Whenever a community has traditions there are families whose last names become synonymous with those activities. The Legend of Rawhide is no different. While almost all community members have cycled through the cast or crew at some point during their time in Niobrara County, there are some families that have made it not just a family tradition, but a main event in their lives.
The Barnette Family:
The tradition of the Legend started with Richard T. “Bucky” Barnette. He drove a team of mules in the wagon train. Andy, his son and his wife Twila and two children Taylor and Andrea continued the family tradition. Andy outrides for a wagon and Twila and the kids rode in the wagon train. When Twila was appointed to the board in 1996 she stopped being in the performance but Taylor went on to play the part of Clyde Pickett and Andrea would also play a main role as Kate Farley. The Barnettes are now pleased to have the fourth generation join them as Andrea’s three children will be riding in the wagon train in the 2019 performance.
The Bruch Family:
One of the founding members of the original cast, Joseph Conrad “Carl” Bruch was instrumental in orchestrating the first Legend of Rawhide. He built a wagon, which was pulled by Noal Larson’s oxen. His sisters Polly and Elizabeth were also instrumental in the early days spending many winter nights sewing costumes for the wagon train and Indian village. Elizabeth was an active member of the Indian village in the early years of the pageant. One of Carl’s sons, John and his wife Pat, have also been involved with Legend for many years. John was an Indian as a young boy and until 2018 watched the back gate during legend. His son Brian and Brian’s wife Shelly and two daughters have also been involved in legend. Shelly and the girls still ride in the wagon train and they have been in the fish scene and waterfall scene as well as chasing the chicken. Over the years they have had many relatives join them including John and Pat’s grandchildren from California.
The DeGering Family:
In 1946 when the first pageant was staged Albert and Ethel DeGering made it a point to participate. Albert rode as an Indian Scout and Ethel and her son John road in Boner’s wagon. The following year DeGerings built their own wagon and drove in the wagon train. For three years John rode a horse next to the wagon and then from 1949 to 1954 he wasn an Indian. His brother Leonard was an Indian. In 1954 John was elected President of the Board but was drafted shortly thereafter and didn’t get to return to the Legend until it was revived. Today, Jerit, John’s grandson serves on the Legend of Rawhide board and rides as an Indian in the pageant.
The Dockery Family:
The Dockery family is a great example of how the Legend has brought generations and families together. When Bill Dockery’s children were young he was Lt. John Fremont and his wife Diane rode in the wagon train. Bill’s children Matt, Brett and Shaylee were all in the wagon train from a young age. Matt’s future wife Tandy also participated with her father, Dale Rising and siblings, Clint and Holly riding as Indians and being in the Indian village. As the third generation, Matt and Tandy’s children Dax and Lexie were both in wagon train and took turns in all the kids roles in the fishing scene and waterfall scene. They would both go on to star in leading roles as Clyde and Kate. Dax and his wife Cady now ride in the wagon train, traveling up from Nebraska every year to participate. They ride in another family member’s wagon, Ryan Rapp. Shaylee has served on the board, been in the wagon train and is now the Chaos Coordinator for the production. The involvement isn’t the only tradition, many of the dresses sewn by Diane are still in use and Tandy wears Diane’s costume in performances to this day.
The Hanson Family:
Following the revival of the Legend of Rawhide in 1986 Danny Hanson began riding as an Indian brave starting in 1987. A few years later in 1991 his young family, wife Donna and sons Dan Henry and Ben would join the cast of the Indian village. Danny filled the role of Indian Chief for several years, served on the board and was also President of the board. He has continued to remain active and will play the drunk in the 2019 pageant. His wife Donna has always been in the Indian village keeping track of the children alongside Carol Schroeder and Geri Marchant. Donna has sewn many Indian costumes over the years and took over coordinating the village in 2016 when health prevented Geri from being able to continue. Her sons, Dan Henry and Ben were in the Indian village and progressed to being Indian braves. Ben played the medicine man one year and Dan Henry has the distinction of being the Indian Chief the longest out of any individual, he has played the chief for the last 14 years. In 2018 the headdress that had been used for the chief since 1986 was retired and Danny was honored for his role in the Legend with a gift of the headdress. Such has been the importance of the Legend in their lives that at one point when someone asked a young Dan Henry what his favorite holiday was he said, “Legend of Rawhide, isn’t that a holiday?”
The Hladky Family:
Shirley Hladky remembers riding in the wagon train at the age twelve in the first Legend of Rawhide pageant. Her father played the Indian messenger and her grandfather was Old George. This involvement would set the tone for her family’s role in the Legend for generations to come. Her family was in the wagon train until the Legend stopped. When the pageant was revived in 1986 Shirley had a new generation to introduce to the Legend. Her sone Troy took on the role of the Indian Messenger and her husband Bob road as a scout for the wagon train and was also part of the card game. Shirley was a member of the Indian Village. Once her grandsons Zane, Brock and Lance came along the Hladky’s roles as Indians were cemented. The boys followed in their dad’s footsteps and became Indian braves eventually taking their turns as the Indian Messenger.
The Noal Larson Family:
Brothers Noal, Malter and Warren Larson agreed with the community when it was decided they would be putting on the Legend of Rawhide to cheer up the homecoming troops from WWII. Together, with the help of their father, the three brothers broke and trained oxen eventually driving a six-oxen hitch in the Legend of Rawhide performances. Evelyn, Noal’s wife road in the wagon and for several years Noal and Evelyn played Frank Fruit and his wife. Noal’s son Terry continued the family tradition, serving on the Legend board that revived the pageant in 1986. Terry also drove a team and rode as Jim Farley. Terry’s daughters, Dena, Greta and Terrilou learned well from granddad and dad and when they were young girls broke a team of jersey steers and rove them. Terrilou and Dena continue to be involved with Legend. Terrilou and her husband Dean were even married during the Legend performance in 1993. Terrilou drives the floozie wagon and their son Jathan rode in the wagon train. Jathan now helps with the tech crew and set and tear down when he can. Terrilou is excited to introduce her grandson Karter to the Legend when he gets a little older. The legend has always been a part of their family’s past and is in their hearts and she is excited to make it a part of the future as well.
