Back When They Bucked with Franklin Manke
Written by: Ruth Nicolaus< Back to Articles
The Edgemont, S.D. cowboy was the 1952 National High School Rodeo Bareback Riding champion, and it wasn’t until fellow South Dakotan Shane O’Connell won it in 2013, that the drought was over.
Manke not only competed in the bareback riding, but also as a steer wrestler, cow cutter, wild cow rider, and occasional calf roper.
He was born in 1935 to Alfred (Allie) and Dorothy (White) Manke, who ranched twenty miles south of Edgemont. As most country kids did in those days, he rode the three miles to the country school every day.
By the time he was ten years old, he was riding calves at local county fairs, and as a freshman in high school, he got on his first bareback horse.
High school rodeo wasn’t as prevalent then as it is now, and there were fewer rodeos to go to. But Franklin went to several, one of them being the Harrison, Neb. rodeo in 1952, when he won the bareback riding, calf roping, second place in the cow riding, and the all-around.
That same year, his senior year, he won the S.D. state bareback riding and calf roping titles and split first in the cow cutting.
Back then, if a high school finals rodeo contestant qualified for the National High School Finals in one event, they could enter a second event, and the all-around winner could enter as many events as they chose. He finished his high school rodeo career with not only the national bareback riding title, but the all-around as well, having competed at Nationals in Augusta, Montana in the tie-down roping, too.
After high school, he came home to ranch with his parents. They owned two ranches, one south of Edgemont and the other about twenty-five miles away, in southeastern Wyoming.
But he continued to rodeo, this time in the Northwest Ranch Cowboys Association (NRCA) and at local county fairs.
In 1955 he went to a rodeo that was lacking steer wrestlers. The committee told Franklin they would pay his entry fees if he would bulldog. He’d ridden his rope horse in high school to bulldog, but the horse didn’t work out well. “I’d go to get off and he’d stop,” he said. “That left a lot of air between me and the steer.” But he borrowed a horse, rode him at that rodeo and all summer, finishing the year second in the steer wrestling for the NRCA.
His dad, Allie, team roped when he was older, but as a young man, his hobby was race horses. He had a string of thoroughbreds he’d take to the county fair races, and some of them Franklin rodeoed on. It wasn’t a perfect situation, but back then, they made do. Every now and then the race horses didn’t know when to quit. “Sometimes it wasn’t very pleasant when you rode a race horse and you went to turn a cow and the horse just kept going,” Franklin chuckled.
Franklin continued to rodeo in the NRCA. In 1956, he won the bareback riding, was second in the steer wrestling, and won the all-around. In 1957 and ’58, he won the steer wrestling both years. He competed in 1959, but injuries slowed him down.
In ’59, he broke his riding hand while riding barebacks. As the pickup man approached, he worked to get his hand out of the rigging. Before he had it out, the bucking horse stopped, throwing Franklin’s body weight over the top of his hand and breaking a bone.
The same year, he tore ligaments in a knee while bull dogging. There was no surgery for torn ligaments then; the only cure was time off. Franklin built a brace and wore it to bulldog, but his bulldogging days were coming to an end.
After 1959, he quit rodeo for a few years, continuing to ranch on the family operation, which included mama cows, yearlings and sheep. His dad passed away in 1972, and by this time, Franklin and his wife Audrey had bought another place, between the Edgemont ranch and the Wyoming ranch. Without his dad’s help, it was too difficult to run both places, and he didn’t want to hire help. They also had a grazing lease that had expired, so it made sense to sell the S.D. ranch.
Franklin’s parents owned and managed three motels in Edgemont, and after his dad’s death, his mom ran them for three years. It was more than she could handle, so Franklin and Audrey bought them from her, with the intent of running them for three years and then selling them. Two of them were side by side and shared an office, and one of them closed during the winter. They ran them for 22 years, before selling them in 1997.
In the mid-1960s, when dally team roping became popular, Franklin began rodeoing again, at jackpots and a few rodeos close to home. He never ventured far from home, choosing to rodeo at NRCA events, local county fairs and jackpots in South Dakota and Wyoming. He didn’t go full time, believing it was difficult to do both well. “You either have to be a rancher and a part-time rodeo cowboy, or a full-time rodeo cowboy. That’s how I look at it.”
Franklin team roped in the Old Timers Rodeo Association (now the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association.) He headed for a while, then switched to heeling, often partnering with Bob Stoddard of Douglas, Wyo. He enjoyed the jackpots the NSPRA held before the rodeo. He doesn’t brag, but “I guess I claimed my share of the money in the ropings.” He quit roping in 1994, after having a hip replaced.
Franklin and Audrey first met when they were in country school. He had had his eye on her, he says, and asked her out on July 4, 1953. They married later that year and celebrated their 65th anniversary in October of 2018.
And the rodeo gene didn’t end with Franklin. The couple’s daughter, Janie, was the 1971 Wyoming High School Girls All-Around champion, and their son, Jay, was the 1976 S. D. State High School Team Roping champion. Janie and her husband Butch Tinint live in Valentine, Neb., and both of Janie’s daughters competed in rodeo. Jay’s daughter and son, Katie and Ty, have also done well. Katie and her husband Jeremy Langdeau have three children who ride and compete, and Ty, who is married to Trista, has won the saddle bronc riding average at the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo twice. Franklin started Ty in the saddle bronc riding while in high school, buying him his first saddle. “In fact, I think he still owes me for that saddle,” he joked.
Franklin and his great-grandson Jackson Langdeau goat rope together. On foot, Jackson heads and Franklin heels, and Franklin loves it.
The couple sold the ranch in 1989, when the work with the motels became too much. They fully retired in 1997, when they bought forty acres and built a house on the east side of Edgemont. They stay busy: Franklin, traveling to rodeos to watch his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and Audrey, who paints. Her artwork is excellent, Franklin said, and jokes that they’ll have to build longer walls to hang her work.
He loved his days in rodeo. He and Audrey made it through the bad times, of which there weren’t many. They lost a granddaughter, Jay’s daughter Jayme, when she died in a car accident, but life is still good, filled with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “We’ve never really had any downs in life.”