Frank (Frankie) Schneider
from the "Rodeo Roots" series by Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
Frankie Schneider by Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
by Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
The two horses sidled and pranced, and the voice was scarcely more than a whisper.
“We’ll just walk ‘em from here, an’ when we get to that line you toed in the dirt, we’re off. OK?”
“Yep,” came the muted answer. “If we can see it. Jeez, Frank, it’s darker’n the inside of a black cow out here.”
Stirrup to stirrup they felt their way and then . . . the line! Heels dug in, torsos pressed forward, and night air whooshed past the ears of two intent cowboys. Equine muscles strained as flying hooves sprayed dirt and tiny clods in their wake. Bent on crossing the finish line first, each rider willed his unfamiliar mount to accelerate.
The thrill of the race in the cool darkness spurred the horses on. Only a muffled pounding of hooves could be heard as the two riders recognized the finish line, immediately rising in their stirrups to pull the flying steeds to a gallop.
Moments later the stealthy twosome led their fidgety mounts side by side across the dark infield. The silence, thick as the familiar steamy essence of hot horseflesh, was broken by a soft chuckle.
“Well, now we know where to put our money tomorrow. Unless . . . ahem . . . the half a length this bay had on that sorrel was all owing to my superior riding ability . . . Ow!”
“Aw, be quiet. Y’ want’a wake the neighborhood?”
“Well, ya’ didn’t have to punch me in the ribs like that. I was just kiddin’! An’ you’re turnin’ me black an’ blue.”
“Shhh! If we don’t get these two cooled off an’ back in their stalls with every trace of a saddle track brushed out before somebody wakes up an’ sees us, you’ll think black an’ blue. We might not survive!”
The following day, at the California Rodeo in Salinas, the long anticipated and highly touted matched race between the two fastest horses on the grounds took place. Cowboys bantered with one another over the fine points of their chosen favorite and the flaws of the other. Cash flowed freely as large and numerous bets were placed.
The crowds in the grandstands and along the racetrack fence were on their feet and roaring as the speedsters approached, almost neck and neck. In the last 20 yards, the bay horse seemed to find another gear, powering his head and neck beyond the wire before the nose of the straining sorrel reached it.
Two nonchalant young men in boots and hats grinned and winked at each other as they turned to collect a payoff from their winning bets.
“Frank Schneider, you lucky dog,” someone chided. “How’d you happen to bet on a winner?”
Unspoken volumes were concealed in the casual shrug of Schneider’s muscular shoulders. The only thing he said was, “Looked to me like the bay could’ve outdistanced that sorrel even further, if he’d had a better jockey.”
The cowboy beside him glared and elbowed him . . . hard.
* * *
The clown’s dummy is about to take a hookin’ from a big-horned bull Frank drew at Sacramento. This guy definitely shows his Brahma ancestry! Photo courtesy Joanie Etchaverry, Bakersfield, California
You could’ve called Frank Schneider—World Champion Bull Rider of 1933 and 1934 from Caliente, California—a prankster, with a generous portion of cowboy humor thrown in.
His nephew Jim Schneider says, “Uncle Frank was a sport. He had dry humor and saw something funny in every situation. He loved to laugh!”
“Daring” was another word you could’ve used to describe Frank. “Gutsy” would’ve also fit. “Talented” would’ve been an understatement.
The wiry all around hand worked every event but the calf roping, and the only reason he didn’t rope was he didn’t like to. He’d tell his nephew Jim Schneider, “I just don’t like to rope. And I can’t understand anybody who does like to rope!”
Frank Schneider headed down the rodeo trail at an early age, emulating heroes like his brother Johnie and rodeo producer Cuff Burrell. Leaning on the chute gate, the young man exudes the confidence he incorporated into his competition. Photo courtesy Joanie Etchaverry, Bakersfield, California
Jim says, “Dad [Frank’s brother, Johnie Schneider] always said ‘If Frank had wanted, he could’ve been a hand like Rambo.’”
Holder of multiple worlds’ championships, Johnie Schneider protégé Gene Rambo is the man rated by longtime rodeo producer Andy Jauregi as the top all around cowboy and top bareback rider of his era. Obviously, Frank’s emphasis was on enjoying himself as he went along—while winning, and the glory that accompanied it, took a back seat.
