LOOK: The history of America’s agricultural youth looks like something out of “Napoleon Dynamite”

Since we’ve popped in and out of the National Western Stock Show all week, we decided to look into days of Stock Shows past.

Charles Waneka wins a ribbon in the "catch-it-calf" competition at the 1967 National Western Stock Show. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records)

denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
Charles Waneka wins a ribbon in the "catch-it-calf" competition at the 1967 National Western Stock Show. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records) denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
Charles Waneka wins a ribbon in the “catch-it-calf” competition at the 1967 National Western Stock Show. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records)

Since I’ve popped in and out of the National Western Stock Show all week, we decided to look into days of Stock Shows past in another of Denverite’s favorite places, the Denver Public Library’s Western History Collection.

Inside I discovered images that felt familiar. And then it hit me.

Ms. Rodeo America, crowned at the National Western Stock Show circa 1967. (Lumir Photography/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records) denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
Ms. Rodeo America, crowned at the National Western Stock Show circa 1967. (Lumir Photography/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records)

These snapshots of America’s agricultural adolescence could have come right out of “Napoleon Dynamite,” which might ring true for you, too, if you’re of a certain age.

There’s good reason for this. Director Jared Hess has said that his inspiration for his characters came right out of his own hometown of Preston, Idaho. And then, of course, there’s the fact that the Stock Show is the Superbowl of livestock events, attracting America’s future famers from all over the country since its founding more than a century ago.

A black-and-white contact sheet of photos taken at the National Western Stock Show. Date unknown. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records) denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
A black-and-white contact sheet of photos taken at the National Western Stock Show. Date unknown. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records)
Jay Tracy in "catch-it-calf" at the National Western Stock show, 1966. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records) denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
Jay Tracy in “catch-it-calf” at the National Western Stock show, 1966. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records)
View of an award ribbon granted to Joe "Awful" Coffee's Ringside Lounge in Denver, Colorado. 1956. (Cloyd M. Teter/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/X-29471) denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
View of an award ribbon granted to Joe “Awful” Coffee’s Ringside Lounge in Denver, Colorado. 1956. (Cloyd M. Teter/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/X-29471)
"Catch-it-calf" at the National Western Stock Show Junior Livestock Sale, 1967. (Larry Shirkey/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records) denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
“Catch-it-calf” at the National Western Stock Show Junior Livestock Sale, 1967. (Larry Shirkey/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records)
The National Western Stock Show Junior Livestock Sale, 1967. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records) denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
The National Western Stock Show Junior Livestock Sale, 1967. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records)
A massive bull at the National Western Stock Show, date unknown. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records) denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
A massive bull at the National Western Stock Show, date unknown. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records)
A family and a cow at the National Western Stock Show, date unknown. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records) denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
A family and a cow at the National Western Stock Show, date unknown. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records)
Ms. Rodeo America contest at the National Western Stock Show, circa 1967. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records) denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
Ms. Rodeo America contest at the National Western Stock Show, circa 1967. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records)
Ms. Rodeo America contest at the National Western Stock Show, circa 1967. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records) denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
Ms. Rodeo America contest at the National Western Stock Show, circa 1967. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records)
Ms. Rodeo America contest at the National Western Stock Show, circa 1967. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records) denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
Ms. Rodeo America contest at the National Western Stock Show, circa 1967. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records)
"Catch-it-calf" competitor Mark Stevens outside his home, 1968. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records) denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
“Catch-it-calf” competitor Mark Stevens outside his home, 1968. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records)
"Catch-it-calf" competitor David Graybull and Luke the heifer, National Western Stock Show 1972. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records) denver; denverite; denver public library; western history collection; archive; archival; National Western Stock Show; nwss;
“Catch-it-calf” competitor David Graybull and Luke the heifer, National Western Stock Show 1972. (Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Records)

Kevin Beaty

Author: Kevin Beaty

Kevin Beaty is a media producer with experience in a variety of settings spanning Hollywood film sets to international backpack journalism expeditions. He is on a never-ending quest to meld artful imagery, functional design and intimate storytelling. His biggest struggle in any given moment is whether to shoot stills or video. Find him on Twitter and Instagram at @kevinjbeaty.