By Tom Russell
The story shared by Blood elder Pete Standing Alone reflects the rich, proud traditions and lifestyles of our people throughout our history. Standing Alone shares a story not many are aware of, yet it deserves to be included as one of the many accomplishments from the Blackfoot people.
The year was 1948. World War II ended and people were ready to move ahead and face new challenges on the horizon. For three young men from the Blood reserve, their spirit of adventure was high. The Standing Alone brothers (Allan, Andy, and Pete) headed south that year to look for work and ended up in Tribune, Kansas, working on fence-lines for a huge sheep operation owned by Rust Wilkins.
During one of their frequent trips into Tribune, they overheard one of the locals bragging up a horse they claimed had never been ridden. Known simply as “the brown mare,” the ornery horse was quickly gaining a reputation among the townsfolk, and all this talk struck a chord deep inside the three Bloods. “I’ll bet you a hundred-dollars I could ride that horse,” said Andy as he laid out a challenge. The men, stared at Andy for a moment, began laughing, and then carried on their conversation. “I have a hundred dollars in my pocket that I could ride that horse,” stated Andy directly. This time, the men took him seriously. That challenge had the town of Tribune abuzz with excitement.
The brown mare had developed a reputation as an onerous and nasty animal in the rodeo arena, but it was also a saddle horse that could be trusted upon to herd cattle all day long in the blistering heat of the Kansas plains. The stage was set. Pete climbed the chute that held the surprisingly calm brown mare, while Allan waited in the arena as a pickup man. The bronc saddle, which was battered and worn with cinch straps that reeked with age, was carefully placed on the back of the horse. The brown mare must have sensed the growing tension as its muscles twitched in anticipation. Her ears stood straight up and her flowing mane shivered with seeming delight. Andy, on the other hand, sat cool atop the chute, listening to his brothers’ silent words of encouragement, and psyching himself up to fulfill the boast that brought him here. He climbed slowly down the side of the chute, sat on top of the horse, and slid his well-worn cowboy boots into the stirrups. He was ready.
In the meantime, one of the locals was busy trying to entice the crowd to lay a bet on the battle between man and beast. The cowboys used rodeo rules that day; the rider needed to stay on for a full ten seconds. Andy went one better—he rode the horse to a standstill. The curious onlookers, who filled the stands around the rodeo arena, were yelling and screaming in amazement, with vehicle horns blaring and blazing in the distance. The brown mare had been rode.
For their efforts, the brothers only received forty dollars apiece. One week later, Andy was asked to ride another horse and was bucked off. An injury to his hip subsequently ended his riding career. The three Standing Alone brothers who went south that year looking for employment became almost legendary through their deed, leaving a lasting memory in the minds of the people in the small, ordinary town of Tribune, Kansas.