Two years later, hard times caught up with the rodeo. Harris shut it down. Then a Woodstown judge's wife, who lived across the street from the Harris auction barn, caught up with Stoney and shut him down, too.
She wanted to play bridge with her friends on Tuesdays, which was livestock auction day for Harris. On one particularly hot Tuesday, the woman opened the windows to cool off the card room. A gentle breeze thick with the combined odors of cow, horse, pig and sheep manure wafted through her house. She told her husband, who told the mayor, who told Harris to leave town by election day of 1940.
Stoney moved a few miles down the road. He built himself a new auction barn and a gigantic indoor flea market and named the whole thing Cowtown. By the side of the road he put up a larger-than-life red plaster cow, its rear end pointing toward Woodstown to let the folks there know what he thought of them.
He married a farm girl from Swedesboro, N.J., named Maria Salisbury. They had four children. The one son, Amos Howard Harris III, cowboyed at the University of Idaho in 1954 and became the first easterner to win the National Intercollegiate Rodeo All-Around championship. About that time he got married. He came home to Cowtown. He broke his father's heart.
Stoney built a new arena and created the Cowtown Rodeo for his son to manage. Howard ran it as unadorned competition—bull and bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling. Soon the dancing Sioux Indians and the clowning Pancho Villas of Stoney's salad days were gone and Howard had no interest in filling their shoes with other Wild West types. That saddened his father. What happened in 1961 really depressed him.
"One day," the elder Harris says, "my son's wife says to me, 'If you don't sell out to Howard, he's gonna leave.' Naturally I wanted him to stay. He's the only son I have. I sold Howard the farmland across the road and the Cowtown market and the Cowtown Rodeo. Biggest mistake I ever made."
Ironically, seven years later, Howard lost interest in the flea market and sold it back to Stoney. With its hundreds of rented stalls doing a land-office business in everything from used tires ("We Got the Tread If You Got the Bread") to factory-outlet Home Stretch Maternity Clothes to Tattoos by Tiny (who isn't), the market is a landlord's gold mine. Buying it back from his son felt almost as good to Stoney as putting the big red cow out front with its heinie pointed toward Woodstown.
"I told Howard he wasn't so damn smart," Harris says sarcastically. "I sold him Cowtown, but I bought back the udder. I bought back the part that gives milk."
In 1978 Howard sold the Cowtown Rodeo to his son, Grant, and expanded his 2,000-acre beef-cattle operation by getting further into sheep. "I traded in my big cowboy hat," the 54-year-old Howard drawls cheerfully over a red-suspendered belly that has grown some since his rodeo championship days. "I sold the rodeo off to my son and raised me some sheep. So now I got me a CD in the bank," he added, "but I don't smell as good."
Grant was only 26 at the time of his father's offer, and he was crazy in love with bucking horses, which he had ridden for five or six years. He knew that if he bought his father out, he would have to stop something because the broken arms and legs that go along with bronc riding would make it impossible to run Cowtown. Grant also knew that Cowtown was the chance of his lifetime.