Etbauer brothers head induction class for ProRodeo Hall of Fame

March 22, 2012

By Jim Bainbridge

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The Etbauer name, legend in the cowboy sport for a generation, will be stamped in bronze this July when five-time World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Billy Etbauer and two-time World Champion Robert Etbauer are inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, heading a class of seven.

The Etbauers are joined by the late three-time world champion roughstock cowboy Frank Schneider, three-time PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year Khadafy Skoal, five-time NFR barrelman Jon Taylor, longtime rodeo administrator Hal Littrell and the Dodge City (Kan.) Roundup, which has nine times been named the PRCA Rodeo Committee of the Year.

Billy Etbauer, of Edmond, Okla., is the only man in ProRodeo history to surpass $3 million in career earnings in a single event – one of only three men to reach that milestone, period – and he holds the record for most Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifications by a roughstock cowboy (21) and most overall round wins at the NFR (51).

His five gold buckles came over a span of a dozen years (1992, 1996, 1999, 2000 and 2004), with the last of them coming at the age of 41, making him the oldest world champion saddle bronc rider on record.

Elder brother Robert, of Goodwell, Okla., won his saddle bronc riding world championships in 1990 and 1991 and qualified for the NFR 12 times (1988-92, 1994-2000). For eight of those years the youngest Etbauer brother, Dan, qualified for the NFR with Billy and Robert; Dan qualified 10 times overall (Dan is not eligible for induction as a contestant, because the current criteria includes a minimum of one world title).
“What an honor,” Billy Etbauer said. “And for Robert and I to go in together is just another blessing. Being done (retired) wakes you up to how much fun you were having and getting to do what you absolutely love to do.

“To be fortunate enough for us to be able to do what we loved that much for a living, and to be able to do it together, you can’t say enough about that. Being able to rodeo with Robert and Danny and Craig (Latham, whom the Etbauers consider an honorary fourth brother), and having so much time together, it’s hard to explain how much that means as we look back on it. You couldn’t really ask for anything more.”

“What’s a big honor to me,” said Robert Etbauer, “is all the people who are there before me – Casey Tibbs and all the guys who cut a trail for us. It’s hard to believe. It seems to me I ought to still be riding and going. We had a lot of fun and met a lot of good people. That’s the best part of it.”

Schneider has this in common with the Etbauers: He too was part of a famous brother act in his era. Elder brother Johnie won two bull riding gold buckles outright (1929-30), shared a third with Smokey Snyder (1932) and captured the 1931 all-around world championship while Frank won back-to-back bull riding world titles (1933-34) and then a bareback riding title in 1935 for good measure.

Traveling to Sydney, Australia, in 1936, Frank Schneider won an international bulldogging competition against a field of top American, Canadian and Australian competitors. He also set a world record for steer decorating at the Los Angeles Rodeo in 1932 and won numerous saddle bronc riding titles, including San Francisco – establishing himself as a true all-around hand.

Frank said in an interview before his death in 1983 that his decision to rodeo was “probably environment,” because Johnie was a top rodeo cowboy and he started working for stock contractor Cliff Burrell at 13 years old. Now the former Caliente, Calif., resident has followed Johnie all the way to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame; Johnie was inducted in 1992.

“I’ll tell you what, it knocked my socks off when we heard,” said Nancy Moore, Schneider’s eldest daughter. “We were just back there in Colorado Springs last year for Burel Mulkey’s induction, and we’re so happy to know that we’ll be coming back this year. I just can’t explain what a thrill this is.

Frank Schneider on Joe Louis, Klamath Buckaroo Days, Klamath Falls, Ore. July 4-6, 1941. Photo by DeVere and courtesy of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
“My dad would be thrilled, and my mom, too. We’ve been hoping that he would get in at some point, but we just didn’t know. We’re so happy that he’ll get to join his brother and brother-in-law (Mulkey) in the Hall of Fame.”

For all of its 35 years, the Dodge City Roundup has been one of the elite rodeos of the PRCA. Eight of its nine Rodeo Committee of the Year awards came in the days when there was only one category covering all 600-plus PRCA-sanctioned rodeos.

Dodge City shared the award in 1985 with Phoenix and Santa Maria, Calif., and shared it again with Reno, Nev., in 1987, but claimed the award outright in 1986 and from 1988-92. Its ninth PRCA award came in 2001 when it was voted the Large Outdoor Rodeo Committee of the Year.

