BABY DOLL -
From 1953-60, Baby Doll earned more than $400,000 for her owner,
the late, Willard Combs of Checotah, Okla. She carried Combs’ younger
brother, the late Benny Combs, to the world steer wrestling title
in 1955. In 1957 she took Willard Combs to the world championship.
Sired by Oklahoma Star, Jr., the capable Doll had more fans than
the men who rode her. Baby Doll’s popularity increased after she
was featured in a 1958 Life magazine article. A score of contestants
from across the nation attended her burial in 1960.
PEANUTS - Steer Wrestling
1977 was the first year that a trophy was awarded to the season’s
best steer wrestling horse by vote of the top 30 money winners in
the event. Their choice in 1977-78 was a bay gelding named Peanuts,
owned by C.R. Jones of Lakeside, Calif. Purchased off the Quarter
Horse race track in 1968, the 4-year-old Peanuts, registered as
Make It Do, had an enviable record down the straightway. He once
won nine of 11 races at Los Alamitos, taking five of them in a row.
There have been many great money-winning steer wrestling horses,
Everett Bowman’s bay Coon Dog, Dave Campbell’s sorrel Laddie and
Walt Linderman’s stout-hearted Scott to name a few. However, until
steer wrestler and roper Corky Warren established a perpetual trophy
in memory of his wife Sharon, there was no official recognition
of great steer wrestling horses.
SCAMPER - Barrel Racing
The name is an apt description of the legendary barrel horse whose
AQHA name is Gills Bay Boy. Purchased for $1,000 by owner/rider
Charmayne James, Scamper began his record-setting career as a rookie
in 1984. He took James past the $1 million earnings mark and to
10 world championships from 1984-93. Five-time AQHA/WPRA Barrel
Horse of the Year, Scamper also won the prestigious 1992 AQHA Silver
Spur Award reserved for Quarter Horses that bring special notice
and fame to the breed. Scamper was semi-retired in 1993, although
as recently as March 1996, he won $8,000 at RodeoHouston, one of
his favorites. Over his career he earned $136,000 and 10 championships
at the Texas rodeo. The gelding dominated barrel racing for a decade
and without a doubt is the best known and most successful barrel
horse that ever lived. James once described him as “beyond great.”
BULLET - Steer Roping
Bullet, sired by noted Quarter Horse Jack McCue, may have begun
his rodeo career as a tie-down roping mount in the 1930s, but he
achieved his fame as a steer roping horse. Roy and Pat Lewis sold
the 1,000-pound sorrel gelding to veteran roper Bob Crosby. In 1941,
Ike Rude capitalized on his own skill and Bullet’s quickness and
strength to win the world steer roping championship. The following
year, King Merritt rode Bullet to the world title. Bullet continued
to perform consistently, winning two more world titles in 1947 and
1953 with Rude in the saddle.
BALDY - Tie-Down Roping
1979 Rodeo’s most talked-about tie-down roping horse of the 1940s
was a streak-faced, badly scarred sorrel named Baldy. He was directly
responsible for four world championships. Clyde Burk of Comanche,
Okla., won the world tie-down roping title astride Baldy in 1942
and 1944. After a fatal accident in 1945, Clyde’s widow sold Baldy
to Troy Fort of Lovington, N.M. Fort captured the world championship
in 1947 and 1949. Shortly thereafter Baldy developed a heart condition
and was retired. Three-time world champion steer roper Ike Rude
trained Baldy. However, early in Baldy’s rodeo career, his trailer
caught fire and his left foreleg was severely burned. Veterinarians
were amazed the resulting scar tissue left no apparent stiffness.
POKER CHIP PEAKE -
Poker Chip Peake, an iron-gray gelding sired by the famed Quarter
Horse Driftwood out of Sage Hen, was a tie-down roper’s dream horse.
He had it all, perfect conformation and great “cow sense,” stopping
and working a rope with such consistency each run. In 1963, the
trailer he was in overturned on an icy road, resulting in Poker
Chip Peake’s developing calcium deposits on his hipbone. In 1966,
owner Dale Smith retired him to a ranch near Chandler, Ariz. PHOTO:
By Willard H. Porter.