Rodeo historian Jerry Anderson once commented that between Frank, his brother Johnie, and fellow California cowboy Smokey Snyder—the three men who totally dominated bull riding for a full decade—he’d pick Frank as the top saddle bronc rider. “He rode Harry Rowell’s Starlight at a Seals Stadium rodeo in San Francisco at a time when nobody was riding that phenomenal bucker,” Armstrong said. He also called Frank a “capable all-around cattle working cowboy….”
Frank Schneider’s daughter Joanie says, “While following rodeos, Dad became acquainted with another contestant, Burel Mulkey, and they became best friends and traveling partners. Dad often visited the Silicz Ranch in the Kern River Valley near Kernville, accompanied by Burel.”
The beautiful young Silicz daughters were the main cowboy attractant at the ranch, and those frequent visits spawned a dual romance. Frankie married Elanor Silicz in 1936 and in 1940 Burel married Marion “Mernie” Silicz, turning the two good rodeo buddies into brother’s-in-law. Elanor was an accomplished horsewoman and a past queen of Bakersfield’s big rodeo.
The Silicz family owned and operated a big cow outfit near Kernville, California. After Silicz died, his widow continued to run cows on some million and a half acres of brushy, rugged California high country.
Without a man’s management and care, the ranch was pretty much on its own and the cattle weren’t gathered for years. Uncut aged bulls ran with their mothers and assorted un-branded younger siblings, creating what you could call a stockman’s nightmare in any part of the country. The rough, steep, thorny Kern River Valley terrain only exacerbated the problem.
Brothers-in-law Frank and Burel, being cowboys, set out to rectify the situation. It is said that the undertaking engendered plenty of wild and wooly tales, but of course they put things back in order!
Frank was born at Stockton, California in 1912 and reared around Tracy and Brentwood. As he neared maturity his father John Schneider was involved in the construction business, and Frank worked alongside him.
Obviously influenced by his older brother Johnie’s success in rodeo, Frank tried riding calves when he was pretty small. He had a natural aptitude for it, and graduated to riding a bull when he was only 13, at the California Rodeo in Salinas. The die was cast—another rodeo cowboy was on his way to stardom.
Working for a rodeo producer as a kid clued Frank Schneider in that this game was definitely not for sissies. When he found himself in situations like this with the bronc Monkey Wrench at Clovis, California in 1949, he’d seen other cowboys weather such storms and knew he could too. Photo courtesy Joanie Etchaverry, Bakersfield, California
Frank followed Johnie’s footsteps in going to work for rancher, race horse man and rodeo producer Cuff Burrell at the tender age of 13. He couldn’t have found a better place to learn more about horses, cattle and rodeoing. Cuff was sort of a surrogate father to Frankie, and used to complain that brother Johnie was always trying to get Frankie hurt—by putting him on the rank try-out horses Cuff had been putting Johnie on before Frankie went to work for him! The Burrell and Schneider families remained close friends throughout their lives.
A lover of equines that could run, Frank worked a lot with Burrell’s stable of race horses. He developed a deep respect for the man, while learning much from him. His daughter Joanie remembers him telling her, “Cuff Burrell is the best horseman you will ever know . . . he’s half horse himself. That’s why he has the best bucking horses, race horses, pick up horses and using horses.”
She says, “Dad was a lot like Cuff with his knowledge and understanding of horses.”
Obviously Frank Schneider had a lot of fun on the racetrack, spending a good deal of time in the winner’s circle for pony express, Roman, chariot and wild horse races. He was not content with that, nor was he content to pursue only one or two events inside the arena! He took up bulldogging, bareback and saddle bronc riding, as well as the steer-decorating event that became popular when bulldogging was outlawed for a few years. He excelled in each.
In spite of hitting the rodeo trail at a time when several more seasoned all around hands were dominating the action, Frank Schneider proceeded straight to the top. Even before he racked up his two Bull Riding World Championships in 1933 and 1934 and the Bareback Riding World’s Championship in 1935, the little cowboy was knocking on the door of the reigning champs. He finished the 1932 season 2nd in Bull Riding world standings and 3rd in Bareback world standings.
Being the youngest son in John and Nevada Schneider’s family, Frankie was his mother’s boy, at least as far as Nevada was concerned. Johnie was kind of his dad’s boy.
During their sons’ successful tour on rodeo road, the old folks at home waited eagerly for news of their accomplishments. They had a little ritual where Nevada would read the newspaper to John after supper. One evening she told her husband the paper said Johnie Schneider rode such-and-such a horse the day before at a certain rodeo, scoring so high he won the bronc riding championship.
