Chester (Chet) Byers, rodeo trick roping star, son of Jesse and Eliza J. (Gray) Byers, was born at Knoxville, Illinois, on January 18, 1892. He moved to Mulhall, Oklahoma, in 1895 and soon dreamed of becoming a cowboy. He learned roping and trick and fancy roping, sometimes instructed by the great Will Rogers. Byers's first job was with the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show in 1905. During the next decade he headlined the Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch and Lucky Baldwin Ranch shows, as they toured the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, and England.
He also began entering contests for trick and fancy roping and calf and steer roping. By 1915 Byers was the world's champion trick and fancy roper and supervisor of the Wild West portion of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. He won the world's championship again at the 1916 Sheepshead Bay Stampede in New York and decided to become a full-time competitor.
After years on the road he established his headquarters at Fort Worth, Texas, and subsequently remained closely identified with that city. He was the undefeated champion of trick and fancy roping at the Madison Square Garden rodeos through 1933, when the event was discontinued. He was also a winner at the Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Houston and San Antonio rodeos and was featured at Fort Worth Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show every year through 1945.
When trick and fancy roping was changed from a contest to a contract act in the mid-1930s, Byers continued to compete in calf and steer roping and became one of the most popular entertainers on the rodeo circuit. His death on November 1, 1945, brought to his wife, Mary (Bosany), and two daughters expressions of sympathy from thousands of rodeo professionals and fans and was front-page news in Fort Worth.
Byers's book, Roping: Trick and Fancy Rope Spinning (1928; reprinted in 1966 as Cowboy Roping and Rope Tricks), was still the standard work on the subject when he died. He was then the best-known roper in the world, and along with Will Rogers and Vincente Oropeza, one of the greatest of all times. Rogers himself had said, "Chet knows more about roping than any man in the world." A warm and friendly man, Byers was fondly remembered in the rodeo profession and in 1969 was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.
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Fort Worth Star-Telegram, November 1, 2, 1945. Willard H. Porter, Who's Who in Rodeo (Oklahoma City: Powder River, 1982).
Sports and Recreation
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Mary Lou LeCompte,
“Byers, Chester Allen Arthur,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 01, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
November 1, 1994
Most Recent Revision Date:
October 12, 2020
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: