Bob Shelhamer & painting of Oswalds
I have just interviewed
and photographed Bob Shelhammer who is now 89 years old. Bob is the breeder
of the Oswald line of horses that have a big reputation in central Montana
but were never promoted elsewhere. The Oswalds were probably the most intensely
bred Peter McCue horses available anywhere. The line includes Oswald, Oswald
Pete, Mr. Pete Oswald and Awesome Pete. We stand Awesome Pete here at our
place. Oswald himself was quite a horse. He set a track record in Oklahoma
as a two-year-old and went on to win many match races and compete in calf
roping, bulldogging and barrel racing. Shelhammer says he was the best dogging
horse he ever rode.
The Cowhorse Confluence is a documentary article
for Lynne on the Bub Nunn High Rolling Roany horses and the Bob Shelhamer
Oswald horses. I am working on this as an article for the Western Horseman
about Lynne. He would be embarrassed if he heard me saying this but he is
a true cowboy's cowboy. There is no one in the state that has done as many
things with horses as he has even though he has never been involved with
the race track nor the show circuit." ~ John Moore
PRCA pickup man Duane
Gilbert of Pine Bluffs, Wyoming is shown working the 2005 National Western
Stock Show in Denver on 4YO Sunday Creek Pete. "Pete" is by Awesome Pete
out of a daughter of Roanys Tomcat.
The Cowhorse Confluence
Our ranch has raised registered horses, both Paints and
Quarter Horses, for decades. For the past 10 years we have been partnering
with Lynne Taylor of Shepherd, Montana in his breeding program for stout,
athletic ranch horses. Lynne owns two outstanding AQHA stallions, Roanys
Tomcat and Awesome Pete.
There are not many men alive today who have the practical
horse experience that Lynne has. Right out of high school he went to work
for Bud Kramer at Cohagen, Montana. Bud and Bobby Kramer at that time ran
about 3,000 head of horses. Lynne later went to work gathering loose horses
for the BLM in the Missouri Breaks, then for 20 years managed the Pryor Mountain
Wild Horse Refuge. During this time he was also a PRCA saddle bronc rider,
bull rider, team roper and for over 35 years, he was a top pickup man.
While it has been copied by others, Lynne originated
the idea of crossing Bub Nunn's Hancock line of horses with Bob Shelhamer's
line-bred Oswald horses. This has created a unique confluence of working
cowhorse blood. I call it:
The Cowhorse Confluence...
The open, windswept country between Melstone, Montana
and the Missouri Breaks north of Winnett, Montana is cow country and is best
traveled horseback. It takes a special type of horse to pack a man and work
a cow on this range and for years folks thereabout knew the very best came
from Bob Shelhamer and Bub Nunn.
Nunn says he was "wanting a Hancock horse pretty bad"
when he went to a Jayne Harris horse sale in Recluse, Wyoming in 1985. A
stranger approached him and pointed at one big roan weanling. "That's the
only stud colt ever saved out of Roan Prairie," the man said. "I picked up
Cheyenne on Roan Prairie and he was the best pickup horse I ever rode." The
colt had been consigned to the sale by noted breeder Roy Cleveland and was
named "High Rolling Roany."
Bub Nunn had his Hancock horse. Almost 50 years ago Bob
Shelhamer went to Kansas to look at a Bill Cody stallion. While there all
anyone wanted to talk about was a match racehorse named "Oswald." But no
one knew where the horse was and some speculated he'd died from abuse. It
was said the horse was often matched three times a day then used in rodeos
all while being kept in a chicken coop. Shelhamer returned to Montana with
Oswald on his mind. A few years later he learned that Walter Clark of Forsyth
had found and obtained the horse. A deal was struck, and Shelhamer had the
bloodline he'd perpetuate through four decades. "I was a happy camper when
I got Oswald bought," Shelhamer says.
In 1990 Lynne Taylor had retired from managing the Pryor
Mountain Wild Horse Refuge for the BLM and was planning to begin breeding
stout, athletic cowhorses. Having earned his living horseback since he was
a teenager, including many years picking up broncs, Taylor knew what he wanted.
One day at a Billings horse sale he bumped into Nunn who was selling three
of his High Rolling Roany colts. Lynne couldn't stay for the sale but he
made sure someone bought him all three.
Lynne on Roanys Tomcat
The best of these was "Roanys Tomcat." Taylor began putting
together a collection of mares, many of them blue roans with a Poco Pine
background, while day-working for large ranches in central and eastern Montana.
The more he worked for the Shelhamer ranch the more impressed he became with
their line of Oswald horses. They were all the same: stout, fast, tough,
and packing more 'cow' than a litter of Blue Heelers.
When Bob retired from the horse business Taylor acquired
one of the best young stallions left in the remarkable Shelhamer program.