The rodeo is annually the centerpiece of the Dodge City Days Festival which is the second largest community event in the state of Kansas with a huge economic impact.

“There was always an amateur rodeo in Dodge City,” said Roundup President Dr. R.C. Trotter, “but in 1977 a group of local bankers and cattlemen decided to create a professional rodeo. From the start, they made a huge commitment to make it a very professional show with not only the best cowboys, but the best contract personnel, the best announcers and the best stock.

“The whole community comes together to make this rodeo what it has become. We have a core group of 50-60 and we have 400-500 volunteers the week of the rodeo. Something like this (the rodeo’s induction) will serve to reenergize us all. We are all so excited to be honored this way.”

Khadafy Skoal became the first Wyoming born-and-raised horse to be voted PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year in 1990 and went on to win the award twice more for Powder River Rodeo in 1995 and ’96. Starting in 1989, the blue roan gelding went to 16 consecutive NFRs and was voted Horse of the NFR in 1994, 1996 and 1999.

He also competed in 15 Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeos (being named top bareback horse at the DNCFR a record five times) and 12 Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeos before being retired with his friend Skoal’s Frontier at the 2004 Wrangler NFR to the grassy fields of Riverton, Wyo., where he lives today at the age of 29.

“He means so much to us,” said Lori Franzen of Powder River Rodeo. “The horse put us on the map. We were a young company, and when you’re a young company in the PRCA, it takes a long time. You do a lot of struggling. You have to have a product, and you have to have something the people want to see, and Khadafy was that. He was electric, he was different, he was amazing, and people wanted to see him. He really helped us in the beginning, and (husband) Hank and I still say we owe an enormous amount of our success to him.”

Legendary bucking horse Khadafy Skoal lives life of retirement in Wyoming.
View video at Trib.com The Franzens bought Khadafy from Ray Sanborn of Big Piney, Wyo., but insisted on bucking him before writing the check.

“It was Lori and me and the hired man,” Hank Franzen said. “We put (Khadafy) in the bucking chute; Lori flanked him, I opened the bucking chute and picked him up. Lori, she had all whites in her eyes when them feet came up. He kicked up straight out of the chute right toward her. It was spectacular. We thought we had something special.”

Taylor, 70, was selected to be the NFR barrelman in 1974, 1979 and 1983 and served as the alternate in 1980-81. He was the PRCA Clown of the Year in 1979 and developed a reputation as one of the sport’s best-loved entertainers working major rodeo venues in Reno, Nev.; Fort Worth, Texas; Pendleton, Ore.; Ellensburg, Wash., and Prescott, Ariz.

He served on the PRCA Board of Directors from 1982-85 and has worked as the NFR saddle horse boss for 28 years.

“In the rodeo field, being a rodeo clown and doing all the things I’ve done with the Finals in the U.S. and Canada, I’ve made my goal,” said Taylor, who lives in Filer, Idaho. “This was always my goal.

“It was great to hear the news; I was flabbergasted really. I was nominated last year, but you just have to kind of wait and see what happens. This is a great honor that is put onto you as someone in rodeo.”

Littrell, who turns 80 on March 31, is known as “Mister Rodeo” in Colorado Springs with more than 50 years of service to the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo and a long record of support for the PRCA and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

A member of the Hall’s Board of Trustees from the beginning in 1979 to the present day, Littrell has been instrumental in helping secure monetary support for various projects and improvements for the Hall, most recently to update the museum’s lighting. He was selected in the Notables category.

“I was very surprised by the call (from PRCA Commissioner Karl Stressman) and very honored to be considered in this group of outstanding people in rodeo,” Littrell said. “It’s a bit overwhelming. I guess you could call it the thrill of a lifetime.”

ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductees are selected by a committee of former contestants and rodeo experts. More than 150 individuals are nominated each year, and selection is based on contributions to the sport of professional rodeo in any of seven categories: contestant, contract personnel, stock contractors, rodeo committees, livestock, media and notables/lifetime achievement.

Including this year’s inductees, 226 people, 27 animals and 18 rodeo committees have been selected for enshrinement in Colorado Springs since the Hall opened in 1979.