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"Grudge" Horse Race, circa 1895

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Well-known member
Feb 21, 2005
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This story was probably told to author/compiler of stories in Roundup Years book about 1945.

They're still talking about that hoss race, which is a mite unusual especially since the race took place nearly 50 years ago. That is, the remaining handful of oldtimers who were present discuss it whenever they get together.

This race was staged in the fall of 1895 at the site of what later became the "Scotty" Philip buffalo pasture. (Near the town of Ft. Pierre, SD)

It was between "Two Bits", owned jointly by George La Plante and the late Eb Jones, and "Missouri John" Massingales horse, whose name is forgotten.

The outcome resulted in a series of rousing altercations by backers of these two horses, but fist fights and gunplay were averted by saner members of the crowd.

Two weeks before the storied race, Missouri John's horse had beaten "Two Bits" in a matched race at the La Plante ranch on the Bad River five miles below Midland. The latter was then owned by a Beulah, WY man, who crestfallen by the defeat, and the fact that the result broke dozens of his followers or friends, started to lead him away.

It was then that La Plante hailed the owner and bought the streamlined animal for $5oo.00. Immediately he matched Two Bits with Massengales' best horse for a side bet of $4,000.00, at Ft. Pierre.

Principals on either side were picturesque figures in South Dakota range history. Missouri John in 1891 had trailed 2,000 horses from Carbon County, WY into the Badlands and established the 15 Ranch. With his outfit had come several riders including the late J. C. "Dude" Rounds, foreman, and George Porch, once termed the "toughest man on the range" by his friends who now live near Kadoka. (about 1945)

La Plante, now 79 (about 1945) spent his boyhood in Bon Homme County, SD, where his father, Louis, noted government scout and guide, built up his own teams (oxen?) by maturing calves dropped on bed grounds by cows in trail herds bound for Indian Agencies. Later he bull-whacked on the old Deadwood Trail and George Porch accompanied him on these trips. Both men later became big cowmen, first on Bad River, (Open Range) and later on the Cheyenne reservation.

Eb Jones came to western SD in the early 1880's and during his colorful career was a cowboy, government guide, rancher, and realtor.

Elaborate preparations were made for the race. It attracted such attention that nearly 1,000 persons, a large number for the sparsely settled region, turned out. The track was a kite-shaped affair with one side of the couse utilized for the half mile run..

La Plante chose as his jockey, Rome Glover, now 70, and living at Sturgis. A man named Fuller, whose front name is gorgotten, was selected by Massingale to pilot his horse.

Long before the race started, the crowd began milling around the course, placing bets and generally working itself into a fever. Feeling ran high. Porch served as a sort of body guard for Missouri John's horse while Jim Hayes, now 77 and living on the Cheyenne reservation, was chosen by La Plante and Jones to guard against any sinister move by rival factions.

Getting away to an even start, the two horses streaked down the gumbo stretch neck and neck.

The crowd, equally divided in the horse supported, set up a din, that fairly rocked the sturdy Missouri river bluffs. As described later by one of the group present: "The enthusiasm that day would make a crowd at the Kentucky Derby look like a few persons watching a checker game."

The finish was close, but before the "Big Muddy" had churned its turbulent waters more than once, they realized that Two Bits had avenged his former defeat.

The temper of the crowd was not of the mildest nature. Harsh and threatening words flew by the hundreds in the wild melee that followed, but the storm gradually subsided after the money had changed hands and those adversely affected consoled themselves with self administered salve of "Well, it was just another horse race."

Mr. Hall, the author/compiler of the book adds in a footnote: THis story was copied from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 1-20-1945, and "As I talked to Mr. Laplante in early June, 1949, he told me the above account was not 100% correct." There was no indication of what was in error, however.

so what's the rest of the story???!! i love horse race stories, i love great horses. c'mon, mrj!

how many of you have seen "Seabiscuit"? there's a really good movie--and i'm not a big movie fan (the book's ALWAYS better...).

what are your favorite horse biographies? mine include Man O War, Flicka (the whole series), the Godolphin Arabian, Seabiscuit; i can't even remember them all, but i think i read them all when i was (maybe 10 yrs!) younger!
hands down Smoky A Cowhorse by Will James. My grandma had a first edition I read as a youngun, but it got lost after she died. The most of a horse story you can ever read.
i used to have a paperback about the only horse (whoops--to be politically correct: the only USA calvalry horse) to survive the battle of the Little Bighorn--a buckskin horse; can't remember his name or the book title (of course :oops: ), but i still love the Walter Farley books.....
According to Johnny Horton his name was Conanche.... :)
chuckie, strange as it may seem, that was the end of the story. I'm pretty sure equally dramatic races took place at other times in that and other locations. I know from family lore that various forms of horse racing was pretty common entertainment in those days in this area.

There are other stories about La Plante and maybe the other players in that particular drama in the book, and I will try to find some good ones to relate later.

Chuckie, to my way of thinking Seabiscuit was a good movie and an even better book. But then to be fair a movie can't begin to tell it all and just hits the high points. However, actually watching the horses race in the movie couldn't be touched by the book. Guess I'd recommend reading the book first, then see the movie.

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