The Nelson/Reed Family:
One of the original 30 wagons in the wagon train for the 1946 Legend of Rawhide was Bebe Reed’s oxen team. He drove that team and later, his daughter Dawn and her husband Ken would drive a team of horses and a wagon in the wagon train. Bebe’s other daughter Roxie and her husband Rod Nelson would bring their children up with the tradition of the Legend of Rawhide as well. Tye, Bebe’s son was an outrider and carried a flag during the parade. The third generation of the family carried on the tradition. Bailey and Brandie Sides both played Kate Farley as did Amy and Erin Nelson. Ryan Nelson worked with oxen and now rides in the wagon train with his daughter. Erin and her husband TJ Hodge are active participants in the Legend ever year. TJ is an outrider and Erin and her four young children are the family in the Prayer Scene. While Roxie no longer rides in the wagon train, she is the unofficial photographer for the Legend.
The Sturman Family:
The Sturman family’s involvement in legend started with Janice and Jerry. Janice was in the musician’s wagon and Jerry too was in the wagon train. Cody played Jim Bridger. Mark, Janice and Jerry’s son, and his wife Heidi drove a team of mules for many years in the wagon train. Heidi has been an Indian brave, outrider, floozie and ridden alongside her husband in the wagon. Their children, Jessie, Bryce and Sadie have all been in the pageant since they were young. All three have carried flags in the opening ceremony and ridden in the wagon train. Jessie played Kate and Bryce was the Indian messenger. Sadie will be playing Kate in the 2019 pageant.
The Thayer/Chard Family:
Another founding family of the Legend was Vernon R “Bunny” and Margaret “Margie” Chard of Indian Creek. In the original production, Margie played Kate and Bunny was in the wagon train. The family tradition would be carried on through their great-niece, Chris Thayer and her husband Melvin and children John and Magan. Chris was cast as Kate in the revival of the Legend opposite Dick Backer. Later her daughter Magan would also play Kate using the same sidesaddle that was used by Margie and Chris. Chris and Melvin have ridden in the wagon train and Chris plays the woman with the skillet who chases the drunk. Over the years it seems to be a challenge to the drunk to see if they can surprise Chris, though they rarely manage to, there have been a few memorable occasions. Chris has also had the opportunity to play opposite her son John when he played the drunk, what mother wouldn’t want the chance to clobber her son with a skillet? John and Magan were in the Indian village in the early years and Melvin rode in the calvary. John later played an Indian brave and now the fourth generation has joined in the tradition. Hadley, their oldest grandson has participated in the fishing scene and last year Annie, John’s wife and his daughter MelAndie were in the Indian Village.
The Thompson Family:
When Niobrara County decides to do something, they just go for it. In 1946 at the first Legend of Rawhide neighbors Russ Thompson, George Christian and Bunny Chard were instrumental in pulling off the first pageant, they even built a wagon for the production. For the first few years, Russ was the only one in his family to participate in the Legend. He drove Harley Lohr’s team. Then in 1949 his wife Mary Jo joined the production with their young children, Tom, Roxie and Link. Russ eventually became the wagon master after Bill Magoon. The whole family participated until the final production of the sixties. By the time the pageant was revived in the 1980’s two more children another generation has been added to the mix. Roxie and her husband Roy Sharp rode in the wagon train with their children. Cody, one of Russ’s sons would also continue the tradition with his children. Tally Sharp would play the part of Clyde Picket and Roy and Roxie were in the square dance scene. Roxie also throws the water on the gamblers. For a few years the pageant was so lean on cast they were paying people to be scouts and Indians so Cody and some friends “double dipped” jumping on a horse to be a scout and then running to change and become an Indian brave. Cody’s children Amanda, Ty and Sarah also participated in the wagon train. Cody drove a team and eventually his daughter Sarah and her husband Barry Travnicek would drive the team and wagon and ride with their children. Ty was an Indian Brave, the Indian Messenger, and has been the outrider for various teams. He played Hal one year and got his Aunt Roxie with a bucket of water instead of getting it himself. Ty has also lent his skill as an auctioneer to the after-pageant auction and events. The fourth generation of Thompsons includes Cody’s grandkids and Roxie’s grandchildren as well. Sarah’s two older sons ride as Indian Braves and other grandchildren are in the wagon train. The Legend has always been a reunion of family and friends that cements and renews those relationships.
The Wasserburger Family:
Henry Wasserburger began his family’s involvement in the Legend of Rawhide. He filled in wherever was needed in the early years. When the Legend was revived in 1986 his son JD took on the roll of Medicine Man. Tom one of his other sons rode in the wagon train and played the role of the drunk. JD’s wife Laurie has ridden in the wagon train and takes tickets. His sons Jason, Erica and Andrew all rode in the wagon train and then played Indian braves. Jason has ridden with his mom in the train and Eric took over the part of the Medicine Man. Wasserburgers have always provided extra horses for the production for Indian Riders.
These families and many more have made the Legend of Rawhide a part of their own history. Their passion and commitment to the pageant is one of the reasons it has been in production for the last 33 years. Without these generations of residents, the pageant wouldn’t exist.