John leaned back, beaming, and replied that he’d always known Johnie could fit a winning ride on that bronc if he ever drew him, even though the horse had bucked a lot of top hands off.
Nevada said Frank could have done the same, if he’d drawn him.
To that old John fired right back that Frank never saw the day he could ride that horse. She indignantly insisted he most certainly could, and quite a verbal battle ensued.
When she had her husband sufficiently riled and heated, Nevada spread the newspaper on the table in front of him and laughingly said, “Read it for yourself.”
The story was all about Frank riding the noted horse, and winning the bronc riding! She had only said it was Johnie to engender an argument and tease her husband; and because she was so happy about Frank’s success.
No wonder the Schneider boys had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to pull pranks!
For many years, Cuff Burrell furnished bucking stock for the California Rodeo in Salinas. He also had a contract for the track events, guaranteeing a certain number of participants for each race. This meant he always needed more horses for men’s and women’s relay races – horses that could really run, so the races would be close. Burrell knew he could turn to Frank Schneider for horseflesh, if he got in a bind.
Joanie recalls a horse Frankie had that he said “wasn’t going to work out in the mountains.” She remembers, “He liked the horse and knew he had something he would be good at, so he kept him around for a while. One day he called Cuff and told him he had a horse for the relay races.
“We took this horse to Salinas rodeo,” she remembers, “and Frankie and Cuff worked with him for two days. The first day of the rodeo, Frankie was the horse holder for Jean Meldrim in the women’s relay race. He told her to ride this horse last in the relay and not to worry, she would win the race. Needless to say, he was right again. Cuff kept the horse and used him in the relay races after that, and everyone wanted him in their string.”
Another popular track event at the California Rodeo was the chariot race. Joanie remembers, “They used about five or six chariots in a race, and two horses per chariot. Once when they were short a horse, Cuff got one of his broncs out of the bucking string and brought him over to the racehorse barn. Everyone watched as Cuff and Frankie harnessed him up while he was blindfolded.
“When they hitched him up and took the blindfold off, Frankie was in the chariot. They pointed him toward the track gate and he was on his way,” she says. “There was a little road that ran between the race horse barn and the track, and no one was supposed to use it during the rodeo. Well, when Frankie headed to the track a car came down this little road. Frankie couldn’t stop his horses, so one went on top of the hood of the car and the other was climbing around somewhere, while the tongue of the chariot went through the passenger window, nearly scaring the poor driver to death. Fortunately, the horses weren’t hurt and neither was the man in the car, except for the scare of his life!”
All the chariot drivers were friends who knew both Cuff and Frankie well. Cuff told them, “When you see Schneider coming to the starting line, get ready to go—‘cause he can’t stop!”
Frankie also rode in the roman standing races, and Joanie recalls, “Cuff would always give him horses that weren’t very broke, because he knew he would get along with them.
“They had a lot of fun doing things like that. Dad thought everyone should be able to take a joke, but to him a joke was not to hurt anyone or anything, physically or mentally.”
Frank’s two World Championship crowns came in bull riding and bareback riding, but he was a regular at the pay window for bronc riding as well. Photo courtesy Joanie Etchaverry, Bakersfield, California
Frank’s sense of humor was legendary and his somewhat slap-happy attitude went right along with that. Contemporaries remember him enjoying his friends, working hard, and loving a good joke. Brother Johnie Schneider, even though he loved to tell jokes, was “a dedicated professional,” viewed by some contemporaries as “political and important.” Jim remembers old-timer’s telling him how Frank used to say of Johnie, “I don’t know why he has to be so damned pure.”
The fact that he was fun-loving took nothing away from Frank’s competence and ability to carry a load of responsibility, though. Cuff Burrel knew that in 1933, when he put a carload of his best bucking stock on the train, in charge of the 21-year-old, and sent them East to the Chicago World’s Fair.
Joanie says, “The show ran for 17 days and was a true test of a cowboy’s endurance.”
There were two performances daily. That meant that Frank—along with feeding, watering and caring for Burrell’s livestock and having the necessary sorting for the draw taken care of for each performance—was competing on eight or more head of stock each day!
Rather than exhausting Frank, the rigorous schedule must have inspired him. With obvious pride, Joanie points out, “Dad and Dick Griffith were the only two cowboys that rode all their bulls there!”
