Editor’s Note: This story appeared in the April 1960 issue of Western Horseman.
If there had not been a National Finals Rodeo, Bob Wegner, not Jim Shoulders, would have been the RCA champion bull rider for 1959. Wegner, who comes from around Ponca City, Okla., not far from what once was the 101 Ranch country and the stomping grounds of a number of former great cowboys, was in the lead going into the National Finals. At that time, Jim Shoulders was in second place, Joe Green, third, and Bill Rinestine, fourth.
At the conclusion of the last NF go-round, Wegner and Shoulders, and Green and Rinestine, too, had all swapped positions in the RCA point awards. It was Shoulders, again the champion for the year; Wegner, again the runner-up; Rinestine, third; and Green, fourth. No other event leadholders were upset, but some runner-up positions in saddle bronc riding, calf roping, and ‘dogging were changed by the hectic happenings in the Coliseum Arena in Dallas.
Jim Shoulders again winning the bull-riding title, of course, was no an upset victory – he was expected to win! Coming to Dallas, Shoulders was just $42.95 behind Wegner in seasonal winnings on the bulls. This was not much of a handicap for the champion to overcome in a 10-bull contest, especially at Dallas where all 10 drawn bulls were rank ones.
Some time ago, the many times champion bull rider and all-around titleholder collaborated with a New York author-and-artist team on an article entitled, “How to Watch a Rodeo,” which appeared in a winter issue of a sports magazine. It probably would have been far more interesting and instructive if shoulders had, instead, collaborated on an article entitled, “How to Ride Bulls.”
The highest-marked bull ride of the National Finals, 187, was made by Duane Howard on Harley Tucker’s old rogue bull, Black Smoke. The second highest-marked ride, 186, was made by Shoulders on Beutler Brothers’ No. 22 bull. Of the 15 brave and brawny bull riders at Dallas, all but two made one or more money rides. Shoulders had the edge, making money rides on six of his 10 bulls. One bull, the before mentioned Black Smoke, bucked Shoulders off on the third day, fifth go-round. In the final go-round, Ronnie Rossen put his rope on this highly rated Tucker bull. Everyone on hand – especially the other bull riders – was watching the chute when this pair came out. The young Montana cowboy rode Black Smoke, got a big hand, and must have felt pretty good as he walked back to the chutes. Two riders, Joe Green and Benny Reynolds, were injured, but not seriously, in the bull riding. This, considering the caliber of the stock used in this event, was especially noteworthy.
Shoulders, with a 1,611 total marking on nine bulls, won the average and $2,435 at Dallas. Eddie LeTourneau, marking 1,413 on eight bulls placed second; Rinestine, 1,241 on seven bulls, was third; and Ronnie Rossen, 1,237 on seven bulls, fourth. Judges Sonny Tureman and Leonard McCravey rated Elra Beutler’s No. 161 the buckingest bull in the Coliseum Arena. His first time out, No. 161 had bucked off Duane Howard; then he put Rinestine down in the final go-round.
Fourteen of the 15 top saddle bronc riders at Dallas made a little or a lot of wampum during the five-day, 10-performance NF rodeo. The big money and average winner was Jim Tescher of Medora, N.D., formerly of Sentinel Butte, the cowboy capital of North Dakota. Jim Tescher and Les Johnson were the only two saddle bronc riders to make qualified rides on all 10 of their rough string mounts. Oddly enough, both riders drew Christensen Brothers’ War Paint, bucking horse of the year for 1956, ’57 and ’58. They also both got Vold’s Kentucky bronc in the draw. Tescher also made rides on Fettig’s Figure 4, an always spectacular bucker, probably best remembered by many for his lively antics at the annual Dickenson, N.D., Match of Champions; the Roberts’ Jesse James; Elra Beutler’s Magic Carpet; and Ray Kohr’s Miss K.B., among others. Second placer, Les Johnson, now of Omak, Wash., but originally a Canadian cowboy, besides War Paint and Kentucky, made rides aboard Beutler Brothers’ Steamboat, Tommy Steiner’s Misson Bells, Oral Zumwalt’s Rocky Rial, Hoss Inman’s Boothill, Buetler Brothers’ No Dice, Andy Jauregui’s Joe Louis, and Bob Barnes’ Cloudy Day.
