This stallion became one of the greatest sires in Quarter Horse history.
It was cold and blustery the afternoon of March 22, 1961, in Illinois. Mother Nature couldn’t decide if she were dancing to the tune of late winter or early spring.
Herman H. Mass and several other fellows had taken refuge against the biting wind. They were inside the farm manager’s house gathered ’round a table playing cards. A new hand had just been dealt when Mass glanced at the time. It was his turn to check on a mare by the name of Triangle Tookie. She was in the barn and heavy in foal, due any minute.
Mass turned his cards face down and laid them on the table in front of his chair. He grabbed his hat and coat and jumped in his car to drive down for his check. He returned a few minutes later looking like a pleased man. He took off his hat and coat, sat down, picked up his cards, fanned out his hand, and grinned.
“Well,” he said, “it looks to me as if I have a two-eyed jack out in the barn.” All heads swiveled toward Mass. “What?” queried his farm manager. “Did Tookie have her baby? How does he look?” Still looking at his cards-which included two jacks-Mass kept grinning and said, “He looks like a perfect little horse.”
Melinda Mass Tidmore, Herman’s daughter, still remembers that afternoon of 30 years ago. “Jack was about 20 minutes old the first time I saw him;’ she recalled, “and Dad was right. He was little, like a baby, but he still looked like a perfectly mature horse. It was incredible.”
Two Eyed Jack has been heralded as one of the most influential of contemporary Quarter Horse sires. As a matter of fact, there are some people who refer to the “Two Eyed Jack Era.”
The sorrel stallion was bred during a time when the lines of pedigree demarcation weren’t drawn as rigidly as they are today between halter, performance, and racing. Jack was by Two D Two, a 1957 stallion by Double Diamond (a 1947 stallion with race ROM) arid out of Double Life by Pay Day. Double Diamond traces to Silver King/Old Sorrel on the top and to Scar Face S/Bailey on the bottom. Scar Face S was out of a mare by Midnight, who, in turn, produced the famed Midnight Jr., who did more than his share to launch racing veteran Walter Merrick. Pay Day, the sire of Double Life, was by Joe Moore and out of Paulita.
As noted, Jack’s darn was Triangle Tookie. She was by Grey Badger III by Grey Badger ll who was by Midnight Jr. by Midnight. Midnight Jr.’s dam was Salty by Billy The Tough. Grey Badger II’s dam was Grey Annie, who was also by Billy The Tough.
The dam of Grey Badger III was a Thoroughbred named Mary Greenock by Greenock and out of That’s Mine.
On the bottom of Triangle Tookie was Lady Hancock. She was by Roan Hancock, who excelled both on the racetrack and in the arena. Her dam was Triangle Lady 10. As a result of all this, Two Eyed Jack reflects nine crosses to Peter McCue in the first eight generations of his pedigree. He also had a five by five cross to Midnight. (That means he was intensely inbred.)
In retrospect, the wide variety of blending that’s so obvious in Two Eyed Jack’s pedigree is appropriate of the two men most closely connected with the stallion- Herman Mass and Howard Pitzer. Both believed in horses that were far more than “pretty faces.”
“My dad believed in horses who could do just about everything;’ noted Melinda. ” He was definitely involved in racing. He had Quin Hancock (by Buck Hancock and out of Triangle Tookie) who was once named grand champion gelding at the Jefferson County Fair in Wisconsin. The day he received his grand champion title, he won the 440-yard dash that night. I was sitting next to one of the judges during the race. He watched Quin Hancock cross the finish line and asked, “Isn’t that my grand champion gelding?”
The name Two Eyed Jack is most closely associated with Howard Pitzer, but there is an earlier beginning to the story. It actually started when Mass and John Bowling set forth on one of their horse-buying expeditions “out West.” One of the places they wound up was at Jack Schwabacher’s ranch in San Juan Bautista, California. That’s where they first saw the 5-day-old Two D Two. That was 1957. Melinda was 10. Her father bought the baby colt on the spot, paying $500 for him.
“He was still on his mama,” explained Melinda. “Dad returned for him later because he didn’t want his dam, Double Life. I remember Dad used to joke and say he paid $100 for every day Two D Two had been alive.
