BILLINGS — A lot of the world’s greatest bucking horses — including some at this year's Wrangler National Finals Rodeo — trace straight back to Montana. Ekalaka, to be specific.
An old Montana cowboy named Feek Tooke may be gone, but he is responsible for some of the baddest, rankest bucking horses alive to today. While 'Feek' almost sounds like a cartoon character, his given name was Chandler. Tooke's great grandson Toby smiles recalling the nickname's simple origin.
“It was supposed to be Felix — which, I don’t know why that would’ve been a nickname — but, his brother couldn’t say Felix and it just came out Feek," Toby told MTN Sports.
Truth is, Feek Tooke was said by many to be a character. But the rodeo horses his family bred out of Ekalaka nearly 100 years ago weren’t funny at all. The documentary Feek’s Vision, released in April and produced by Ken Howie, shows why.
“Proudest thing about this is, it was all donation based. People wanted to see it, they were donating money," Toby said. "Our fiscal agent was the Carter County Museum which is one of the best museums in the state.”
The trailer can be viewed at Feeksvision.com where the documentary can also be purchased.
It’s a who’s who of unbridled storytelling from world champion cowboys to the world’s most regarded stock contractors. At first, contractors admit didn’t want anything to do with Feek’s horses. One, named General Custer, was described as Shaq with Mike Tyson’s mentality.
Another bucked itself entirely over a fence. Indian Sign was banned from one rodeo, thought to be too dangerous. Later, that horse would make two trips to the National Finals Rodeo and Feek’s bloodlines soon became NFR pipelines.
Documentaries aren't built overnight. This one took about seven years.
“There are a lot of historians and cowboys in the documentary that are no longer with us," Toby said." We did the last interview with Harry Vold. Larry Mahan was going to narrate it and he passed away.”
Some of the film's stories will make heads spin, much like Tooke's stock did. That includes the irony of Feek’s passing 55 years ago this month. It happened on his first trip to a National Finals Rodeo, which happened to be in Oklahoma City. Feek wasn't much for publicity, but friends helped pay his way to accept a prestigious award in person.
“Feek’s death was a movie to a T," Toby said. "He had heart issues, (plus the) greatest bucking horses in the world. He rode in to get a plaque for Sheep Mountain – crowning achievement of his life. He rode in, rode out — heart attack. I was told he was dead before he hit the ground and everybody said he died with a smile on his face.”
Feek’s original horses were described as mangy, feather-legged and long haired.
One cowboy in the documentary proudly said he rode a Tooke bronc for 84 points, won the go-round and collected ... $47.
Today, thanks to DNA testing, contractors know exactly which stock is traced back to the Tooke family. And they say that without his ranch, rodeo wouldn’t be anything close to what it is today.
“When you’re approached by the PRCA and (they) said this is probably the greatest rodeo documentary of all time, it really kind of hits you,“ said Toby.