Jim Tescher’s total marking on 10 horses came to an impressive 1,806 – an average of a shade better than 180 on each ride. His event winnings came to $2,261. Les Johnson’s markings added up to 1,768 on 10 horses. Guy Weeks placed third with 1,610 on nine horses, and Lyle Smith was fourth with 1,587 on nine horses. The highest-marked saddle bronc ride of the 10 performances, 187, was made by Lyle Smith on Red Mountain of the Summit Rodeo Company rough string. The second highest-marked saddle bronc ride, 186, was made by Marty Wood on Joe Brown of the Homer Todd string. The third highest-marked ride, 185, was given to each of three riders: Winston Bruce on Brown Bomber, Casey Tibbs on Radar, and Lyle Smith on Frightful Mac – all three of these top bucking horses are owned by Harley Tucker.
At the end of the contest, judged Tureman and McCravey selected Oral Zumwalt’s high-kicking sorrel, Trails End, as the outstanding bucking horse in action at the National Finals. Enoch Walker won the last go-round on this horse’s rough old back, and, earlier, in the third go-round, Trails End had bucked off J.D. McKenna. Trails End was also chosen by the high-point bronc riders of 1959 for the “bucking horse of the year” award.
Casey Tibbs, who was in go-round payoffs but out of the average at the National Finals, once again ended a season with the RCA saddle bronc riding title. In 1959, Tibbs won $17, 485 riding saddle broncs, finishing the season $3,235 ahead of the second placer, Winston Bruce. Enoch Walker was third with $12,625, and Jim Tescher, who was eighth in the RCA point award at the start of the National Finals, ended up in fourth place with $12,157.
This is the sixth time that Tibbs has wound up a season as the big money-winning bronc rider of the year. In the period from 1949 to 1955, Tibbs won the RCA saddle bronc riding title five times. The two years that he didn’t win the title – 1950 and 1955 – he was a very, very close runner-up. In 1951, he was also the RCA champion bareback bronc rider, and the same year, 1951, and again in 1955, he was the RCA all-around champion cowboy. At that time, the International Rodeo Association, a consolidation of the old RAA and NRA rodeo management organizations, had their point-award system going, and Tibbs was winning awards and titles most every year via this point-award setup, too. His biggest year in rodeo was 1955; that year he won $23,947 on saddle broncs, $13,981 on barebacks and $4,137 on bulls, for a total take of $42,065.
All 15 NF calf ropers got to the pay window at least once in 10 times out. Eight of the 15 ropers were timed on all 10 of their robust calves. Two ropers, one a former champion, came up with “no time” on three calves, one roper missed out on two calves and four had “no time” on one calf. The fastest calf roping time of the NF was 11.3, racked up by Lee Cockrell on his final vealer. Average winner Olin Young, with 191.3 on 10 calves, took home $2,086.
Young had a bad start – a clocking of 38.5 on his first frisky hunk of baby beef on the hoof. Then he went out like a hungry homesteader and won the second go-round in 14 flat. But alas, Young’s time on his third big frisky calf was 28.6; with 81.1 on three calves, his chance of bringing hom the bacon appeared mighty slim. But the slender, young Lovington, N.M., roper got going – he tied his next six calves in 96.3. With one more calf to rope, Young, with 177.4 on nine, was ranking third, behind both Monroe Tumlinson, who had 176.3 on nine calves, and Sonny Davis with 173.1. Oddly, all three of these leading calf ropers are New Mexico cowboys.
Tumlinson tied his final calf in 16.1; Davis, using two loops, was clocked in 18.7. Young got the job done in 13.9, and that was it. He had bested Davis by five-tenths of a second. Tumlinson finished third, and Tom Nesmith, with 203.7 on 10 calves, was in for fourth.