“Why did he buy him? The same reason he bought his other horses. He said he could look at him, even at 5 days, and tell what he would be by the angle of his hip, the slope of his shoulder, the length of his back. Dad swore he would be a great horse one day and he was right. We showed him all over the country as a yearling. We were living in Algonquin, Ill., at the time, and I was the one who wound up making him an AQHA Champion.”
According to Melinda, it was common for her father to take off on horse buying trips and return with boxcar loads of stock. He kept most of the ones he bought.
“Dad was never a stranger to horses,” laughed Melinda. “He was born in 1903. He rode a mule 7 miles to school, and he drove a team to the local dance halls. That’s how he courted my mother. He raised registered Angus cattle, and he decided his horses would also be registered stock. I was 5 when he first made his decision.
“That’s about the time he bought two registered horses named Cindy Hancock and Jake’s Hancock for my brother and sister. As I said, I was only 5, so I was given a grade horse.”
Mass also purchased Triangle Tookie. The mare produced Quin Hancock, and Mass felt sure she’d be a good cross with Two D Two. He was correct, of course, since that combination produced Two Eyed Jack, Tookie’s Two (AQHA high point reining horse of 1967), and Triangle Queen (Superior halter mare). All three became AQHA Champions, with Jack going on to carve his own special niche within the industry.
“We showed Jack as a weanling,” continued Melinda, “at the Illinois State Fair where he won his class as well as the Governor’s Trophy. He was the only weanling with that particular achievement. We sold him as a 2-year-old at a good price.” That was in 1963 and it was also about the time the paths of Two Eyed Jack, Two D Two, Mass, and Pitzer became forever entwined.
Pitzer wanted Two D Two, but as things turned out, he acquired Two Eyed Jack first. The sorrel stallion was sold in 1963 as a 2-year-old to E. C. Coppola of Iowa. Approximately 4 months later, Coppola sold the colt to Joe Lindholm of Audubon, Iowa. By that time, Jack had already accumulated a long list of grand championships.
From this point forward, the story becomes one of horse-trading between horsemen, of selling and buying and swapping, of dickering and negotiating and trading.
Pitzer never lost sight of Jack. He and Jack’s connections faced one another in show rings across the country. Pitzer kept casting his trained eye at the sorrel stallion. He watched the young horse grow and develop. By the time Jack was a 3-year-old, Pitzer was convinced he was one of the finest horses he’d ever seen.
“We were at a show at Burwell, Neb.,” recalled Pitzer, who lives in Ericson, Nebraska. “Jack was there, too. He was a 3-year-old at the time and owned by Lindholm. Joe’s trainer was thinking about quitting, so I told Joe to give Jack to us and we’d show him. Well, Joe was the type person you didn’t make an offer to unless you were ready to back it up. He said okay, and that’s when we started our trading. It would end up with my owning one-half of Jack.”
According to AQHA records, the transfer of ownership was made official on August 20, 1964, when Jack’s papers were recorded in the names of Joe Lindholm and Howard Pitzer.
Pitzer was aggressive when it came to the show ring and, by the end of 1964, Jack racked up 46 grands and 6 reserves in halter. Phenomenal! He was also entered in western pleasure classes, and he earned 18.5 performance points.
“I realized what this horse was,” mused Pitzer. “He was more than special. He had a peculiar attitude. He could eat grass or he could cut cattle. It was almost as if he looked at me and said, ‘If you can do it, so can I.’ I remember one time when we put him in a trail class. We had to carry a bunch of ducks. Well, Jack sure didn’t like it, but he did it. About the only thing he ever flatly balked at was a tight trailer. He just couldn’t stand it.
“He was an extremely easy-riding horse. The first time I ever rode him was in a pleasure class at the Kansas State Fair. I rode him from his stall to the arena and, on the way, there was a small ditch filled with water. He hopped over it and then set me down as if l were riding on springs. One year I put him in the versatility class at the Congress. He ran barrels and set a record, and he’d been running barrels only 2 weeks.”
When Pitzer says he used Jack to cut cattle, he doesn’t confine the statement to show rings. Pitzer used Jack on the ranch, reporting that the horse exhibited a lot of natural cow sense.
The year 1965 stands out in Pitzer’s life. That was the year he and Lindholm acquired Two D Two. Approximately a year later, Pitzer relinquished his portion of ownership in Two D Two for Lindholm’s share of Jack.
“I wanted Jack to have a permanent home,” he said. “We did some more swapping and trading, including some cattle, and settled the deal. I’ve always told people I had to buy Jack a piece at a time and that’s about the truth.”
