Dec 5, 2019

Tom Schildhouse Jan 66 - Rodeo Bucking Horse Rider

The true story about how a Mustang MPHS 66 kid became a Mustang Bucking Horse Rider in the Rodeo.

Well Craig, I will try to make this somewhat interesting.

I was named for the early cowboy movie star Tom Mix, so I guess that my fascination with all things Western comes almost as birthright. I grew up (at least far as I've ever grown up) being, in my mind a cowboy. My favorite Halloween costume was either a cowboy or a pirate. Now I know why Jimmy Buffett sings about both subjects.

Although a fairly quiet kid, I was always into something, mostly dangerous. The more dangerous, the more it reinforced my illusion of immortality. Nothing seemed able to kill me. And I certainly gave Death enough chances. Motorcycle and motor bike escapades, losing a couple of fingers camping, numerous swimming and diving stunts which may or may not have caused some injury unacknowledged. I found out a few years ago that my neck was broken at some point in my life but don't recall exactly which misadventure may have done it. All this before my 15th birthday.

I have always been around horses, although never owned any. Rode as a trail guide at stables, rode with friends, but always left the expensive part, ownership, to those wealthier than I. I had gone to Arizona to visit my Uncle and cousins around the summer of '67 and had come to be acquainted with a husband and wife team of rodeo producers with a ranch outside of Scottsdale. While there, I stopped by and asked Mel and Wendy Potter how I could become a rodeo cowboy. Their response was perfect. They were holding a rodeo school in Prairie Du Chien, WI that summer. For about $250 I could be taught by the best, current World's Champion All-Around Cowboy Larry Mahan. I immediately gave them a deposit.

About 6 weeks later, I was in the middle of Wisconsin learning to ride bareback bucking horses. After a few days of riding (and mostly not riding) some top-rated horses, was hooked.

We had one guy there from a school for handicapped kids ( I know, not PC today, but then it was accepted) who was deaf. He was  a baker by trade so we nick named him The Baker. He was having an awful time staying on and we kinda tolerated him. Larry came up to me one afternoon and said that The Baker was probably going to get himself killed but he could see that I belonged there. Well, I have got to say, that was the high point of my life, and still ranks up there in the top 2 or 3. My head grew (as the Grinch's heart) several sizes that day. And has never returned to normal size since.

My first REAL rodeo was at the Chicago Amphitheater Stock Yards about  a month later. WGN news had been informed, thanks to an ex-wife, that I was raised in Chicago, so I made it on the news at 9 with a local interest story about "the Chicago cowboy" competing in his first big rodeo. Every year after that, and I rode at the Stock Yards for another 4 years, I was profiled on the News at 9 and got to be popular with those women around the "Yards who were interested in "a cowboy". I used this bit of local celebrity to my GREAT advantage.

Being cowboy is a pretty awesome thing. Children want to be you, women want to be with you, men envy you but are too scared to be you, and it is as close as I will ever come to the kind of perks that are associated with sports stardom.

It truly was the most unbelievable way to be in your early 20's and be the focus of hundreds of people when competing.  I always liked being the center of attention. Even though I was probably a mediocre competitor, I was a competitor nonetheless and every weekend put on those spurs, chaps, boots and jeans, screwed the Stetson on tight and slide down on that horse in the chute, ready to nod an okay to the crew to open the gate, I was often a little scared by the possible consequences, but courage isn't doing something and believing you are invincible, it is knowing you are not and doing it anyway. A few deep breathes, a feeling that, in spite of the peril, I would not want to be anywhere else at that moment, and a nod of the hat to "turn 'em loose" and I was in my zone and right where I had always wanted to be.

And the occasional picture in the Trib or in some lesser-known rag never hurt an already oversized ego.

Tom Schildhouse MPHS Jan 66


Great story, Tom.  I always wondered how a normal MPHS guy became a rodeo bronc rider. Now I know.

But actually Tom was never all that normal. In Mount Greenwood many of us had homemade motorbikes. They were unsafe at any speed. Tom managed to ride his through a car windshield, getting over one thousand stitches and over 80% facial reconstruction.  And he wounded his hand with a hatchet in an accident.

So it is not that surprising that he became a bareback bucking horse rider.  If you have ever watched it you will know that it is one of the roughest sports known.

Craig Hullinger MPHS 66


My kid rodeo story - nothing as dramatic as yours.

My parents came from ranch country in western South Dakota. I was born and raised in the south - South Dakota and Sout Chicaga.

I loved going to the family ranch. Kid paradise - horses, hotrods, swimming and fishing dams.

Our uncles taught us to be tough and self reliant. One of the ways they did this was by setting up kid rodeos. The little kids were challenged to ride buck sheep - rams.  They were woolly and not very high so that when you were bucked off you were not too hurt.

The challenge for the older kids - 7 or 8 - was to ride calves. A kid had no chance to stay on a calf - they bucked and spun furiously and you were bucked off after the first jump or two to a hard and painful landing.

My Dad and his cousin set me up to ride a calf.  They put a surcingle around his waist - a rope to hold on to.

I was determined to stay on. I got a death grip on the surcingle. I also put both my feet inside the surcingle, ensuring that I could not get bucked off.  Bad idea.

The first jump of the calf loosened the surcingle, and I rotated around to the bottom of the calf. My back and head were bumping and dragging through the manure of the barn, while my feet tangled in the surcingle ensured that I could not get free of the calf. The calf was stomping on me, and nervous, proceeded to urinate all over me. Manure on my back, urine soaked on the front, I was an unhappy camper. My Dad and cousin thought it was hilarious and great entertainment. Very funny now, not so then.

At one of the impromptu rodeos my Uncle Red asked my little brother Scott if he would like to ride a calf.  My younger brother, smarter than me, told my uncle "I believe I would rather walk."

The ranch is western South Dakota

My cowboy Uncle Red Hullinger

Craig Hullinger MPHS Jan 66
Karen has a cousin whose kid does junior rodeo, goat roping, calf riding, etc. and I always have a good time watching them. Have not done this for a bit and, I am sure, the youngster is too old to be a "junior" anymore but it is fun to watch.

Tom Schildhouse


For all you old cowpokes and cowgirls. A small town next to where I live, Paletine, IL, is starting their rodeo back up this summer near Labor Day. Come on down. They went to bull riding for the past two years and did not get the reviews they were hoping for.

Ron Veenstra

Great idea. We could make it a mini reunion, with our own soutsidaChicaga bronc rider Tom Schildhouse MPHS Jan 66 making what would likely be his last ride. Possibly get national publicity as the only 65 year old Chicaga Cowboy willing and able to ride a bucking Mustang.

What do you say, Tom?  You would add to your legend, and you are eligible for medicare so they can fix anything that breaks?

I would pay to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment