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Prison Rodeo Bronc Rider

Brazoria County, along the Texas Gulf Coast, was home to almost as many prisons as chemical plants.

In the early 80s, it seemed all roads led past one of the sprawling detention centers... and in lush South Texas, inmates worked the sprawling fields around the prisons under the watchful eye of a guard on horseback - usually with a big Stetson and a bigger shotgun.

During that same time period, the historic Texas State Prison Rodeo officially faded away into history.

I was fortunate to have attended and photographed one of the last ones, the 50th Anniversary rodeo in 1981. Four years later - for good or for bad - the historic inmate performances shut down.

Some blamed changing attitudes about treatment of inmates. Others said it had more to do with the deteriorating condition of the arena. I always heard the inmates loved to work with the animals, enjoyed the competition and were disappointed when it ended. But that may have been spin.

Anyway, on that day, under the Texas sun, freely roaming with my camera among the inmates inside the rodeo grounds, I had a wonderful time. I think the inmates did too.

This shot, of a bronc rider preparing for his ride, is my favorite.

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