All Inductees

Earl Wharton

Earl Wharton was born March 28, 1919, in Moffat, Texas. As a young boy Earl saw his first rodeo just a few miles down the road at The Grove, Texas. Although raised in a farming community Earl quickly decided he was a better cowboy than a farmer. “Bell County cotton sacks encouraged a lot of guys to ride”, he observed. Like many of his young neighbors, he rode calves and roped goats and later graduated to roping calves and eventually rode a few saddle broncs. While still in his teens, Wharton went to work for the T-Bar Ranch in Tahoka. Throughout the 1930’s he continued as a ranch hand on various spreads in north and west Texas including the C-Bar, K-Bar and Figure 2 Ranches.

In the late 1930’s Wharton also worked for Earl Sellars Rodeo headquartered at Del Rio, Texas and in 1943 hired on with rodeo producer Everett Colburn of Dublin, Texas, to take care of bucking stock. Wharton traveled by train to many premier rodeos on east coast including Boston, Fort Madison, Iowa and in 1943 and 1945 the Madison Square Garden performances in New York City. Earl also took care of the specialty horses such as Trigger for Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey’s Champion.

While working for the Barnes/Keith Ranch in San Saba in 1946, Wharton bought his first Border Collie dog. It was the beginning of a new career. Within a few years, he was training national and international champion Border Collies for sheep dog trials. The early dogs included Pat and Nell, both National trial winners and their offspring Tina, an International Champion. Wharton then combined his interest in dogs and rodeo by creating a rodeo contract dog act. His first rodeo performance with dogs was in 1959. The following year, Wharton bought a cinnamon capuchin monkey to add to the act. Since then, Wharton named his south-of-the-border compadre “Wetback”.

Dressed in leather chaps and vest, wearing a felt hat, and riding a custom-made saddle, Wetback cowboyed up on the champion Border Collies for performances throughout the United States and Canada. Wharton’s was the first PRCA act to feature a monkey on a dog. The dogs demonstrated their skill in herding sheep around the arena while the monkey rode with a classic western flair. Wharton and the Corder Collies were serious, but Wetback’s version of reckless riding was guaranteed to bring a laugh.

As one of the most popular contract acts in Rodeo History, through the 1960’s and 1970’s and into the 1980’s, Wharton, Wetback and his Border Collies entertained audiences from the smallest to the largest rodeos in three Canadian providences and every continental state except Maine. From McAllen, Texas to Alberta Canada and from the Cow Palace in San Fransico to the New York State Fair.

Over the course of more than two decades, five different dogs were used but Wetback was the only monkey that they ever carried, and the only monkey Wharton ever exhibited in a rodeo. “There is not telling how many performances I have worked, but it would be in the thousands”, said Wharton.

After the last act from the rodeo arena, Wetback enjoyed a long retirement at Wharton’s home in San Saba.

Wharton recalls that Wetback was a big hit with the crowd from the very first performance right up to the last ones many years later at the Texas State Fair in Dallas. “In fact”, Wharton said, “I never did go to one that didn’t go over well because most people like dogs and Wetback just added to the entertainment”.