Birdie Askin Johnston | TSLN.com

Birdie Askin Johnston

The Master seems to put certain folks on this earth who are blest enough to carry on a legacy. One of those, one of Montana’s very own daughters and rodeo legends, recently left us to join the great rodeo in the sky. Birdie Askin Johnston, born Birdie Dell Askin, was taken from a bed of pain into the Lords safe arms Sept. 25, 2010.

Born Oct. 23, 1932, to her father Bob Askin – known to most of us as the “Granddaddy of rodeo” – and mother, Helen Fulton Askin, in Ismay, MT, Birdie grew to be tough and strong in mind and body and soon became her father’s right hand man on the ranch outside of Ismay. Her strength was founded on the teachings of that father, who she never ceased to miss after he crossed the Great Divide.

Birdie inherited Bob’s talent with horses, as well as his affinity for the sport of rodeo. Determined to follow his footsteps, she taught herself trick riding skills “out behind the barn”. Rodeo entrepreneur and entertainer Gene Autry had her starring in arenas across the North American continent by the time she was 13. Her performances attracted still more rodeo producers who kept her riding and thrilling the fans. The lure, life and love of rodeo led Birdie to acquaintance, love and marriage with champion bareback rider Dick Johnston.

While rearing three children, the couple continued to rodeo, and helped mold and strengthen the sport throughout their region through service on the Board of Directors for the strong 5-state rodeo organization, Northwest Ranch Cowboy’s Association.

Birdie was an entrepreneur before her time, switching her familiar cowboy hat for those of schoolmarm, wife, mother of three, rodeo and tv ad executive, talk show host, and owner/operator of popular rural-Billings nightspot Pack Trail Inn. As if that wasn’t enough to fill her days, Birdie stepped up to fill Dick’s boots after he was injured while working as movie wrangler/teamster/driver with the “Little Big Man” film.

The couple’s daring and expertise in that field took them to Hollywood film sets across

Recommended Stories For You

Arizona, California and Colorado. There, Birdie befriended and worked alongside most of the prominent movie and television stars and many popular musicians of her era. Appointment to the Arizona Film Commission verifies her stature in that fast-paced entertainment world; and she went on to form her own production company, along with a heavy equipment rental business serving filmmakers.

Birdie’s somewhat latent talent for songwriting surfaced when she wrote “Climb The Ladder” in honor of her father and produced a video of it. Building and creating made her happiest, somehow fulfilling Birdie’s strong-willed quest for her own unique versions of success.

In spite of that dynamic drive, nothing took precedence over Birdie’s deep devotion to her family; or prevented her from quietly, privately caring for and sharing with anyone, anywhere, of any stature, who needed a hand up. Only Heaven knows the extent of her philanthropy and compassion.

Birdie’s name is indelibly inscribed on the hearts of all those profoundly touched by her dynamic personality and grace through the years of her life here on earth…the multitudes who knew her as “one to ride the river with.” Although she never sought fame or recognition, her name is also inscribed on the Cowboy Wall of Fame in the Metra Complex in Billings.

Our hat’s off to you, Birdie Askins Johnston, cowgirl daughter of Montana…as you ride the winds over Big Sky Country forever.

The Master seems to put certain folks on this earth who are blest enough to carry on a legacy. One of those, one of Montana’s very own daughters and rodeo legends, recently left us to join the great rodeo in the sky. Birdie Askin Johnston, born Birdie Dell Askin, was taken from a bed of pain into the Lords safe arms Sept. 25, 2010.

Born Oct. 23, 1932, to her father Bob Askin – known to most of us as the “Granddaddy of rodeo” – and mother, Helen Fulton Askin, in Ismay, MT, Birdie grew to be tough and strong in mind and body and soon became her father’s right hand man on the ranch outside of Ismay. Her strength was founded on the teachings of that father, who she never ceased to miss after he crossed the Great Divide.

Birdie inherited Bob’s talent with horses, as well as his affinity for the sport of rodeo. Determined to follow his footsteps, she taught herself trick riding skills “out behind the barn”. Rodeo entrepreneur and entertainer Gene Autry had her starring in arenas across the North American continent by the time she was 13. Her performances attracted still more rodeo producers who kept her riding and thrilling the fans. The lure, life and love of rodeo led Birdie to acquaintance, love and marriage with champion bareback rider Dick Johnston.

While rearing three children, the couple continued to rodeo, and helped mold and strengthen the sport throughout their region through service on the Board of Directors for the strong 5-state rodeo organization, Northwest Ranch Cowboy’s Association.

Birdie was an entrepreneur before her time, switching her familiar cowboy hat for those of schoolmarm, wife, mother of three, rodeo and tv ad executive, talk show host, and owner/operator of popular rural-Billings nightspot Pack Trail Inn. As if that wasn’t enough to fill her days, Birdie stepped up to fill Dick’s boots after he was injured while working as movie wrangler/teamster/driver with the “Little Big Man” film.

The couple’s daring and expertise in that field took them to Hollywood film sets across

Arizona, California and Colorado. There, Birdie befriended and worked alongside most of the prominent movie and television stars and many popular musicians of her era. Appointment to the Arizona Film Commission verifies her stature in that fast-paced entertainment world; and she went on to form her own production company, along with a heavy equipment rental business serving filmmakers.

Birdie’s somewhat latent talent for songwriting surfaced when she wrote “Climb The Ladder” in honor of her father and produced a video of it. Building and creating made her happiest, somehow fulfilling Birdie’s strong-willed quest for her own unique versions of success.

In spite of that dynamic drive, nothing took precedence over Birdie’s deep devotion to her family; or prevented her from quietly, privately caring for and sharing with anyone, anywhere, of any stature, who needed a hand up. Only Heaven knows the extent of her philanthropy and compassion.

Birdie’s name is indelibly inscribed on the hearts of all those profoundly touched by her dynamic personality and grace through the years of her life here on earth…the multitudes who knew her as “one to ride the river with.” Although she never sought fame or recognition, her name is also inscribed on the Cowboy Wall of Fame in the Metra Complex in Billings.

Our hat’s off to you, Birdie Askins Johnston, cowgirl daughter of Montana…as you ride the winds over Big Sky Country forever.

Go back to article