It was a tough trip from riding a calf at the age of 13 to two World Championships in Bull Riding. Rank bovines like this one saw to that! Photo courtesy Joanie Etchaverry, Bakersfield, California
Working all the events except calf roping, Frank naturally placed high in the All Around standings. Any time he was entered in a contest, each competitor knew it wasn’t over until he’d taken his stock. At one rodeo Frank and Johnie Schneider placed 1st and 2nd in bareback riding, steer decorating, bronc riding and bull riding. The rest of the cowboys took what was left.
Frank Schneider may have been one of the first rodeo hands to practice mental preparation through psyching-up and believing he was going to win. His nephew Jim says, “Uncle Frank always said you had to go out there believing you were gon’na win. Whenever he helped another rider down in the chute, he was constantly saying things like, ‘Now, you know you can ride this ol’ bull. And he’s the kind to win it all on. So if you just do what you know how to do, you’re gon’na go home with the big first place check.’
“When they’d nod for the gate, he’d be up there behind the chutes yellin’, ‘You can ride him. You’re gon’na win it all today,’ and that was all they could hear. He helped a lot of guys that way.”
Frank was also an international cowboy, competing in Australia. According to an article published in the 1958 Annual Edition of Rodeo Sports News, “In 1936 when American, Canadian and Australian teams competed in Sydney, Australia, he won the title of International Bulldogging Champion, and has a silver trophy cup with the title engraved.”
Joanie says, “Dad, Uncle Johnie and John Bartrum were chosen to represent the United States in a three-nation matched rodeo, pitting Australia, Canada and the U.S. Team members were selected for exceptional all around ability.
“The Canadian team was made up of Herman and Warner Linder and Joe Burrell. These six cowboys took 1st and 2nd in each event during the match. Frankie won the International Bulldogging competition for the U.S. team. He also proved to be a tough contender in the roping events, even though rough stock was his specialty.”
This international match rodeo was in conjunction with the 1936 Royal Easter Show at Sydney. When the week-long 14-performance match closed, the United States team held the Championship, and the show went into the books as the most successful in the history of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales. More than 732,400 people attended.
Frank continued to rodeo for several years after his marriage. He and Elanor also started ranching in the Lake Isabella and Caliente area, where they lived for 27 years. The family says Elanor deserves a great deal of credit in all that Frank accomplished, because she basically gave up her personal pursuits with horses to manage a ranch, a family, and support her champion cowboy wherever he was.
Jim remembers one time Frank got seriously hurt in a rodeo. He says, “This bull bucked him off and ran over him. That was when Dad owned a ranch at Sacramento. Aunt Elanor brought Uncle Frank there and we put him in bed. He was there a week or more before he could get up and around so she could take him home.
“But in rodeo those days everybody was family, and when somebody was hurt, you’d help out if you could.”
Frank was a good horseman and broke a lot of horses. He also reared his two daughters to be accomplished horsewomen. They began competing in horse shows at an early age.
Joanie remembers, “During this time Dad drove the six horse stagecoach team for Coberly-West in parades and rodeos; including Rancho Vistadores in Santa Barbara and California Rodeo in Salinas, along with many others. Every year when he took the stagecoach team to Salinas my older sister Nancy and I took our stock horse to show. Nancy also ran for Salinas rodeo queen, and said that was one of the biggest thrills of her life.”
“The biggest thrill for me was also at Salinas,” Joanie continues, “the year I won the Junior Stock Horse Class.”
As her cousin Jim Schneider recalls it, “Joanie placed second or third in stock horse competition at the Salinas show for several years. They gave a beautiful saddle to the winner, and each year we’d think Joanie would win it, but she’d just be a point or two short.
“In 1962 a bunch of the family was gathered at Aunt Elanor and Uncle Frank’s motel room during the Salinas Fair, getting ready to go to the carnival and have a good time out on the town. It was the evening after the Stock Horse competition, and Joanie had finished 2nd again. Uncle Frank’s bunch and the Mulkey’s and us were all ganged up there, and he was sitting on the side of the bed real quiet. He would scratch the back of his neck when he was deep in thought, and that’s what he was doing.
“Finally he said, ‘Well now Joanie, we’re gon’na have to figure out just how we’re gon’na win us that saddle.’
“Before long he went to see some people he knew, the Bidart Brothers, that ran a big cattle outfit and had feedlots and whatnot. He told them, ‘Joanie can win that Stock Horse class in Salinas if she just has the right horse . . . and you’ve got the horse. We’d like to borrow him.’