Jack was in and out of show rings until he was 9 years old. He amassed numerous titles, including AQHA Champion and Superior Halter, 217 halter points, 3 cow horse, 6 reining, 3 western riding, 46.5 western pleasure, and 7 hunter under saddle. While he was still performing, the industry was able to take a look at his get. He had only six registered foals from his first crop, but they also included his first AQHA Champion-Katie Two Eye. That same crop delivered Miss Sunbonnet, who eventually earned 179 halter points.
The sorrel stallion took credit for 14 registered foals in 1966. Among them were Miss Buckets, Two Jack Two, Hilda Jack, and Denver Jack. The list continued to grow each year, adding the likes of Jacks Tune, Acres High, Chubby’s Doll, Two Eyed Dandy, Two Eyed Luck, Wowitsa Jack, Two Eyed Donna, Two Eyed Hilda, Miss Denver Dot, Two Eyed Revenue, Bucket Jack, and Topper Star Jack.
Watch Joe Jack later became an outstanding sire for Pitzer. He was out of Watch Jo Moore, by Joe M. Moore, and was 1973 AQHA High-Point Western Pleasure Stallion, and earned 225 halter points and 149 western pleasure points.
More winners were Mr Jack Prince, Miss Patty Jack, Boots Jack, Miss Della Jack, Pep Up Jackie. The names didn’t stop. They kept coming. Jack kept siring. Now, 30 years after his birth and 10 years since siring his last crop, his name and Pitzer’s still ride at the top of AQHA’s all-time lists and statistics. Jack has 119 AQHA Champions and is the all-time leading sire of open ROM qualifiers with 242. He has 21 youth and open world champions. Accordingly, Pitzer is the leading breeder of AQHA Champions with 77, and the leading breeder of ROM horses, with 180.
“When we first started with Jack,” said Pitzer, “there were some people who said he wouldn’t be able to do anything. Well, we soon killed that because he proved he could do everything. To me, there never was any such thing as a halter horse or a performance horse. They were all horses. As far as I’m concerned, we shouldn’t have such strong distinctions.
“Vicki Lee Pine (Two Eyed Jack/Poco Coed) could do anything. She wound up being the 1978 World Championship Show Superhorse.
“Mr Baron Red (Red Baron Bell/Two Eyed Patti) was the Superhorse in 1983. He and Two ID Bartender (Two Eyed Jack/Prissy Joann) were tied for that title for 2 days during that show. There was a time when we didn’t have so much distinction between halter and pleasure, and it was much better for showing.
“I can remember one 27-day stretch when we made 24 shows and drove 6,000 miles from southern Kansas to Minnesota. We rode and we showed. The horses held up and so did we.”
No one can deny Two Eyed Jack’s prowess in the arena, and certainly no one can deny his contributions from the breeding barn. He crossed splendidly with a number of bloodlines, including Pat Star Jr and Zan Parr Bar.
Today, Howard Pitzer’s daughter and son-in-law-Jim and Tana Brinkman and his granddaughter and her husband–Joe and Jane Qualm–are his partners.
One of the questions they face in their operation is how do you replace a stallion of Two Eyed Jack’s stature?
“We have some good ones,” admitted Pitzer, “some very good ones. But it’s hard to replace the combination we had in Jack. As I said, he was almost too perfect. He had ideal conformation and he was magnificent when it came to riding and performing.
“Jack Eyed was good but he died a couple of years ago. He was 19. To be honest, we think Mr Baron Red is about the finest horse we’ve ever had, next to Jack. He has our enthusiasm at a pretty high level. There’s also Two ID Bartender. We also have a nice son of Mr Baron Red.
“We still believe in horses capable of halter as well as performance. To my way of thinking, we all need to keep an open mind when it comes to horses.
Each of us has the privilege to like or dislike whatever we please; but on the other hand, let’s not close our minds to possibilities. We shouldn’t be schooled to like only certain bloodlines or certain characteristics. Instead, let’s look at everything. If we don’t, we’re liable to miss the next Two Eyed Jack.
The grand old horse left the world in the same month he had entered it. On March 2 of 1991, he slipped on some ice, fell, and couldn’t get up. One of the few things he ever failed to do was achieve the age of 30. He was 20 days short.
This article was originally published in the September 1991 issue of Western Horseman.