September 18, 2008
I don't know where Babe came from or where he went - he is deceased now - but when he rode bucking horses around Thunder Butte country, he was as well known and respected as Santa Claus.
According to everything I have read, Babe was the first man to ever ride Tipperary . "Ride him" means he was the first man to ever stay on Tipperary until the end of a timed ride while obeying the rules of Saddle Bronc riding and not being thrown off the horse. Tipperary is a legend onto his own. Books have been written and records kept on this famous horse, "that couldn't be rode".
Just to fluff out the incident of Babe being the first, or only man, to ever ride Tipperary: Yakima Canutt, Cowboy star, movie actor, and director of Rebel without a Cause was alleged to have ridden Tipperary in his Thunder Butte days. However, it was also alleged that Tipperary at the time was either old and near death or sick from the constant attempts by young cowboys to ride him.
But, back to Babe Mansbridge; Babe was a cattle buyer and he first came to my attention, as a kid, because my brother Joe worked for him. Babe traveled around Thunder Butte country either on his saddle horse or in his 1937 Plymouth auto. He and my brother Joe would travel from ranch to ranch, mark the cattle they wanted to buy, arrange with local cowboys to cut out the marked cattle, drive them to a central gathering place, then ship the cattle off to the best market - usually Sioux City, Iowa or Chicago, Illinois.
Babe was a popular cattle buyer, he always paid a fair price, knew his cattle and handled the deal expeditiously. When one considers the mechanics of cattle buying, it becomes evident the buyer was a very intelligent man. He had to know the age of a cow, the weight and condition, and all of this he had to determine while riding past or through a herd of milling cattle. It was necessary to know these things because he sold the shipment by age and weight.
Babe had two children, to my knowledge - June who was nearly my age and Freddie who was several years younger. They were both friends of mine in high school. The last time I talked to June she lived in Spearfish, South Dakota, and Freddie lived somewhere on the East Coast.
Since my brother Joe worked for and with Babe for a long time, I guess Babe assumed that I knew cattle, so one night he had a big shipment to go out of Lemmon, on a cattle train for Chicago, and Babe gave me a nice wage to oversee the loading of the cattle train. Well, he also hired a couple of goofy guys to do the actual loading, a specialty in itself.
The long and short of this story is the two goofy guys were not taking orders from a high school kid and they proceeded to load their own way. When the train pulled out about 4:00 a.m., one poor bedraggled yearling steer was left over. There was no way for me to get him on to a moving train, so I had to go back and tell Babe the news. It did not set well with him. After all, that steer was a total loss and it probably ruined his profit on a couple of car loads of steers.
Babe Mansbridge was one of those unforgettable people who moved in and out of my life for years on and around Thunder Butte Mountain. And by the way, Babe Mansbridge eventually went on to win the World's Champion Saddle Bronc Bucking Contest of British Columbia in the mid 1930`s.
Reva, South Dakota
Roger Theobald and Family
Great Grandson of Babe Mansbridge