“They said that’d be OK, so Joanie picked up the horse. He was a Standardbred/Thoroughbred cross, and she got used to him and showed him some. When Salinas came along she went in there and won it, and got the trophy saddle.”
Joanie expands on the story saying, “Bonito was the horse’s name. Frank Bidart, who owned him, raised a lot of cattle and horses, and my dad borrowed him from them. They tried to convince Dad to borrow one of Bonito’s brothers, which they thought was a better horse. Their foreman, Jim Rocha, was a good horseman and had shown this horse a few times successfully; and to them Bonito was just a ranch horse.”
When they borrowed the horse, Joanie recalls, “Bonito could work a cow, but didn’t know how to do a reining pattern. Frankie told me how to train him for that, and he won the first time I showed him. That was the Junior Stock Horse Class at the Kern County Fair. After that win, Frank Bidart gave Bonito to me. With him I won every class in California that I ever wanted to win.”
Joanie kept Bonito until he died.
Jim Schneider says, “To give you an idea of Uncle Frank’s principle, years later Bidart Brothers Cattle Company bought a ranch at Hollister and asked him to manage it for them. He did, even though he was about 68 years old at the time.
“I knew Uncle Frank owned a ranch at Big Pine, and one time I was visiting with him and asked if that was where he planned to retire.
“He said ‘Oh no, I’m gon’na stay right where I am. I’m never gon’na retire. You know, these people gave Joanie that horse and everything, and I owe it to them. I’m gon’na work for them forever.’ And he did.”
After handling the half-wild chariot teams in races, driving stagecoaches to entertain dudes was a snap for consummate horseman Frank Schneider. Photo courtesy Joanie Etchaverry, Bakersfield, California
On narrow, steep mountain roads like this it’s important to have a good teamster with plenty of horse savvy handling the lines. Photo courtesy Joanie Etchaverry, Bakersfield, California
Joanie corroborates, “He spent the later years of his life working for Bidart Brothers Cattle Company in the Los Banos and Hollister country where they had ranches.”
Talking about Frank Schneider’s instinct for knowing horses, his daughter continues, “At the time I was showing Bonito, he was competing against Mona Lisa, once owned by Don Dodge, who was a good friend of Dad’s. The year I won Salinas, Don had told Dad Bonito was going to beat Mona Lisa. Sure enough, Bonito won first and Mona Lisa was second. Those two horses placed first and second in every stock horse class they showed in that year.
“That was just one example of Frankie’s eye for a horse,” Joanie continues. “He continually took horses no one thought were any good and made them into a ranch horse . . . and some of them we showed. But ranch work always came first!”
Frank Schneider loved kids and was always willing to share what he knew with anyone. Joanie says, “Dad became the horse show and rodeo coach for the children of neighboring ranches. He always had young people coming to him for help. He would work cattle all day and when he got in there would be kids waiting for his help to ride a bucking horse, wrestle a steer, or train and show a stock horse. He was never too tired for any of them. He also judged these events at no charge . . . fairs, horse shows and rodeos.”
The Schneider’s raised ranch horses, and Frankie also partnered with his rodeo pal Cuff Burrell to raise some Thoroughbred horses. Jim remembers, “Uncle Frank would always start a story with the name of the horse he was riding. He loved his horses, and as far as he was concerned, his horses loved him.
“With Dad, the horses weren’t his pets or something he loved; they were equals, and partners. They depended on each other to get the job done . . . but with Uncle Frank, they were his loves.”
Joanie says, “Frankie never believed in fighting with a horse over anything. He would tell us that you had to be smarter than the horse. If any of the kids he was helping blamed the horse for a mistake, he would set them straight. We were all riding good broke horses that he had trained, so he knew who was at fault. The horse was usually right, and if he made a mistake it was probably because the rider did something wrong. He taught us a lot of psychology about a horse.”
Like many other rodeo champions, Frank Schneider grew up in ranching and returned to it when his arena days were past. Good stockmen and stewards of the land, they contributed much to the ranching industry wherever they were. Frank enjoyed managing one of the Bidart Ranches in California’s ranching heartland. Photo courtesy Joanie Etchaverry, Bakersfield, California
There’s no doubt Frank’s deep understanding of the equine psyche helped him be the World’s Champion Bareback Bronc Rider in 1935. Important things like handling the bronc in the chutes, getting the rigging set right, and getting out clean are much easier for men who understand and communicate well with horses.
