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For years, veteran Houston photographer Ray Viator has followed the trail rides that lead up to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and has captured the color, the camaraderie, and the flavor of this popular annual event. In All Trails Lead to Houston: Riding to the Rodeo, which opens with a foreword from Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo COO Emeritus M. Leroy “Shafe” Shafer, Viator’s stunning photographs are accompanied by brief narratives and informative sidebars that provide insight into life on a trail—from sunrise to sunset.
The trail rides began in January 1952 when Brenham rancher Reese Lockett and five friends were having lunch in Houston. The conversation turned to the joys of riding horses and its place in the Texas ranching tradition. Ultimately, the discussion sparked a challenge and an idea: stage a trail ride from Brenham to Houston as a way of publicizing and promoting the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
That first Salt Grass Trail Ride—named after the predominant source of grazing for cattle ranchers on the Texas Coastal Plain—started with Lockett, his friend and fellow rancher Emil H. Marks, and two others. By 1959, participation had soared to more than 90 wagons and 2,000 riders. In the years since, more rides, each covering a different route to Houston, have been organized with thousands of riders from all over Texas. While the Salt Grass Trail Ride claims pride as “the grandaddy of ’em all,” the movement also spread to other Texas cities and even other countries.
Viator provides readers with colorful descriptions of the riders, horses, wagons, and western traditions celebrated each day on each of the twelve rides. All Trails Lead to Houston is a celebration of Texas, western ranching heritage, and culture.