Tooke horses highlight roughstock event

Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
for Tri-State Livestock News
Josh Reynolds ( winner of the matched bronc ride) on Cupcake a horse owned by C & T Broncs.

The Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame website offers historical insight into the world of matched bronc riding, saying: “Feek Tooke promoted a matched bronc riding in Ekalaka, Montana, on July 28, 1948. A second match was held at Dickinson, North Dakota, in September 1948. The matches were the first rodeo events of that kind held in the northwest and became an annual event at the Home on the Range in Sentinel Butte, North Dakota.”

The tradition born there is alive and well, with Tooke horses still turnin’ the crank, and cowboys still wanting to ride them. That was proven with C&T Rodeo’s 2013 Newcastle Matched Bronc Ride at the Weston County Fairgrounds (Newcastle, Wyo.) Sept. 21. Rodeo legend Monty “Hawkeye” Henson and equine entrepreneur Craig Devereaux served as judges.

Roughstock action was interspersed by the popular ranch rodeo event, stray gathering, as eight riders got two full go-rounds, followed by a top-four short-go. Josh Reynolds of Ekalaka, Mont., took home the championship buckle after scoring 70, 73 and 76 for an aggregate of 219. Leroy Eash from Fortine, Mont., spurred out 201 total points on his three broncs for second place and Rob McGilvrey of Whitefish, Mont., managed a total of 195 to place third.

The team of J.R. Olson and Alverro Baieza of Newcastle topped the stray gathering competition after three runs, followed by Ekalaka, Montana’s Mac Tooke and Les Kreitel in second. Ivan Brovong of Newcastle and Lucas Stolhammer of Edgemont, S.D., teamed up to win third.

Rodeo fans enjoyed the event courtesy of C&T Rodeo, a Montana outfit owned by Mac Tooke and Bill Carlisle. A former Newcastle resident, Carlisle rode saddle bronc and bareback in his younger years, flying and riding broncs with the late Johnny Morris “from Canada to Texas.” Bill specialized in saddle broncs, riding in the five-state Northwest Ranch Cowboys Association until he joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in the 1970s.

“Our broncs carry Tooke bloodlines and we’re breeding them and trying to bring them back,” Bill Carlisle said. “We gathered them out of the brakes in the Whiskey Gulch country, tryin’ to save ’em from the mountain lions.”

“A year ago,” Janet Carlisle said, “only three foals survived out of 33 mares in that band of horses.” She further pointed out, “Not one of the horses we gathered for the bronc string were without scars or marks from those cats.”

Beyond saving the horses, the Carlisle’s are anxious to resurrect bareback and saddle bronc riding and inspire more young cowboys to pursue the roughstock sports – once so important to this region. To that end they buck out 25 head or so twice a week in Ekalaka during the summer months, providing chute help and pickup men so roughstock neophytes can get real live rodeo practice. “Hawkeye is there a lot, too,” Janet said, “and he’s always willing to help the riders out with pointers and advice.”

Second-generation bronc riding champ Don Tescher of Sheridan, Wyo., recently commented, “It seems to me that the heart of saddle bronc riding (riders and horses) is where South Dakota meets Montana, from Alzada to Camp Crook, both on the Little Missouri River.”

That’s smack dab in the middle of Tooke country. Feek Tooke, born in Redfield, S.D., and reared near Ekalaka, Mont., is a name synonymous with good bucking horses – broncs seemed to be Feek’s destiny. Described as “the Henry Ford of the bucking horse industry,” he proved to all skeptics that great bucking horses can be successfully bred and raised. Sheep Mountain, voted the 1967 National Finals Best Saddle Bronc, was the first “bred to buck horse” to win a major award. Major Reno won back-to-back NFR Best Saddle Bronc trophies in 1968-69. Both were Tooke horses.

Rodeo Hall of Famer Clem McSpadden put it in perspective when he said, “Without Feek Tooke and his bronc stallions, we wouldn’t have bucking horses … he was years ahead of his time.”

According to the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame, “… the first bucking horse sale was Feek Tooke’s idea. Bill Linderman was rodeo’s top all-around cowboy and he expressed an interest in rodeo production during a conversation with Feek Tooke in June 1946. Feek brought up the idea of horses bucking out of a chute and sold at auction, but he said he didn’t have the time to put an auction together and suggested Bill give it a try. Bill Linderman promoted the ‘World’s Premier Bucking Horse Auction’ at Billings, Mont., in May 1947, and Miles City’s Bucking Horse Sale was first held in 1950.”

Feek Tooke became only the fourth person honored by induction to both ProRodeo Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy Hall of Fame’s Rodeo Hall when he was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall on July 12, 2008, and the Cowboy Hall’s Rodeo Hall on October 26, 2008. The Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame website remembers, “After Clem McSpadden presented a special award to Feek Tooke for Sheep Mountain as National Finals Best Saddle Bronc, at the December 7, 1968 National Finals, Feek rode from the arena and was stricken with a fatal heart attack, at age 59.”

But the Tooke bucking horse legend lives on with C&T Rodeo, providing broncs for the Days of ’85 Rodeo in Ekalaka, the Camp Crook and Nisland, S.D., rodeos, as well as bronc matches like the one in Newcastle, Wyo.