Frank enjoyed the same gift where dogs were concerned, and Joanie recalls people saying he had the best dogs in the whole country. “When they went to Australia for the rodeo, they brought back a Dingo dog,” she says. “They crossed it with an Australian Shepherd, and that was the foundation of all Dads’ cow dogs. They’d usually only work for their owner and were not very friendly, but Dad had the same attitude with them as with his horses—he never fought with either of them.”
Frank’s other daughter, Nancy Moore, says, “He was a great dad and also a great horseman, a good cowboy, cattleman, and part veterinarian. He was never too busy or too tired to give Joanie or me his full attention.
“When Joanie and I started going to the horse shows, he’d work all day on the ranch but when he’d get home, he’d help us with our horses, whether it was trying to get us to make pretty, even figure eights or stopping the horse correctly.
“I’ve always said he was one of the greatest horsemen going. Before a horse show, he’d tell us to go saddle up a certain horse and ride it around, maybe make a figure eight or just trot down and stop it. From that, he would know if the horse would go on and show. Sometimes he’d tell us to stay on and he’d help us and other times he’d tell us to go unsaddle and catch another one.
“Not only did he help us, but also our cousins Judy Webb, Myrna Mulkey and Helen Silicz, as well as other kids from surrounding ranches. He also helped Jimmy Schneider, Kem Rogers and Billy Wilbanks when they wanted to learn to bulldog, rope, and ride rough stock.
“He’d even get into our school homework. I remember Joanie having trouble with a particular algebra problem. He looked it over and put it in terms of horses and cattle, instead of X = A. That really impressed me.
“When I refer to him as a cowboy, I not only mean World’s Champion Rodeo Cowboy but ranch cowboy as well. He started colts and went on to make bridle (mostly spade bit) horses out of them. He was one heck of a cowboy, gathering cattle, most of which were about half wild, in rough country. He had two dogs, Boots and Fido, which he taught to work cattle. They would hold their own today.
“He loved all kids and always said there was never a bad kid born, they were made that way. I think he thought the same of horses.
“There are cowboys, horse trainers, cattlemen, veterinarians, and horsemen, but it’s very rare to find one in the same . . . not to mention the greatest dad ever.”
In rodeo, friends and competitors become like family, and friendships formed while ‘goin’ down the road’ endure for a lifetime. Joanie Schneider says her folks and her Uncle Burel and Aunt Mernie were always talking about someone they used to know, someone they hadn’t heard of for years, or someone who had died. She could tell they missed the rich camaraderie of the rodeo world, and encouraged them to “just get everyone together”!
“They made a list of all their old rodeo friends and then we started making phone calls and finding addresses,” Joanie says. “Frankie and Elanor brought Perry Ivory and his wife and I made sure Andy Jaurequi was coming. They had not seen each other in 40 years. Neither of them was in very good health but they had a couple of drinks, felt better, and had fun. Their barbecue was a great success and it was the last time some of them saw each other. It was in May and after that most of them developed serious health problems. Perry Ivory was the eldest, yet outlived all of them, dying a month after Frankie.
“There was also a reunion at Sacramento and another at Rowell Ranch Rodeo in Hayward, and that’s where I learned what Frankie’s friends and competitors thought about him. Each one had a story, but all said he was a good friend and tough competitor who’d help his friends all he could whether they were competing against each other or not. They all said he was a better saddle bronc rider than bull and bareback rider; and to this day there are people who think he was the World Champion Bronc Rider!”
Joanie says as long as her dad lived he talked on a regular basis to Burel Mulkey, Perry Ivory, Slim Pickens; and nephew Jim Schneider, who kept him informed on his brother Johnie.
One of Frank and Elanor’s daughters married a son of Jimmy Rogers, son of famed Western humorist Will Rogers. Jimmy called Frankie Schneider his best friend, and was the presenter at Frank’s 1994 posthumous induction into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Joanie remembers, “Instead of talking about Frankie’s rodeo career he wanted to talk about the man. He said when he and his wife Astrea bought the ranch at Caliente, California; they knew no one in the area. To soothe her concerns about the move, Jim told her he and his father Will Rogers had met Frankie Schneider at a rodeo in Saugus and he lived near where they were moving, so they’d have friends. As soon as they moved Jim called Frankie to let him know they’d bought a ranch and were living in the area, but didn’t know anyone.