Jim Bob Altizer of Del Rio, Tex., who didn’t fare well at Dallas, but had fared very well most everywhere else he went in 1959, ended the season as the RCA champion calf roper. Altizer won $24,728 roping calves in 1959. Second placer was Dale Smith with $18,421; third, Dean Oliver, $18,104; and fourth, Olin Young, $17,732.
Like the calf ropers, all of the ‘doggers at Dallas also got to cash one or more NF checks. One ‘dogger, Tom Nesmith, who also did alright for himself in the calf roping, got to cash six ‘dogging go-round payoff checks. On the other hand, Willard Combs, Checotah, Okla., got to cash only three checks, but one of these checks amounting to $1,044 was for placing first in the average. Combs’ winning time was 111.6 on 10 steers. Second placer in the average was Don Fedderson with 115.3 on 10 steers; third was James Bynum, 127.3; and fourth was Wilbur Plaugher with 155 flat.
The fastest ‘dogging time was 4.4, rung up by Harry Charters on his sixth steer. Charters was out of the average at Dallas, but as the big money ‘dogger of the season with $18,549, he is the 1959 RCA champion. Don Fedderson finished the year in second place, $5,696 behind the champion. Third was Danny Daniesl with $11,256, and fourth was Tom Nesmith with $10,362.
Fourteen of the 15 bareback bronc riders got to the pay window at least once in the 10 go-rounds at the National Finals. But only four of the 15 riders – Jack Buschbom, Jim Shoulders, Eddy Akridge and Buddy Peak – managed to make qualified rides on all 10 of their rough string mounts. The high-marked bareback ride, 192, was made by Bert France on Harry Knight’s Comeapart. The second highest-marked ride, 189, was also made by Bert France; this time in the eighth go-round, he was out on Beutler Brothers’ Sun Goose. The third highest-marked ride, 188, was racked up by Don L. Wilson on Beutler Brothers’ Snappy John.
The average winner was Jack Buschbom, Cassville, Wis., with a total marking of 1,790 on his 10 horses. Buschbom – called “Bushy” by many of the cowboys – rode Fools Gold of the Zumwalt string; Lemon Drop, Bob Barnes; Whiteneck, Beutlers; Cry Baby, Earl Hutchison; Black Powder, Zumwalt; Calgary, Jauregui; Lookout, Beutlers; 12 Bells, Harley Tucker; and Casey, Ray Kohrs. Second placer in the average was Eddy Akridge, with 1,780 on 10 horses; third was Jim Shoulders, 1,778; and fourth was Buddy Peak, 1,761.
The best NF bareback bronc award, decided by the judges, went to Harry Knight’s outstanding bareback horse, Comeapart. Jack Buschbom’s success at Dallas cinched his winning the RCA bareback bronc-riding title for 1959. His winnings in this event through the year – he is also quite a saddle bronc rider – added up to $17,611. Buschbom had previously won the RCA bareback title in 1949 – that year, young Jim Shoulders was the runner-up. This time, 1959, Shoulders finished the season in third place. The 1959 second placer was again Johnny Hawkins, and in for fourth was Ralph Buell.
The “best one event cowboy at Dallas” award – the proceeds from an oil well in Young County, Tex., for one year or $3,000 in cash – donated by Henry English of Dallas to the cowboy winning the most money in any one event, went to the old award winner Jim Shoulders for his $2,435 won in the bull riding. In addition to this, Shoulders won $1,043 in the bareback riding at Dallas. In all, the 1959 champion bull rider and RCA all-around champion cowboy collected $32,905 for riding bulls and bareback broncs in arenas all over the country last season. This is the fifth time that Shoulders has won the RCA all-around title, the seventh time that he has won the RCA bull riding championship, and the fourth time in past years he has also been the RCA champion bareback rider. He also won a large number of IRA awards and titles at the conclusion of past seasons. It all adds up to more titles, more awards, more trophies, and more money, than any other rodeo cowboy past or present has even won in the arena.