Western heritage passed down three generations
By Renae Counter Explorebigsky.com Editorial Assistant
BIG TIMBER – Richard Carlisle “Dick” Langley was inducted into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame this year, honored for his contribution to the cowboy way of life between 1898 until his death in 1999. His granddaughter, Shana Langley, lives in Big Sky.
Richard was born on May 10, 1898 in Durango, Colo. to William and Catherine Langley. In 1899, the family moved to Montana and settled in Hound Creek. Richard attended school there until age 13, when he began breaking horses on his uncle Jimmy Carlisle’s horse and cattle ranch. At the time, Carlisle operated one of the largest horse operations in central Montana.
During the 1920s, Richard rode broncs and placed well at most of the major rodeos in the state including Great Falls, Wolf Point and the Bozeman Round-Up. He also rode broncs in California and at the Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyo.
During a rodeo in California that Langley placed in, which didn’t pay out the winning riders, Richard found himself stranded without money to return home. So, he met with the Ringling brothers of the Ringling Brothers Circus to sell his prized bulldogging horse, Ted. The brothers agreed to take Ted back to Montana on the railroad with their bucking horses, as they were also rodeo stock contractors.
“When [Richard] was back in Montana, he got a letter saying that Ted had made it to Bozeman,” recalled Bill Langley, Richard’s son. “Dad went down and got Ted, and then helped herd those bucking horses from Bozeman to Ringling then on to Sun River. It was 250 miles round trip, all on horseback, but that’s just how they did it in those days. It was their mode of transportation.”
After winning the bronc riding at the Wolf Point rodeo, the stock contractor offered to take Richard to go to the Cheyenne Frontier Days. During his time there, the famous rodeo photographer R.R. Doubleday captured two consecutive photos of Richard riding the infamous bronc Sundance. The first picture shows Richard holding on right before Sundance flipped over backwards, a move for which the horse was known. In the second photo Richard is landing on his feet after bailing off the horse. The first was later reproduced into a postcard that Doubleday sold to rodeo crowds.
“I met R.R. Doubleday when I was 12,” Bill said. “Before that I didn’t know about the picture. When I met Doubleday, he told me that the picture of my father sold more postcards than any other picture he’d taken.”
A life size painting of the photo was also reproduced in the old Cheyenne Train Station, where it hung for many years before the building was torn down. Currently, the picture can be found in the Cheyenne Frontier Museum and Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame.
After Carlisle’s death in the late 1920s, Richard and his brother Lew bought the Carlisle estate horse operation, where they raised bucking horses for rodeos across central Montana. According to Bill, Richard often test rode the broncs he raised before sending them to rodeos across Montana.
During the 1930s and 40s, Richard put his bucking horse saddle to rest and began judging local rodeos. He also began breaking and selling horses for Montana ranches. Today, his family carries on the same tradition with their Spinning Diamond Horse Production, an operation currently run by Bill, who resides in Blackfoot, Idaho and his daughter Shana. Shana has raised horses on her ranch in Big Sky, as well as in Bozeman. The horses they raise today are descendants of Richard’s, including Ted.
“Grandpa gave me the inspiration to keep my Western heritage alive,” Shana said. “I’m so thankful for him. I really did learn from the best.”
Richard Langley passed away on Dec. 10, 1999, at the age of 101.
The induction ceremony for the 2012 Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees will take place in Helena in February 2013 when the new Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame in Big Timber is completed.