I also want to share with you what he wrote about his experience at this rodeo:
“Way back in 1957 I got a letter from Feek Tooke of Ekalaka, Montana, asking me to be the clown and bullfighter at their Days of ’85 Rodeo. As I had those dates open, I accepted the job and at the given time proceeded to Ekalaka. In his confirmation letter Feek stated that he hoped that I was faster than last years clown who was nearly killed there. The Tooke bucking horses were well known but his bulls were somewhat of a mystery. Anyway I arrived in Ekalaka at the given time with my little mule, Johnny, and my trained horse, Cindy, ready to go to work. Ekalaka had the traditional Rodeo Parade through downtown, ending up at the Rodeo Grounds, myself and Johnny in the procession. As the Rodeo started, I noticed six men in the arena on horseback which I soon found out were needed to handle the wild, rank, and undisciplined Tooke bucking horses. “Carpenters to the bucking chutes”, was the announcers frequent cry as the old wooden chutes, pens and fences were getting torn up. I spent nearly the entire day out in the arena, going through my entire bag of tricks and then some. Because of the many delays, I was told to “get out there and do something, and try to make it funny”.
I usually entered the bronk or bull riding at rodeos I clowned and at Ekalaka I had entered the saddle bronk riding. I had drawn Tooke’s famous herd sire, General Custer, who was about the largest horse I ever saw, not fat, but long and lean, standing way above the chute gate and crammed into a much too small chute. I had set my saddle on him with cinchas loose, still working the arena, waiting my turn. About that time, a big commotion at the chutes and out came General Custer, with my beloved Hamley saddle under his belly, hung up by the loosely buckled back cincha. Around and around the arena he went, tearing up my saddle, the six mounted men in pursuit, trying to entice him into the catch pen gate. They had to be very careful not to get too close as he would kick, strike, or bite anything within reach.
For my re-ride I drew (or they gave me), Tooke’s second most famous bucking stallion, Major Reno, a smaller but equally undisciplined bucker. While I had loaned my saddle to countless riders, none of the other contestants would loan me theirs after seeing what happened to mine. Needless to say, I was not feeling too funny about this time. In the end I had to go behind the chutes and get one of Tooke’s association saddles, a Miles City, as I remember. No one should ever be forced into one of those rigs. As I was getting down on Major Reno he was acting up and trying to bite my toes. The ride was a quick one, short of the required 10 seconds, so I was back in the arena doing my hired job. I heard later that both of those stallions were near impossible to pick up, but seldom needed to be picked up because of their bucking abilities. I have often wondered if any other cowboy had drawn both of those outlaws at the same Rodeo? Their offspring continue to dominate Rodeo today. Incidentally, the bulls were not nearly as bad.”
Yes, Jim is so right, I have only heard great things about the Feek Tooke bucking horses, and their progeny still in our rodeo arenas today.
If any cowboy from that era had the luck Jim did to draw General Custer and Major Reno in the same rodeo, please let me know. Or if any cowboy that rode or attempted to ride Tooke bucking stock has a good story to tell please share it. I’d love to hear it.
Jim Aplan, attended Sul Ross in Alpine, TX, but was born and raised in the Pierre, South Dakota, area. He wanted to rodeo and began his career riding roughstock and being a rodeo clown/bullfighter, but his career was cut short due to his mother answering the telephone and telling rodeo people wanting to hire Jim that he’d ‘retired’! Presently, he lives in Piedmont, South Dakota, with his wife, Peg, and is an expert in western memorabilia and guns.
Until next time . . . . . . . .