He purchased Awesome Pete, the last colt out of the top-producing mare, Gin
Blaze, to put on the red and blue roan daughters of Roanys Tomcat.
Though found by Clark in Kansas, the Oswald story actually
beings in Oklahoma where the 1945-model stud won the Oklahoma Futurity and
set a track record that stood for four years. Once he had him, Shelhamer
took the gentle stallion straight to the arena. "He was the best dogging
horse I ever rode," he says. He was also used in the roping events and barrel
Oswald's successor was his son, Oswald Pete. The third
horse in this royal line of ranch stock was Mr. Pete Oswald, known affectionately
as "Junior." But these weren't merely related on the top side of the pedigree.
Shelhamer had started a line-breeding program that finally culminated with
Awesome Pete. "I took line-breeding as far as it could go," he says. The
result is a large pool of Peter McCue blood, Oswald himself being a line-bred
Peter McCue. Shelhamer's breeding program had a definite plan. "I bred 'em
for years to get a lot of cow in 'em," he says.
Nona & Bub Nunn & photo of High
There is no lack of cow in Nunn's Roany horses either.
"I saw something once I wouldn't believe if I hadn't seen it with my own
eyes," says Nona Nunn, Bub's wife. "Bub was working heifers in the corral
on Roany and two tried to get by him. One tried to go behind Roany and he
stuck his leg out to block it."
The Hancock line of horses have always been known for
being unusually athletic for their size - Red Man, and his son, Blue Valentine,
being two of the most noted progeny - but some were considered a bit ornery.
Many believe this stigma originates with Joe Hancock having a half-Percheron
dam. But there was no bad blood in Roany. "Nick Mothershead started Roany,"
Nunn recalls. "After the first saddling he called me. 'I thought you said
that horse had never been rode,' he said. He hadn't, I told him." On his
first ride Roany had behaved like a broke horse.
The dam side of the Nun program included mares from his
previous stallion, Apple Jax, an own son of Two-Eyed Jack.
Because they were iron-spirited ranch horses, a few of
the Shelhamer horses were also thought to be a tad rank. "Oswald was as kind
as a kitten," Bob recalls. The horse was, in fact, so timid, it was hard
to pasture breed him.
No program is infallible, but the colts from Taylor's
Roanys Tomcat are noted for their good minds and those daughters crossed
on Awesome Pete produce unusually gentle colts. The first time Taylor rode
Awesome Pete the horse was a three-year-old and Lynne was helping a rancher
ship calves. One soggy heifer calf broke from the bunch. Lynne roped the
calf and Awesome Pete dragged it into a stock trailer.
Lynne on Awesome Pete
Undoubtedly, the equine world's most under-rated athlete
is the rodeo pickup horse. They have to be strong, quick, agile, and fearless.
They are the modern "war horse."
Roanys Tomcat and Awesome Pete come from top rodeo horses
and they're producing the same. Taylor picked up regularly on Roanys Tomcat
before he quit that game a few years ago, and now PRCA pickup man Duane Gilbert
of Pine Bluffs, Wyoming spends his summers rescuing rough stock riders while
mounted on horses purchased from Lynne or borrowed from Lynne's son, Tim
At jackpot team ropings Taylor ropes both ends off Roanys
Tomcat and any one of a number of his get. Other Taylor-bred horses are
performing all over the nation in rodeos, team pennings, on ranches or standing
at stud. One example is Deegan Tomcat, who stands at Mill Iron Farm.
A word about the mares: Lynne's program is built around
his own select females and the mares of a few friends. These horses carry
the foundation blood of Poco Bueno, Skipper W, Coys Bonanza, and Two-Eyed
Jack (among others) and the running blood of Easy Jet, Go Man Go, and Rocket
Bar. They're top mares, and while many are colored in popular shades, they
are chosen for soundness, conformation, disposition and bloodlines. Color
is only the frosting.
The only real problem with the Taylor horses is one of
nomenclature. If you call Lynne and ask about his horses he only knows them
as "Bub" and "Bob." "Bub" is the roan Hancock horse and "Bob" is the Shelhamer
stud. They are registered as Roanys Tomcat and Awesome Pete, but to Lynne
and Marion Taylor they'll remain Bub and Bob. And those nicknames are the
heart of their program. It is a Cowhorse Confluence, the blending of decades
of horse sense from the lives of two old Montana cowmen, Bub Nunn and Bob
Shelhamer. So it is only fitting the horses carry the names of the men. After
all, for many years they carried the men themselves.
written by John L. Moore
Photographs by John L. Moore
Lynne Taylor Quarter Horses, Lynne & Marion Taylor, Shepherd, MT
Lazy T L Ranch, John L. and Debra Moore, Miles City, Montana