“Frankie and Elanor got the Beard family, Rankin family and Rogers family together for a barbecue and from then on they were friends. Frankie, Bob Beard and Jim Rogers were always doing something for us to be together, whether it was gathering cattle, branding, a horse show, a fair or just a party. Except for Alice Beard all our parents have died, but our families are still friends and we see each other just as we always did.”
Also at Frank’s Hall of Fame induction in Oklahoma City, Jimmy told of the time a show steer escaped at the Kern County Fair in Bakersfield, and was running amok all over the fairgrounds. It was a black night, and he and Frank borrowed show horses from their daughters Bette and Joanie to pursue the escapee into an unlighted area. Jimmy instructed Frank to just run the steer around toward him, and he’d rope him.
Frank did, and Jimmy did; to which Frank (who at the time ran cows next to Jimmy’s ranch) laconically commented, “Damn, I’m glad you’re my friend. You rope too good at night!”
These old newspaper clippings, saved by fellow bull rider Glenn Ohrlin, are representative of how the Schneider brothers impressed the media. Glenn says, “I saw Frank Schneider ride in 1947 in California. He always spurred ahead on bulls.” That’s obvious here; and would’ja get a load of the horns on that bull Frank is riding! Courtesy Glenn Ohrlin, Mountain View, Arkansas
Frank Schneider the prankster, the man who loved to laugh, World’s Champion Bareback Bronc Rider and twice World’s Champion Bull Rider, enjoyed watching his kids and grandkids follow his footsteps into horses, ranching, and rodeo competition.
Daughter Joanie remembers, “It was a lot of fun growing up in the mountains on a ranch. They turned us loose on a horse and never worried about us. We would ride from Havilah to Walkers Basin to the Beard’s ranch, which would take all day, and when we arrived they’d call our parents to tell them we’d gotten there. The Rankin’s would meet us there and we would all spend the night. The next weekend, or whenever, the Beards and Rankins would ride to our ranch and spend the night.
“In the summer we would have five to eight other kids come stay with us, just relatives or friends that wanted to be there and have fun. That said a lot for my parents, having so many young people who wanted to spend time with them. Our cousin Mary Schneider, Johnies’ daughter, came and stayed all summer every summer for a few years. Her brother Jim came and stayed with us a lot, too and Dad helped him with whatever event he wanted to do and whatever he wanted to learn. Jim was a pretty good bareback rider.”
Frank Schneider used the same kind of psychology on kids as he did on horses. Joanie says, “He made learning fun. My sister and I learned a lot of things without knowing we were being taught. For example, when we were little he gave each of us a cow, and it was our decision to keep the heifer calves or sell them. We usually kept them and before long we had several cows and still had steer calves to sell. Our parents never charged us a pasture bill but as we grew older our herd grew and we were expected to help with the work. We never minded gathering, branding and weaning because we were working our cows. We were learning to work, make decisions, have a business—and it was all profit for us . . . learning without being forced.”
Joanie remembers, “The main thing Dad taught all the kids he helped was to have good sportsmanship. If you won, you always congratulated the others, and you did the same thing if you didn’t win. You should be as happy for the person that won as you would be if you won. You never argued with an older person, and always had manners. Sassing didn’t happen. Something funny always happened when you were practicing. The person it happened to might not think it was as funny as the others, but everyone had fun.”
Frankie Schneider never wanted his kids to brag, and Joanie says he discouraged them from telling anyone he was a World Champion.
“He said he did what he did and won what he won and we should do the best we could, win what we could, and be ourselves. Whatever we won was as important as whatever he won, but we could never use who he was or what he did for our own personal gain. He said ‘You get the respect you earn,’ she explains.”
His legacy to his family—and to all who knew him—was a winning attitude, exceptional athletic ability, fortitude and tenacity, an aggressive work ethic, dedication and integrity, and a strong sense of humor. Those wonderful traits live on in the Schneider family.
Frank Schneider, World’s Champion Bull Rider of 1933 and 1934 has been enshrined in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame since 1994 and was among the Class of 2012 inductees to the ProRodeo Cowboy Hall of fame. He was part of a family bull-riding dynasty that ruled the event for half a decade.
On March 31, 1983 he crossed over to the great rodeo arena in the sky. The rough stock events got a lot tougher right then . . . just as the scene brightened with a little more humor and a lot more laughter.
© 2004, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, All rights reserved
image by Trace Frost, www.tracefrost.com
Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
Find more about Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns in our feature here
and visit her web site, www.doublespearranch.com.
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