Iris and the late Bud Day to be recognized for raising, training, riding rodeo horses

Rhonda Stearns
for Tri-State Livestock News
Bud and Iris with a stallion called ÒWade," a son of Little Dusty Dog, one of DayÕs better known stallions.

Horsewoman and cattlewoman Iris (Carmichael) Day would rather be saddling a horse than flipping pancakes, although she is handy in both realms.

Faith was home to Iris’s parents Pete and Garnet Carmichael until the infamous “dirty thirties” forced them east in search of pasture for the horses they raised. During the fall of ‘36 Iris’s dad, grandfather and eldest brother trailed them to Gregory, where Iris was born in 1937. After the drought broke they returned to Faith, in 1943.

Iris walked daily to join two to four classmates in a frame building that saw her through eight grades – even though it was moved three times – once pulled on skids by big teams clear across the creek! Summers found her joyfully horseback, gathering the family’s dairy cows for evening milking. Her first horse, a paint colt she broke, was soon trained to that task.

Community dances were popular in the West and Iris met her dark and handsome cowboy Bud Day amid such lively music in Faith. The second eldest of eight Day kids, Bud was born at Deadwood in 1928, but grew up on his family’s homestead south of Dupree. Iris found him to be “a real kind person.” That trait could have developed after his mother died when he was 16 and he began helping their Dad care for the younger siblings.

“He bulldogged on him. But he was a little short of speed, and Darrel Griffith had brought some mares from New Mexico and told Bud, ‘I got a little brown mare, come over and ride her, I think she can run.’…She was small, but the very first steer – from day one – she ran by them and worked for Bud,Horsewoman and cattlewoman Iris

In 1951, before he met Iris, Bud had joined the US Army. He served in Korea, was wounded in action, and became a Purple Heart recipient before his release from service in 1953. Meeting at the dance started a country courtship that led to a joyful Dec. 15, 1954 wedding at Bison. Bud and Iris started ranching in the tri-county area. After Iris’ parents died, Days bought her old home ranch on Thunder Butte Creek in Perkins County. The fine horseman and horsewoman raised three daughters and two sons in their family tradition – ranching, making a living with cattle, and breeding and training fine horses.

Plus, Bud was headed down his rodeo trail! “A little horse I had started was actually the first one Bud used,” Iris remembers. “He bulldogged on him. But he was a little short of speed, and Darrel Griffith had brought some mares from New Mexico and told Bud, ‘I got a little brown mare, come over and ride her, I think she can run.’

Iris and this Palooka Moon colt prepare for the family horse sale.
Iris and this Palooka Moon colt prepare for the family horse sale.

“She was small, but the very first steer – from day one – she ran by them and worked for Bud,” Iris laughs. But she was just Appendix Registered and we had to get her inspected. When the inspector came he said, “She’s pretty little.” We were afraid he might not pass her, but when Bud told him she was a twin he went ahead and passed her. (During the 1950s the fledgling American Quarter Horse Association used a system of inspectors, who came to the ranches and either passed, or did not pass foals to become permanent registered.)

The Days had specific goals for the horses they’d raise. They never exhibited a horse in a show ring. They weren’t chasing pedigrees . . . nor planning certain bloodline crosses. Their horses were known by the “user names” appropriate to each, and Iris says she’d have to read it on a paper to know any of their “registered names.” Day horses were bred for utility, tools in the life they lived handling cattle; for Bud’s rodeo competition, and – as the demand developed – to sell to other people seeking solid working horses.

That demand came, and stayed, and grew. “Word of mouth was our advertising. People seeing horses working at events, on ranches, and in arenas. A number of good customers came back year after year,” Iris recalls.

Darwyn, Dency, Karen, Jody, the oldest of the five Day children. Photo courtesy Day family

“We usually started our colts at 2’s, to get a foundation under them. You could give them more responsibility when they were 3’s and able to handle the pressure,” Iris explains.

Iris says she never rodeoed, yet the Quarter Horses she and Bud raised have enriched the sport through superb performance traits, disposition and quality. Iris remembers, “We wanted horses with good dispositions, and they had to be athletic, and they had to work. It just kind of evolved . We broke and used them all on the ranch. Any work that was done was horseback. Everybody was horseback, kids and all.”

Iris and Bud’s son Justin calf ropes at the 1993 National High School Rodeo Finals.

A Western Horseman article recently quoted the consummate horsewoman’s practical, experiential child-rearing wisdom like this, “Those were the good years, when our kids were growing up on the ranch. They rode miles with us. We had some really good kid ponies, and my boys would be sucking their thumb asleep riding on the pony. A lot of people wouldn’t put a kid on a pony, but we rode so many miles on them that they were good.”

Next to Iris, rodeo was Bud Day’s great love, and he excelled in arena competition. After a stint logging with his dad in the Black Hills, he went to work for rodeo producer Eddie Bachman in 1946. After trailing broncs from rodeo to rodeo, Bud worked the timed events – bulldogging, breakaway roping and calf roping. A true all-around-cowboy who “worked both ends of the arena”, Bud also rode barebacks, saddle broncs and bulls; topped off by the Wild Horse Race!

