Welcome to my second volume of The Cover Column!
It gives me much pleasure to tell you that today I am going to introduce you to someone really special to me, my mom. As I type this I’m grinning because she really has no idea that I’m writing about her. It’s going to come as a huge surprise. I spoke to her a couple of night ago and told her I was writing about Skipper. Well, I didn’t totally tell her a windy. I’m going to tell you about both of them.
My mom, Lila Reukauf Glade, was born in July 1950 in Miles City, Montana. She was the second daughter to Art & June McMillan Reukauf. She joined her sister Dixie, five years her senior, on the Reukauf ranch north of the Yellowstone River between Little Sheep and Big Sheep Mountains in southeastern Montana. Terry was what their home address was, but it could have easily been Miles City too due to the “back way” into town.
My mom grew up as one of two girls in a family of hard workers. Her father, Art, was a busy man. He ran cattle and horses…and not always in close proximity to his home place. Over the years he had leased land quite a distance from home in the state of Montana. He even had business dealings in Australia and Missouri eventually. My grandpa was quite the entrepreneur. He was raised during hard times and did a lot of business with his word and a handshake. Her mother, June, was also accustomed to working hard every minute of the day. Mom grew up around that. She learned at a young age what hard work was all about.
Mom attended a nearby country school until it was time to attend school in Terry. She graduated high school in 1968. Mom was involved in rodeo from a very young age. Her dad raised foundation bloodline quarter horses and he enjoyed watching them run barrels. My mom and her sister spent a lot of hours working on the ranch and training horses in the arena. They both became quite skilled horsewomen and went on to win all sorts of prizes, awards, and titles running barrels.
After high school Mom went to school at National College in Rapid City, SD. She was on the rodeo team. She eventually met her husband-to-be, Cliff Glade (my dad). They married in February 1971. I was their first born in July 1973 and my brother, Wyatt, followed in December 1975. Along the way my folks learned how to build a life together ranching and raising/training horses.
I decided not to focus too much on all of the minute details about my mom’s life in this issue. Now that I’ve put my toe in the water perhaps she won’t mind if I dive deeper when featuring her next time. I told her I was writing about Skipper so that’s what I’m going to do.
Who was Skipper? Well, he was perhaps one of the most amazing four-legged souls we’ve ever known. He was born in the spring of 1962 by my Grandpa’s stud (Little Freckles) and out of a Hines mare. Verlan Hines was quite the horse hand. He was a family friend and lived down the creek. His kids loved riding horses and were great at getting all of their horses broke to death. Skipper was that. A friend of the family had actually bought him from the Hines family. Doc Britton was from Minnesota. He came out hunting frequently. Doc had bought Skipper as a pleasure horse for himself. He left him at the Reukauf place for the winter and told my mom that she should run barrels on him. My mom remembers thinking that was a silly idea. She said that Doc urged her to, so she took him over to the arena just to see what might happen. Skipper was used to an arena because the Hines kids had brought him in to the local play days and what not. Mom said that Skipper took right to running barrels.
This is going to be hard to believe for some of you, but this is the honest truth. It only took my mom 30 days (THIRTY DAYS) at the arena until she entered him in his first rodeo (Cohagen, MT). AND…THEY WON IT!!! Skipper was eight years old.
My mom went on to say that they went to a few more and he won those also, but he got to tipping barrels because he turned them so dang tight. He didn’t dig in like a lot of horses. He more or less turned sort of straight up and down. After this trial and error period and some more time back home in the training pen everywhere they went they won 1st or 2nd. Mom said that Skipper was a funny horse. You totally had to leave his head alone. Whenever he had a bit in his mouth he would slobber like crazy. Looking back, she wishes she would have just used a halter on him. They did eventually use a hackamore on him with the shank cut down to no more than 4”. This worked great for him. She smiled when she remembered back about how he swatted his tail on the way home from the third barrel every single time.
My mom got her WPRA (Women’s Professional Rodeo Association) card in 1974. She had waited to get it for quite some time because back then when you got your official card you couldn’t compete in amateur rodeos anymore. This has since changed.
I asked my mom about her best wins on the rodeo trail. Of course, Cheyenne Frontier Days came up. She told me back then it was quite an amazing thing. All 90 some barrel racers would enter the arena and stand off to the side while each one ran. They never raked once, and the horse races were going on at the same time around the arena! And…the top came back after they were done to crown the champion. In 1974, she and Skipper split ¾. In 1975 they won it! And in 1976 they were 6th.
