Just over 65 years ago, the first trail ride to Houston took place in January 1952 when Reese Lockett, then the mayor of Brenham, undertook the journey from his hometown to the Bayou City. It hadn't really been his idea.
Not too many days prior, Lockett had been sitting around in the Cork Room at the Shamrock Hotel, telling tales to friends and Houston Fat Stock Show officials of the old cattle drives of his youth that once took him from the foothills of the Hill Country all the way to the Gulf Coast. "Reece, you couldn’t ride your horse from Brenham to Houston," laughed one of his buddies, recalled Maudeen Marks, daughter of rancher Emil Marks.
But just in time for opening day of the Fat Stock Show, here came Lockett, Marks and two wagon drivers: ranch hand John Warnasch drove a wagon pulled by a pair of mules, while KPRC reporter Pat Flaherty rode in a second wagon to bear witness to the 90-mile ride. With the completion of their long journey, an annual tradition was born.
Today, in addition to the granddaddy of them all—Lockett's Salt Grass Trail Ride, which now departs from Cat Spring—there are 12 other trail rides that converge on Houston each year from as far away as the Rio Grande in the Valley (the longest ride, undertaken each year by Los Vaqueros and covering 353 miles) and the Sabine River on the border with Louisiana. More than 3,000 riders and their horses—many of them rescues—eventually meet in Houston, where they come together for the annual Downtown Rodeo Parade. With this, the three-week-long Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo (which shed its Fat Stock Show moniker in 1961) is officially in season.
Above, scenes from this year's trail rides as they met in Houston for another year of celebrating Texas heritage and history.