In the fall of 1950 Harris III went to the University of Idaho. Since he had played every position except offensive end during four years at Woodstown High back home, he made the freshman football team. But when the Idaho frosh took off for their opener against the University of Washington in Seattle, Harris III was not aboard the bus. He was on another bus headed for a college rodeo at Oregon State in Corvallis, thus ending his college football career before the first whistle.
"Since I'd always been a Philadelphia Eagles fan," Harris II relates, "I sort of fancied Howard playing football for Idaho and then coming back to play for the Eagles, but it just didn't turn out that way. From the moment he went to Idaho he majored in rodeo and minored in business. The dean called me a couple of times to come out there and try to keep Howard from drifting off to rodeos."
On the collegiate circuit Harris III learned one thing fast: in the rodeo arena the talents of a working cowhand that he had learned back home counted for almost nothing. The competitors were specialists. "The best of them used everything except slide rules," Harris III remembers. "There were guys who could beat you at bareback who couldn't ride a saddle horse from here to the front gate." Although he never became specialist enough to dominate any one event, in his senior year at Idaho he ranked in the first six in five of the six college events and won the national collegiate all-round title. He was the first performer to carry the Cowtown name successfully in the West.
Last year, in the process of winning $27,822 and the national bull-riding title, George Paul of Del Rio, Texas set a record by staying on 67 consecutive bulls. At the National Finals in Oklahoma last December, Paul was the only competitor to ride more than six bulls. He rode eight of the nine bulls he drew. The only bull to throw Champion George Paul off at the Nationals was a mighty beast called Cowtown from the famous New Jersey town of the same name. Since its fame has spread so far, it bothers neither Harris II nor Harris III nor any Cowtowner that his home town is still not recognized by the United States or the state of New Jersey. "I look at it this way," Harris II says proudly. "We're still one of those wild, unbranded towns."
The coffee pot is empty. The chuck wagon fire is out. Already in the East the light of tomorrow is washing away the Western stars. While there is still time for sleep, how do we end this new cowboy song? It really needs no end. It is enough to say that there are now a host of cowboy heroes like Gene Lorenzo, riding into Eastern arenas with ruptured guts and unshatterable faith. And, just as once there was a Camelot, there truly is a Cowtown in New Jersey.