COME APART - Bareback
Come Apart, the sorrel nemesis of bareback riders during the 1950s
and 1960s, came out of rangeland south of Red Lodge, Mont., along
the Wyoming-Montana border. The late Leo J. Cremer, Montana rodeo
stock contractor, first purchased him. Unlike most bucking stock,
Come Apart had no set pattern of bucking. The rider never knew what
to expect because the horse literally exploded into the arena. As
early as 1952, cowboys considered him almost unrideable. Come Apart
reached 16 hands tall and weighed nearly 1,400 pounds without losing
a fraction of his agility. At the first National Finals Rodeo in
1959 in Dallas, Come Apart was selected the best bareback bronc
and won the award again in 1961. Come Apart was selected to buck
in nine NFRs. In 1967, still strong and healthy, Come Apart was
bitten in the jugular vein by a rattlesnake. Efforts to save him
failed. He was nearly 30 years old at the time of his death.
HIGH TIDE - Bareback
A direct descendent of the legendary race horse Man O ’War, High
Tide was a part of the Flying U Rodeo Company until he was 38 years
old, the equivalent of 105 human years. He made his first trip to
the National Finals Rodeo in 1967 and was selected 20 more times,
far outdistancing his equine counterparts. He was named the top
bareback horse of the 1975 NFR and, appropriately, was retired at
the 1986 NFR. High Tide was known for consistency and altitude.
He was also a television star, twice appearing on Ripley’s Believe
It or Not because of his longevity and continuing success in the
rodeo arena. The horse was described by his human athletic competitors
as “one in a million.” High Tide died Aug. 5, 1987, and was buried
at Cotton Rosser’s ranch in Marysville, Calif.
SKOAL SIPPIN’ VELVET
- Bareback bronc
Skoal Sippin’ Velvet originally named Abdallah, was sired by a direct
descendant of the famous Man O’ War named Grand Admiral and the
NFR bucking mare named Sweet Thing. He was born on the Hoss Inman,
Flying I Ranch in Lamar, Colo. Abdallah became an outstanding bucking
horse and a real favorite of the rodeo crowd. The bronc was sold
to Texas stock contractor Bernis Johnson in 1976 and his name was
changed to Sippin’ Velvet in 1978 as part of the Black Velvet stock
contractors’ award program. Sippin’ Velvet was named Bareback Horse
of the Year five times in his career; five times he was voted second
or third top horse at the National Finals Rodeo; and six times he
was named top horse in the Lone Star Circuit. In 1986, at 17, he
was the first horse to be included in the Copenhagen Skoal stock
contractors’ award program. After 18 NFR appearances, taking riders
to the pay window on a consistent basis and earning good checks
for the B-J, Johnson decided to retire Sippin’ Skoal Velvet in the
arena at the 1994 Finals. The big-hearted bronc died at the age
of 26 and was buried at the Johnson home.
DESCENT - Saddle Bronc
Six-time Bucking Horse of the Year Descent, a palomino gelding,
was the most noted animal in the Beutler string. Lynn Beutler purchased
the horse in 1964 as a 5-year-old. In 1966, the season’s Top 15
saddle bronc riders voted Descent as the Bucking Horse of the Year.
He continued that streak through 1969. In 1970, the horse was sidelined
due to injury, but came back in 1971-72 to reclaim the Bucking Horse
of the Year award. Descent was retired at the National Western Stock
Show and Rodeo in Denver and lived in comfort at the ProRodeo Hall
of Fame until his death in 1983.
FIVE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT
1979 Five Minutes to Midnight began life with the name Tumbling
Mustard. Although he was smaller, his twists and plunges led to
his often being confused with the renowned bronc of the day, Midnight.
