Introducing 2011 Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductee…
Chandler "Feek" Tooke (1909 - 1968)
Chandler "Feek" Tooke was born at Redfield, South Dakota, in 1909. His parents, Earl and Bessie moved to a homestead 13 miles west of Ekalaka in 1913, where they raised six sons: Frank, Fay, Chandler (Feek), Granville (Red), Dick, and Bill.
Chandler's nickname, "Feek," came from an aunt who didn't care for the name Chandler, so she called him "Felix." Fay couldn't pronounce Felix, and instead said Feek.
The Tooke brothers were interested in rodeos, so they built an arena at the ranch and held their first rodeo, Memorial Day, 1931. Headed by Feek Tooke, the Tooke brothers branched out and produced rodeos in Ekalaka, Baker, and Miles City, Montana; Belle Fourche and Deadwood, South Dakota; Dickinson, Hettinger, and Bowman, North Dakota. They leased bucking horses to other rodeo producers, and Tooke broncs bucked in arenas from Salt Lake City, to Chicago, and New York's Madison Square Garden.
Feek was a horseman; he broke horses to ride and work, bought sold, and traded horses. To his way of thinking any work worth doing should be done with a horse, and he used horses other cowboys couldn't handle.
Pat O'Kane, a Powder River ranch foreman, developed a horse breed in the 1920's he thought would have the agility, size, and stamina to stand up to hard riding in the rugged badlands. He crossed a Shire stallion to Thoroughbred mares. The colts grew to be ideal for what Pat had in mind, but they all had a bucking horse mentality and only a handful of cowboys were able to ride Pat's rough string.
Feek Tooke bought Pat's horses when Pat retired hi 1936. No one had raised horses solely to buck in rodeos, but Pat's Shire-Thoroughbred cross was a bucking horse bloodline and Feek's ambition was to create top-of-the-line broncs. There were thousands of bronc prospects available, but he could see a time in the future when the almost endless supply would dry up.
A Shire stallion and mares from east of Ekalaka were purchased from General Marion Sweeney in 1938. The big move came when Feek bought King Larrygo from an Iowa Shire farm in 1943. King was three years old, registered, and a blue ribbon winner in Show Class at the Iowa State Fair. King sired Prince; Prince sired General Custer and Timberline; General Custer sired Gray Wolf. Custer and Wolf were full-blood Shires; Timberline was part Snowflake cross.
Feek dealt for an albino Arabian stallion in 1945. The horse was broke to ride, but he was a man-hater, a terrible bucking horse, and his colts inherited his disposition. The Arab, named Snowflake, was crossed with Prince mares, and Snowflake mares crossed with Prince. The combination produced a bucking horse bloodline unequaled in rodeo history.
Described as "the Henry Ford of the bucking horse industry," Feek Tooke 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.
The Tooke bloodline has produced more than 6,000 bucking horses. Eighty percent of the bucking horses selected for the National Finals Rodeos are related, and most world champion broncs since 1987 shared the same bloodline. Three legendary PRCA bucking horses are Harry Vold's Bobby Joe, Saddle Bronc of the Year three times; Bennie Beutler's Commotion, Bareback Horse of the year three times; and Calgary's Grated Coconut, Bareback Horse of the year six times.
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."
The Miles City Bucking Horse Sale is world famous, and the first bucking horse sale was Feek Tooke's idea. Bill Linderman was rodeo 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, Montana, in May 1947, and Miles City's BHS was first held in 1950.
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 ultimate reward for any man or woman who participated in rodeo is enshrinement in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame's Rodeo Hall in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, or the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Honorees in the Cowboy Hall of Fame's Rodeo Hall, which was organized in 1955, have been selected from rodeo's beginning years in the 1890's to the present A large number were born before 1900.
The Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame was established in 1979 as the Pro Rodeo Hall of Champions. The name was later changed to Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and added notable rodeo participants who contributed to rodeo's growth, but were not world champions. The majority of honorees in the pro Rodeo Hall had arena careers in the 1930's and '40s, to a later generation of PRCA members.
Several men and women have been elected into both Halls, but an honoree's selection into the Cowboy Hall's Rodeo Hall and the Pro Rodeo Hall the same year is quite rare. Prior to 2008, only three people made both Halls in one induction year: 'Andy Jauregui in 1979, C.R. Boucher in 2001, and June Ivory in 2004. Feek Tooke from Ekalaka, Montana became the fourth when he was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall on July 12,2008, and the Cowboy Hall's Rodeo Hall on October 26,2008. In 2008, Rodeo Hall of Fame honors were given to Feek Tooke's family members. 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.
Feek Tooke's bucking horse legacy lives on as each year hundreds of Tooke bloodline broncs buck in rodeo arenas from Florida to Canada and all places between.