At the foot of the Blue Mountains amid waving wheat fields and cattle ranches, Pendleton is a quintessential Western town with a rip-roaring history. It was originally acquired in a swap for a couple of horses, and the town's history of wild behavior was evident from the first city ordinance, which outlawed public drunkenness, fights, and shooting off one's guns within the city limits. But Pendleton is also the land of the Umatilla Tribe—the herds of wild horses that once thundered across this rolling landscape were at the center of the area's early Native American culture (today the tribe operates the Wildhorse Resort & Casino). Later Pendleton became an important pioneer junction and home to a sizable Chinese community. The current cityscape still carries the vestiges of yesteryear, with many of its century-old homes still standing, from simple farmhouses to stately Queen Anne Victorians.
Given its raucous past teeming with cattle rustlers, saloons, and bordellos, the largest city in eastern Oregon (population 17,000) looks unusually sedate. But all that changes in September when the Pendleton Round-Up draws thousands.