Something about the buckle they won (and these are my own personal words). It’s an amazing buckle, but it lacks the diamonds in it that all the men received in their buckles. I always thought it would be neat to add diamonds to that buckle…maybe I will someday for my mom! When asking her how Skipper had come out on top at CFD after all of those girls had run…Mom said it was easy…he ran inside all of their tracks (remember I said he turned pretty straight up and down).
Mom and Skipper won the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit in barrels in 1975 and 1976…they were the runner’s up in 1977. My mom and Skipper eventually went on to qualify and compete in the 1976 National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City. Looking back, she has told me several times how naïve she was. It was the dead of winter as they left home in Montana. She and my dad pulled into OKC a day before the rodeo…others had been there a week or two ahead of them. The temperature change was drastic. Skipper did have difficulties adjusting so it wasn’t his best performance of his career. However, it was the NFR. They did their best and they came out of it stronger than ever. Here is a picture of mom and Skipper before a run at the NFR.
My mom eventually let a high school family friend run him at the National High School Rodeo Finals in Washington. Her name back then was Lisa Figg (now Lisa Medlin). I actually remember Lisa and her family well from my childhood. I always thought it was great that my mom and dad helped young cowgirls and cowboys getting started just like my Grandpa Art had done. Speaking of getting youngsters started…then there was me.
After my mom sensed that Skipper was done competing professionally he had an eager 8-year-old girl waiting for him (that was me). Up until this time I had spent my days on an annoying pony named Ginger (I wrote a blog about her not long ago) and an old horse off the race track, Sky Rocket Bars. I was at the point that I needed to graduate to something ready to go. And boy…did Skipper go! Looking back, I didn’t realize how lucky I was! I was 8 years old and riding an NFR qualifying barrel horse! And it wasn’t just barrels that he was good at. Skipper was good at everything! Dad had roped off of him (pictured here at the Glendive, MT Fair – Dad is heeling on him behind Alyn Haughian).
We also breakaway roped, goat tied, hazed steers, and ran poles on Skipper. This is NO JOKE either….when I began running him on the poles it was a rush!! I was 8 years old and ran a 20.4 on him….NOT KIDDING!!! He was perhaps the most amazing horse I’ve ever thrown a leg over…I’m sad that I was so young and truly didn’t realize just how special he was at the time.
With childhood guilt I also admit that I am the reason that Skipper was retired from rodeo performances all together. I was probably 12 years old. Skipper was a character and he definitely wasn’t a loafy, lazy horse. You had to be a bit aware around him or he’d push his way through and be leading you everywhere (or worse yet get away from you). One night after we got done at the arena we rode the mile home. I got off of him and went to flip my roping rein over his head, so I could unsnap it and open the gate. Well, I either didn’t flip it well enough or he moved his head when I did it. The next thing I knew he jerked away from me and went flying off with his headstall, saddle, and rein still over his neck not unsnapped. We never saw what happened, but we always just sort of knew. He had to have flipped the rein over his head somehow and stepped on it. When he came in he was crippled up. His tailbone wasn’t right and truly never was again. It messed with his equilibrium too. I cried tears and tears over that. But as I learned back then tears don’t fix things like that once they’ve been done. I learned a very valuable lesson at Skipper’s expense. To this day I still get a pit in my stomach when I think about it.
After that happened, Skipper was retired from competition. We figure he must have been about 21 then. He wasn’t impaired from living a good life by any means though. He lived on the place and pretty much did what he please for the remainder of his days. He lived to the old age of 32. Whenever we start reminiscing about old times and good horses his name is brought up first. I can’t help but have tears in my eyes as I type this last bit. To all of you out there who know that feeling…it isn’t truly a sadness…it’s more of an emptiness that’s never filled once they are gone. I know my mom feels that way about Skipper even though she’s never said that out loud. I can tell by the way she talks about him and how happy all the memories of him make her. I’m proud to say that my mom was and is one of the best horsewomen I have ever known. Without her I wouldn’t have had the success I did in the arena from childhood on up. When someone loves what they do it shows in ways that can be felt forever. My mom loved training barrel horses…and the horses she trained loved her.
Thanks, Mom…and I know Skipper thanks you too!