By Jennifer Dorsey
Back in 1993 a newspaper reporter in Jackson asked local teenage rodeo star Jason Wheeldon about his idols in the sport.
The Jackson Hole High School senior replied that the man he admired most on the pro circuit was bareback rider Joe Alexander, a Jackson Hole native.
“I like him because he just makes it look so simple,” Wheeldon told the Jackson Hole Guide.
“That’s what I always want to do. I want to look classy riding a horse, and it’s always a challenge to ride a horse that way.”
“Alexander the Great,” as he was sometimes called by journalists, was a star in the arena, earning a place in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and the Rodeo Hall of Fame.
“Joe Alexander dominated bareback riding like no other cowboy has to date,” the ProRodeo Hall of Fame says. “His five consecutive world titles and two regular season championships in the 1970s remain a [PRCA] record.”
Like many rodeo standouts, Alexander and another Jackson notable before him, Robert Crisp, knew their way around horses from an early age.
Alexander was born in 1943 in Jackson Hole and grew up about 60 miles southeast on a ranch near Cora.
“As youths, Joe and his brother rode horseback to their school bus stop,” says Alexander’s writeup in the Ellensburg (Washington) Rodeo Hall of Fame — another place of honor for him. “They would tether their mounts, attend school and ride home carrying the day’s mail to their distant ranch house. At seventeen, Joe rode his first bucking horse in a ranch meadow and never looked back.”
Alexander stood out from the crowd in high school rodeo and at Wyoming’s Casper College, where he won the Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s Bareback Riding Championship in 1966.
“Joe hit the rodeo trail in earnest in 1970 and achieved immediate success on the PRCA circuit,” the Ellensburg Hall of Fame says.
In 1974 Alexander set the bareback riding world record with a 93-point ride on Beutler Brothers & Cervi’s Marlboro in Cheyenne, a mark that stood until October 2002.
While Alexander specialized in bareback riding the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame describes Robert Crisp as a “stylish saddle bronc” rider.
Crisp was born in Georgia in 1897 but moved to Jackson with his family as a boy. He worked for various ranches as a youngster and later worked for the JY Ranch, where he entertained and guided a number of dignitaries, including President Herbert Hoover.
The JY Ranch enabled Crisp to get involved with rodeo, the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame says. He traveled the country and competed in the World Series of Rodeo. Crisp also was a saddle bronc rider for stock contractors Elliot & McCarthy, traveling to Great Britain and performing in a rodeo in front of the queen. ￼