McMullen County hosts rodeo heroics at Tilden Lions Club Arena

A pair of McMullen County cowboys rope a calf during team roping events on Thursday, Sept. 5, at the Tilden Lions Club Rodeo Arena. The event, held the day before the traditional rodeo event began, attracted local paricipants in team roping and barrel racing.

TILDEN —  For 69 years, the Tilden Lions Club Rodeo has brought excitement, rough-and-tumble rodeo action and shined the spotlight on the community, and this year the tradition continued, starting with a county rodeo for McMullen County competitors to show their mettle.

After the Sept. 5 county events, the show continued Sept. 6-7 at the Tilden Lions Club Arena and featured a calf scramble and mutton busting’ as well as traditional rodeo events.

There were also family activities including goat roping and a petting zoo.

But on Thursday, Sept. 5, the spotlight was on county rodeo participants who had the opportunity to compete in both team roping and barrel racing events at the Tilden Lions Club Rodeo Arena located on Highway 16 just north of town.

Among those who have been regularly attending the Tilden rodeo for decades are Murray and Sallie Swaim, longtime McMullen County residents and members of the Tilden Lions Club.

Murray is also a McMullen County commissioner.

Although the rodeo itself has been held for 69 years, the county events began as a prelude to the Tilden rodeo back in 1982, Sallie Swaim said.

Murray credited the efforts of his sister and brother-in-law, Margaret and Jacky Stephenson, for sponsoring the events that bring joy and the spirit of friendly competition to so many McMullen County residents.

“The Lions Club used to sponsor it, but (the Stephensons) have now been doing it for close to 10 years,” Murray said.

Murray recalls talking to two men who built the rodeo arena.

“One of them graduated from college at (Texas) A&M in 1950, and that’s the first year they had the rodeo,” he said. “I was born in October 1955 so I missed the rodeo that year, but I’ve never missed one since.”

What does he enjoy most about the rodeo?

“I like it all,” Murray said. “I especially enjoy the county events and seeing all the kids growing up around here get to rope and ride.”

Sallie recalls the days when the rodeo was an even bigger event in the community, spanning a full three days with big dances. Cars often had to be parked up and down the road along the highway because so many people attended, she recalled.

“I just love seeing the locals turn out and seeing the little ones,” she said. “It’s interesting to watch and see how they progress.”

While the bright lights of big city events and attractions lure many visitors from small towns, the Swaims say they enjoy seeing their community take center stage during the rodeo.

“We really like it,” Sallie said. “This is how we do it in the country.”

Jeff Osborne is the editor of The Progress. He can be reached at 361-786-3022 or