons, he was finally launched in the career rodeo people remember him for. Meanwhile, his first wife languished in a miserable second marriage, and his daughter grew up, loving her absent father deeply while stubbornly unwilling to come to terms with the man he had become.

Thanks to the University of Nebraska Press for reprinting this great memoir. It offers a fascinating window into the world of the rodeo circuit, at least as it once was. For rodeo-going readers, it does much to explain the evolution of the role and persona of the rodeo announcer and the elevation of rodeo cowboying into a kind of gallantry.

It's also an entertaining story told by an author with a gift for both sentiment and satire. With her eye for the absurd detail, she can unerringly find the irony in an often rueful story. The many family photos are also an excellent addition to the book.

Rain or Shine is available at amazon and AbeBooks.

Coming up: Ty Phillips, Blacktop Cowboys


  1. Hi Ron, I always wondered about the people behind the Rodeo circuit. The announcers we hear, are`nt always what we expect. But I have heard this mans voice. So I will finish by saying that, he could have sold me a freezer while I lived in Greenland!!

  2. I never really thought about that side of it either. The voices surely do make a difference though.

  3. Cheyenne, the rodeo announcers I've heard are a type, and usually spar with the "clown" who works the arena - something easy to do with wireless mics these days. And they fill in the gaps between rides. McFadden would have been an early stage in the evolution of that part of the show.

    Charles, the announcers do a nice job of "framing" what it is we're seeing, also keeping up the crowd's interest and support for the riders. With other sports you have to be watching on TV to get that ongoing commentary.

  4. I remember reading this book when it first came out. I'd definitely read it again. Glad it's back in print!