Wilde was a horse rancher, wildlife guide and packer who had traveled with rodeo shows, including the Miller Brothers in the U.S. and had worked in Jasper for many years with the Brewsters. Lawless, whose real name was reportedly of French origin (perhaps Bartholomew), was an entertainer, showman, announcer and above all an excellent promoter. He was an enticing conversationalist and somewhat of a comedian.
Wilde chuckled over later seeing a Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” item in a newspaper concerning “Wilde,” getting together with “Lawless” to form a partnership for putting on the “Wilde & Lawless Stampedes.”
The time was right for putting on such a show, following World War II, and the partnership brought together the right combination of expertise. Taylor Flats was decided upon as the most central location in the whole Peace River Block.
A dance hall was built, lights were installed and a grandstand was constructed. The stampede boasted of having the first public address system of its kind in the country. A wedding on horseback during the stampede attracted the attention of the Toronto Star, which covered the event and brought national coverage to the northern stampede.
The Wilde & Lawless Stampede became more than a rodeo and developed into a fine western show of modest proportions. During one stampede show, 12 girls in matching costumes, riding six blacks and six bays and carrying colorful flags put on quite a show. Bands were hired to provide stirring music and rodeo roping and riding stars were booked to headline the stampedes.
High expense costs, a decrease in attendance following the leaving of the American Army and construction workers and a stiff bill from the government for “amusement taxes” eventually combined to close the show.
“We got mixed up with amusement taxes. We had operated for a couple years without paying the tax, but the government found out and billed us,” said Wilde.
Wilde still lives at Rose Prairie, while Lawless passed away a few years ago.
Although the “Wilde & Lawless Stampede” operated for only a short number of years, the quality and polish of the shows were far advanced to any seen at that time or for many years to come.
On July 2 and July 3, 1922 Dawson Creek, with a population between 300 and 400 residents, held its first stampede. At that time the stampede grounds was located north of 108th Avenue at 20th Street, just east of the Dawson Creek, in what is now the Willowbrook area.
William S. Bullen laid out a racetrack on land he owned. Volunteer labor on three Sundays completed the track, erected the fences, the grandstand and the corrals for the bucking horses. Mr. Bullen reported that there was no expense except meals for the men.
The Yaegers of North Rolla (between Rolla and Doe River) played a big role in the early stampedes, supplying livestock for the rodeos in the area. John and Wes Yaeger competed in the stampede events, while their brothers, Jake, Al, and Dick assisted in putting on the stampedes. In the late ‘40s and ‘50s Danny Yaeger was a well-known rodeo competitor.
The first “sports day” in the district, with foot races, novelty races and ball games was held in July, 1914 at the homestead of Hector Tremblay, three miles from Pouce Coupe. A dance followed using the floor of their large, new unfinished house.