The Reno Rodeo always attracted the top professional cowboys in the business, but in 1937, Cliff Gardner of Reno made a little history becoming the first Nevada cowboy to win the all-around title.
Gardner, born in Canada in 1906, moved to Reno in 1932 and competed in his first Reno Rodeo that year, winning the Mapes Cup as the top Nevada bronc rider. (The Mapes Cup can be viewed in the President’s Room on rodeo grounds. It will be relocated to the museum once a site has been determined.)
A true all-around hand, Gardner competed in bronc riding, roping and steer wrestling. It was as a bulldogger that he earned his greatest fame. Winning the world championship in bulldogging at the Pendleton Round-Up in 1937.“He was a good bulldogger,” said daughter Nancy Borden of Reno, “He even competed at Madison Square Garden (in the United States championships).” He won seven championship saddles at the Reno Rodeo in the 1930s before retiring as a competitor after his successful 1937 season.
Gardner went on to serve as a Washoe County deputy sheriff, the Nevada state brand inspector and a prison guard at the Nevada State Prison. He was perhaps best known, though, for the 15 Shetland ponies he kept as his home in Washoe Valley, featuring pony rides for children.
Gardner died in 1969 at the age of 63.
The stories for the Count Down to 100 are excerpts from “A History – The First 80 Years” by Guy Clifton.