Four-wheeler will never replace Larry Schanzenbach’s horse
When a quarter horse and cowboy work cattle, they are as one.
“It’s just a beautiful thing to see,” Shirley Schanzenbach said.
“I still work my cattle the old-fashioned way, from the back of a horse,” Larry Schanzenbach said. “My 20-year old bay gelding will follow a cow through a gopher hole. I won’t have a four-wheeler on the place. We have a lot of flowing springs on our place. A four-wheeler would only get stuck.”
Larry’s motto has always been, “sometimes working cattle requires two heads-mine and the horse. And with a four-wheeler there is only one!”
Shirley and Larry operate a cow-calf operation on Larry’s grandparents’ place east of Selby. Larry was co-owner of Selby Oil with Harry Brown for 26 years, worked for NAPA for eight and then for Dakota Trails. Shirley recently retired from CamWal Electric after 45 years.
The fact that a city kid could realize his dream of becoming a cowboy like his idol Casey Tibbs is, in itself, quite a feat. Factor into that the distinction of winning the 1964 South Dakota State Championship in bull riding and placing second in a five-state area in bull riding, losing first place by $1.12.
The only child born in 1941, to Edward and Agnes Schanzenbach, the family operated the Phillips 66 dealership. Accompanying his dad when he delivered fuel oil to local farms, when his dad wasn’t looking, Larry would sneak away to the corrals and slip onto a calf or two when they ran by.
“I’ve always loved horses and wanted one of my own,” he said. “But mom and dad resisted.”
His parents would go south each winter and his grandmother, Lillian Hoven, would come to babysit. Knowing how much Larry wanted a horse and being a bit of a soft touch when Larry was in the eighth grade, he and his grandmother went out and bought a little bay mare from Ellsworth Shillingstad, which Larry named Babe.
The Walworth County Fairgrounds was located just west of where Mr. Bob’s Drive Inn in Selby is today. Dick Miller, Johnny Hoven, Darrell Zabel, Herb Aman, Manny Pressler and Larry formed the Circle “S” Riding Club. Merlyn Thorstenson, Dale Oxner, Spud Schanzenbach and Larry practiced their roping skills by roping nail kegs. Larry practiced his bull riding skills by riding a semi tire all over the gas station.
“It was great practice,” he said.
They also designed a bucking bull from a 55-gallon drum they hooked to four ropes. They would take turns pulling on the ropes, taking great enjoyment in trying to unseat the other.
“When Cud and Wood Cheskey and myself were about 14-years old, we traveled down to Ft. Pierre to see our idol Casey Tibbs in the Match of Champions,” he said.
Casey had started a bareback competition for boys up to the age of 16, with world champion riders Tibbs and Marty Wood, Duane Howard and Joe Chase coaching them as they attempted to ride 2-year old colts.
“They put me on this colt, which proceeded to lay me out like a dirty shirt,” he said. Everyone was asking him if he was O.K., and although he couldn’t breathe, somehow he chocked out, “I’m fine.”
At the end of the competition, he was awarded the prize for “Hard Luck Cowboy” for the worst wreck.
“Since that time I got my feet wet, I’ve liked rodeo a whole bunch,” he said.
Although Larry preferred bareback riding, he found he was exceptionally good at bull riding. A lot of cowboys weren’t. By entering as many events as he could, he increased his odds of winning big, he said. The only event he didn’t participate in was calf roping because he didn’t have the right horse for it. The entry fee, he recalled, was $15 and he could make as much as $350 in one event, and $8,000 to $10,000 a season.
“You couldn’t do that in softball,” he said.
The season that ran from May through October was extended with the introduction of several indoor rodeos.
“My dad used to say, rodeoing isn’t knowledge, it’s lack of it,” Larry said. Working for his dad, Larry often had to juggle hours with the other employees to attend many of the rodeos. His dad wasn’t going to make special accommodations for him.
“Although dad said he thought of rodeo as nonsense, I think he was really proud of me,” he said.
The family never talked rodeo or asked where he was riding. They would often just show up.
After graduating from Selby High School in 1959, he enrolled in South Dakota State University at Brookings because he heard they had an incredible rodeo club. And although he wasn’t enrolled at Northern State College, he knew Ernie Hammrich of Mobridge, who provided some of their rodeo stock. He allowed Larry to ride the animals there.
“I didn’t leave until I rode every one,” he said.
In 1966, Larry was named president of the South Dakota Rodeo Association.
Probably the most extensive injury he ever received was at the Sitting Bull Stampede Rodeo. After a bull threw him to the ground it whirled and knocked him down. He broke a bunch of ribs and punctured a lung. He was rushed to the old Railroad Hospital where he remained from July 4 to September.
“The Mobridge Rodeo Association gave me the Hard Luck Cowboy Award,” he said.
At the end of the 1974 season, at the age of 36, Larry sadly admitted to himself that it was time to hang up his spurs.
“Rodeo,” he said, “it’s a young man’s game.”
Larry and Shirley enjoy visiting their sons and their families. Troy and his wife Joyce have a son, Cade, and a daughter, Calyn, and live in Prior Lake, Minn. Trent and his wife Mandie are expecting their first child in October and live in Sioux Falls.