Day-bred horses were a huge part of Bud’s lifelong arena success, helping him earn accolades and championships few others can equal, including more than 40 saddles and 200 buckles “before he stopped counting!” A founding member of the Northwest Ranch Cowboy’s Association (NRCA) Bud was also active in the South Dakota Rodeo Association (SDRA) and participated very successfully in the International Rodeo Association (IRA) as well.

Iris says, “While a lot of Bud’s wins are special in my memory, His winning the IRA saddle bronc riding in Chicago in 1960 was very special, still kind of my favorite.”

Bud is remembered by neighbors and friends as a rodeo legend.

Johnny Holloway of Eagle Butte, South Dakota, has many memories that include Bud.

“When I first started rodeoing, Bud Day had already been rodeoing forever! I rodeoed with him and against him. He hauled me all over the country. I traveled a lot of miles with him.We went to a lot of sales together, and bought a lot of horses, and they all done us good.”

Bud could have gone anywhere and been a champion, said Holloway. “Bud Day was one of the greatest! When Sharron and I planned our first Cowboy Reunion over in Deadwood I let Bud know. He was excited about it, and planning to be there. He died just before we pulled it off. Iris has always been a good friend too, and very supportive of our event. I think she attended one of the reunions a few years later.”

Bud Day roping at the 1981 SDRA finals riding “Bob,” a horse they raised.
Bud Day roping at the 1981 SDRA finals riding “Bob,” a horse they raised.

“Bud’s nephew Juan Garrett married our youngest daughter Johnilyn, and their son Shorty Garrett is now riding in the pro’s,” he said.

Neighbors Vonnie Foster and her husband Randy bought many horses from Bud and Iris.

“When their kids were in high school rodeo we saw the honesty, stability and tons of cow sense their horses carried. This is a typical cow-country community. Everybody shares ranch work with everyone else. My husband’s been dead for 30 years, but if a problem came up I could call any neighbor in the book and they’d be here almost immediately. Good neighbors are how we survive out here!”

Justin (Bud & Iris’s youngest son) hazing on a Little Dusty Dog gelding for his nephew, Del Pete Day, riding a Palooka Moon gelding. All photos courtesy Day family

“Iris’ son Justin and my son Rusty probably made us grey-headed,” she laughs. “Iris and I talk on the phone almost every day, and do a lot of things together, go places together. Iris has been one of my closest friends,” said Foster

“Bud enjoyed every one of them!” she remembers. “In his later years it was the horses he’d raised, and roped and dogged on that really meant the most of all to him. Plus encouraging our kids and grandkids, and everyone he knew, to enjoy and experience rodeo like he had.”

Bud Day hazing for son Darwin at the Dupree High School Rodeo 1979; riding Day-bred horses.

Nothing ever surpassed Bud Day’s love for his family, but the rodeo arena and the using Quarter Horses they bred and trained were close behind. Another sidebar was the cowboy chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which Bud and Iris facilitated and participated in, holding meetings at their wonderful practice barn for years.

That practice barn, and the practice cattle Days kept available, encouraged generations of fledgling rodeo hands. It was a friendly place to learn, practice, and train their own horses to pursue the sport Bud loved so well; with him willing and eager to coach.

Bud probably judged thousands of rodeos, in several states, across decades. A 1991 Honoree to the Casey Tibbs Foundation, Bud was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 1992. Iris and Bud trained and encouraged their children and then their grandchildren, to become active in 4-H and in rodeo where, through junior and high school rodeo and into college, many enjoyed national finals competition.

Bud and Iris with a stallion called ÒWade,” a son of Little Dusty Dog, one of DayÕs better known stallions.

After more than 52 years of marriage the love of Iris’s life rode ahead to Heaven’s arena, in October of 2007, at the age of 79. His legacy lives on through their kids, their late son Darwin’s kids, many other grandkids, even great-grandson Daycen Hunt currently college rodeoing from Oklahoma, and NFR and PBR-level bullriding grandsons. Rodeo families whose pedigrees connect to Bud and Iris include Griffiths, Maiers, Peakes, Packers, Jeffiries, Garretts, Bernsteins, Kissacks, and ongoing generations; just like those great working Quarter Horses they started out on.

Iris Day knows and is known by everyone in her region. During three decades as a dedicated driver, she’s hauled most of them on the school bus. She is still regularly driving the 30+ miles into Faith. “We live in the best country there is! If you ever need help, someone’s there. There are friends to talk to, catching me up on community news. I am blessed!”

Day grandsons Radley Day & Corey Maier, team roping at Buffalo Regional HS Rodeo in 2002. Art Cooper photo

Iris is proud of her family

“It’s all about the family,” Iris modestly insists. “Don’t write about me, write about them – they’re the great ones . . . the future! Mostly tell people, even though I recently traded my last horse for a side-by-side, I’d always rather be out horseback than in the kitchen!”

Three daughters, a son and two daughters-in-law – along with 23 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren – bless and cheer Iris as she continues helping care for livestock and pursuing the ranching life she and Bud always loved. The main road entering Faith boasts a John Lopez statue of Bud Day, fitting remembrance of the couple’s rich, deep horse and rodeo legacy.

Iris and the late Bud Day will be honored as the 2019 Legacy Rodeo honorees at the South Dakota Quarter Horse Association banquet Jan. 4 at the Ramkota Hotel in Pierre, South Dakota.