When people asked, “Is that the horse Midnight?,” the usual answer
was, “Darn close to it!” Five Minutes was close enough and that’s
how the horse made rodeo history with a new name. Peter Welch and
Strawberry Red Wall, producers of Canadian rodeos in the 1920s,
already owned Midnight, and they acquired the smaller horse from
the Sarcee Indian Reservation. Col. Jim Eskew, a noted New York
producer, had seen both of them perform and picked them up at a
sheriff’s sale when the Canadian outfit was dissolved. It was not
until the pair of blacks was sold to Verne Elliott and Ed McCarty
that Five Minutes to Midnight bucked his way to real fame. Little
Five continued to turn back and cut figure eights long after Midnight
retired. In 1946, Five Minutes to Midnight retired, and he died
in July 1947.
HELL’S ANGEL - Saddle
Described by world champion saddle bronc rider Gene Pruett “as the
greatest bucking horse in history,” Hell’s Angel usually left the
chute with a high wrenching kick that gained impetus from striking
the back of the chute. The 1,300-pound Percheron Pinto cross began
his career with Montana stock contractor Buck Yarborough and was
discovered in 1932 by Mike Hastings, scouting for Texas stock contractor
W.T. Johnson. Hell’s Angel died of lockjaw in 1941.
- Saddle bronc
The Canadian horse, Midnight, began his rodeo career by bucking
off his owner, Jim McNab, after a car backfired. McNab then sold
the black horse to stock contractor Peter Welch and Strawberry Red
Wall, producers for Canadian rodeos in the 1920s. After acquiring,
Midnight, they increased their string by adding a smaller black
horse called Tumbling Mustard from a Sarcee Indian reservation.
Col. Jim Eskew, a noted Waverly, N.Y., producer of eastern rodeos,
bought the pair and then sold them to Verne Elliott and Ed McCarty.
Ringbone disorder forced Midnight into retirement in the mid 1930's.
MISS KLAMATH - Saddle
Miss Klamath is remembered as the undisputed queen of saddle broncs
in the early 1950s. An unknown when she first started bucking, Miss
Klamath soon developed a reputation for unseating all riders. Bronc
riders of the era wondered if anyone would ever make a qualified
ride on her. In fact, rodeo legend Casey Tibbs was quoted in the
Rodeo Sports News saying, “I’ve ridden a lot of bucking horses and
been bucked off a lot of them, but Miss Klamath was the only horse
I ever thought I couldn’t ride.” A part of the Christensen Brothers’
string, Miss Klamath’s unique style of kicking, perpendicular and
higher with each jump, was ultimately responsible for a freak accident,
ending her career in 1954 at the age of 14.
STEAMBOAT - Saddle
Rarely did cowboys make a successful ride on the bronc Steamboat.
This 1,100-pound Wyoming ranchland horse first attracted public
attention at the Festival of Mountains and Plains in Denver in 1900.
Bronc riding in the early days of rodeo was far different from what
is seen today; horses did not exit from chutes, but were snubbed
to the saddlehorn of a rider while he mounted and then turned loose.
Horses were ridden for 30 seconds or more, sometimes until they
stopped bucking. Arenas were often any impromptu open area where
the audience could form a circle of wagons, automobiles, mounted
riders and people on foot. Steamboat was probably as widely known
as any bucking horse of the era because of his association with
famed rodeo producer, C. B. Irwin, who traveled widely and brought
rodeo to cities and towns nationwide.
TIPPERARY - Saddle
Tipperary was credited with dumping 80 riders before Yakima Canutt
made a qualified ride in 1920. Canutt also rode the famed bronc
a second time in Belle Fourche, S.D., in 1921. The colt, which hailed
from a band of thoroughbreds in the Northwest, first gained attention
at the World War 1 boomtown of Camp Crook, S.D., a center of European
military horse buyers and bronc riders who rode each horse before
it was sold. The English rejected the colt because it bucked off
all riders, and the Italians passed it by because it was a pacer.
A saloonkeeper, who won the horse in a poker game, won a fast $500
when he bet that a local bronc rider couldn’t ride the horse. The
crestfallen cowboy sat in the dust singing, “It’s a long way to
Tipperary,” a popular song of the period. The name caught on and
Tipperary began a bucking career that lasted until 1928.