By Naomi Hatch–
Eddie Hancock has resigned as chairman of the Rodeo Committee, but the contributions he made to the Town of Taylor through the years will last a lifetime.
“One thing big in my mind is that lives come in different chapters. It is so important to be optimistic and move to the next chapter,” said Hancock, though stepping down from his rodeo position was a difficult decision to make because he has a deep love for celebrations and Taylor.
Hancock takes little credit for his accomplishments, stating, “You can only be somewhat good at a couple of things, so if you’re going to be successful, surround yourself with good people.”
“My first remembrance and reflection of July 4th was when I was 12 years old,” Hancock recalled.
He noted that he had a great love and respect for his grandparents, Art and Emily Hancock, and when he was 12, he got his first job with his granddad, who managed the Bill Borden Ranch, a huge ranch in those days. He worked with his granddad that summer and got his first paycheck. “He put me on the payroll, $125 a month,” he said, noting his granddad was in the bishopric with Reed and Trapper Hatch, who “were committed to improve Taylor.”
Hancock remembers that 4th of July in 1959 when he went with his granddad and other cowboys to gather cattle. “A bunch of us gathered at the barn and made the circle, probably four to five miles, around Taylor. We gathered the stock and took it to the rodeo grounds for the rodeos,” said Hancock, noting that back then they had rodeos for July 4, Labor Day, and a time or two for Memorial Day.
“My mother and father, granddad and grandmother instilled in me at an early age the love of the cowboy way of life and the celebrations,” said Hancock.
“I was a rodeo bum, so when the 4th of July came, I was there,” said Hancock.
“I competed in the rodeo when I was 14, 15, 16 and 17, then went to college and competed around the State of Arizona. I never was a superstar, but I always made sure I was somewhere close to Taylor around the 4th of July, mainly to compete and be around family,” he said.
“One of my most memorable experiences on the 4th of July was 1964. That was the first time I ever placed and got a check,” he recalled.
Hancock said that by the time he was a senior in high school, he was competing in team roping, calf roping, bull riding and bareback riding.
When he was 15, his parents took him to Holbrook to compete in the rodeo, but his Dad had to go back to work, so he caught a ride with a friend from Winslow. “Three of us rode in the back of a pickup from Holbrook to Heber and competed, then that night we competed in Taylor,” he said. “It was just a memorable time.”
In 1965, his senior year, he was involved in a serious team roping accident that left him with leg and back injuries. “That was historical and put me out of commission for a while,” remembered Hancock, but he was on the rodeo team at the University of Arizona.
“I got married and promised my wife (Marie) I would cut out some of that monkey business,” he said.
“I was raised in a family that valued and loved the celebrations,” said Hancock. “Celebrations were a key part.” He defined “celebration” as to observe or commemorate an event with ceremonies or festivities, to bring joy or to move people to a state of joy. “Celebrations are extremely important,” said Hancock.
He remembers the first Navajo County Fair that was held at the Taylor rodeo grounds, just west of the present rodeo grounds. He also remembers the ball field being in the rodeo arena.
“If you knew or felt the history, these people were scratching out a living, but when a celebration came they put their heart and soul in it,” he said.
“1969 was the first year I was asked to serve and help with the rodeo, and then 1973, I became bishop (of the Taylor 1st Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints),” said Hancock. “At that time we worked together as wards to put on the rodeo. That’s how we made our money.”
He explained that in those days ward members paid the utilities, custodians and so forth. He noted that in going from bishop to the Stake Presidency of the church, it became a natural thing to be involved with the rodeo since the LDS church held it.
“The other was the element of service,” said Hancock, remembering the involvement of Reed and Trapper Hatch, and later Bob Hancock, and the teachings and example of his parents. “The principal of service was embedded.”
Hancock remembers that everyone shut down what they were doing and worked prior to the July 4th rodeo to make the rodeo grounds better.
“I think we have a good show. We fill the house,” said Hancock of the present day rodeo, which brings in around $25,000 profit.
Sixteen years ago Hancock introduced cowboy poetry and cowboy music for the July 4th celebration due to a quarantine and cancellation of the rodeo.
He has not only left a mark on the rodeo, but he served on the Taylor/Shumway Heritage Foundation Board when it was restoring the Taylor Museum. He was the first curator of the museum. To prepare, he went on a 14-day American history tour to get ideas, and received training in Prescott.
“You might wonder how the wagon got into the museum,” Hancock said, then explained that he, Bob Hancock, Kenny McClaran and his crew took it apart piece by piece, then put it back together in the museum.
Hancock was on the Special Day Committee and they were gaining momentum for the museum. One Memorial Day Mike Adams, a Vietnam veteran, was the speaker at the patriotic program and Hancock remembers, “The noise of the highway and the sun in your eyes” detracted from the event. Hancock knew the museum owned the rock pile to the west, so he got a group of volunteers together and they built the gazebo, then put in the sod just in time for the next patriotic program.
Hancock said he will continue as president of the Silver Creek Performing Arts Association, noting what a great group of people he works with in that organization.
“From my parents and my grandparents I was taught the value of service. It’s brought me great happiness in my life, and I’m happy to turn the keys over,” said Hancock.