Remember When George Strait Went to Prison?
It was the wildest show behind bars, and George Strait was in the thick of it for one year in the early ’80s. He wasn’t the only one. Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Tom T. Hall … they all did time behind the walls of the Huntsville Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
For over 50 years, the Texas Prison Rodeo entertained inmates, employees and spectators. Every Sunday in October, tens of thousands of fans would gather to watch traditional rodeo events like bull riding, and not so traditional events like wild cow milking, goat roping and wild mare milking.
The favorite event was the Hard Money Event. Forty inmates in red shirts were sent into the arena with a wild bull that had a sack of money tied between it’s horns. The object was to get the sack and bring it to a judge. With donations, the pot would grow as large as $1,500!
Not surprisingly, two inmates died and many were injured during the rodeo’s long history. That’s not why in closed after the final rodeo in 1986, however. The stadium — built by inmates — was crumbling and becoming unsafe.
In 2012, it was demolished. How does Strait and the rest of his country brethren fit it? They were called upon to entertain — with their music. The ‘Give It All We Got Tonight’ singer was still a country newbie when he was asked as a fill-in when someone else cancelled at the last minute.