Back When the Broncs Were All Tough!!
Written by Don Bell, of Byron, WY, “In the old days we never had such a thing as “Bucking Horse of the Year.” They were all tough, all sunsabucks. I’m sure some of the old boys will remember George Tate of Meeker, Colorado, who had the Spade horses. Deuce and Diamond were recognized as the best saddle broncs in the business. When that first air service flew overseas, they called the plane “The China Clipper” and Tate had a tough bronc by the same name.
McCarty and Elliott (and later Nesbitt) had some good horses, although 11:55, as we called little Five Minutes to Midnight, was the rep horse. Pete Grubb was the first rider I saw make a qualified ride on him. at Cheyenne in about 1935. But he never fired good. They also had a roan horse called Squaw Chaser. He was hell to make a qualified ride on – crooked in the shoulder and a rider never looked good. But Milt Moe could always win on him. They also had a big bay called Whizzer White, Ham What Am and Flying Irishman – these, too, were money horses if you could stay on.
I think the sharpest bronc rider ever was Fritz Truan. He and Ken Roberts were the first riders to look straight up while riding. It looked good and soon every rider was looking heavenward. . . . Earl Anderson, a stock contractor from Grover, Colorado, had a good string of horses. His best, to my way of thinking, was Cole Creek, a sorrel, hard to ride, high kicking, and always throwing his head back and giving you rein.
Johnny Winants of Manderson, Wyoming, had some great broncs all big, 1,600 pound Canadian horses. West of The Yellowstone and Stone Bruise were his tops. He had a gray called Walter Winchell, a pay-day bronc if there ever was one. John Turnicluff of Roscoe, Montana, had a horse called Six Shooter. Many tried him and many lost.”
When Phil Meadows received the first Rodeo Historical Society Award for Sharing Stories, he said, “It is my strong belief that those people and those animals whose very best efforts went into their performances (rodeo) are deserving of some mention in the annals of western history . . . and that if these things are not recorded, their feats and their records will be consigned to oblivion. Therefore it is my pleasure to write of these things.”
In the 1926 Chicago Rodeo, managed and directed by Tex Austin at Soldier’s Field, on August 14th through 22. . . These fellows entered the saddle bronc riding: Bob Askin, Breezy Cox, Nowata Slim, Bryan Roach, Howard Tegland, Hugh Strickland, Paddy Ryan and Perry Ivory. The broncs they rode, or tried to ride – Headlight, Rawlin’s Gray, Sundown, Pretty Dick, Flashlight, Satan, Double Trouble, Bear Cat, Rocking Chair, Overall Bill, Cross O Baldy, Deerfoot and Keen Cutter.
Headlines: “Two Reputedly Unridable Broncs Were Both Conquered the Same Year – 1917.”
Coyote and Blue Jay were once considered unridable by some of the best bronc riders in the business. Yet, in 1917, they were both ridden. Coyote, the spinning bucking horse of the old Millerick string in California, was ridden at the San Jose Roundup on July 1st by Phil Stadtler, a young cowboy barely out of his teens. One of Phil’s sisters, either Rose or Bertha, rode the famous bronc Square Deal, that same afternoon. This was reported in the San Francisco Bulletin on page 8, Monday July 2, 1917. Eddie McCarty later purchased both broncs, and it is said McCarty never could ride Square Deal. Also 1917 E. J. Scott’s famous horse, Blue Jay, was ridden by Rufus Rollins at the Fort Worth rodeo in March. (Blue Jay was on the cover of the Wild Bunch back in 1917).
“Hippy Burmister Recalls Confrontation With Steamboat at Alliance, Nebraska”
At 86, Hippy Burmister, recalled starting out with C. B. Irwin’s 1912 Wild West Show. At Alliance, Nebraska C. B. had a roped-off arena with canvas-walls. He wanted to see if Steamboat, the well-known bronc of that era, would get upset in those surroundings. He asked Hippy if he would try him. “Sure," said Hippy who went on to say, “I only lasted three or four jumps. He bucked me off fast – and I landed on a rock. I was so sore, I could barely walk for days afterward.” Steamboat acted just fine and worked well for C. B., but not for Hippy!
Leo “Pick” Murray rodeoed from 1919 to 1941. He was an original Turtle but missed winning the all-around title in 1936 by 10 points, but he did win the Bing Crosby Trophy for saddle bronc riding in Salt Lake City that year. He rode Five Minutes to Midnight two out of three times, and he rode the great Midnight twice.
Bruce Clinton wrote: “After the ride someone called attention to the hoof marks left by Snake Track on the third jump. I sat on my pick-up mount and watched the judges measure the leap. And that leap, ladies and gentlemen, was, believe it or not, 32 feet and four inches. There was an argument arose and one judge claimed that Hugh Trawick pulled leather on the ride. Hugh looked the judge in the eye and said, “Mister, You’re shore wrong. I couldn’t even find that damn saddle horn.”
We are blessed that so much information has been gathered by the Rodeo Historical Society, and other organizations, about the early day tough broncs. What amazes me is that all of the information in this installment came out of one issue of The Wild Bunch, February 1981 issue, Rodeo Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.