John Red
2003, by Christie Miller


John Red, blue roan stallion


He set the pace for generations of South Dakota runners and ranch horses.

The big, blue roan stallion was the first AA-rated running horse in South Dakota.

A co-world record holder for 220 yards, John Red ran the distance at Tucson, Arizona in 12.6 seconds. That was 1948, and the stallion was 2. He was retired at age 8 with 14 firsts, 11 seconds and 12 thirds out of 66 starts for earnings $5,006 and earning a speed index of 95.


John Red race photo


John Red's reputation, however, carried on long after his racing career ceased.

Longtime horseman Pat Thompson of Willard, Colorado, witnessed the roan stallion race. "I saw John Red running some match races in '49 or '50 when I came through there (Oklahoma) in the Panhandle while on furlough in the service," Thompson explained. "Butch Warden of Oklahoma had him, and traveled all over the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles match racing. A gambler was carrying him, not owning him, just packing him. He was all over, even into Omaha (match racing) with a Thoroughbred horse."

Thompson knows race horses. He once worked for Walter Merrick, and helped bury Midnight Jr in March 1950. Thompson also trained for Jack Casement and Milo Whitcomb, and owned the stallions Wiggy Bar, Jet Threat, and still owns Steller Feller by Easy Jet.

John Red was bred by J. Rukin Jelks of Tucson, AZ, an early director of the Southern Arizona Horse Breeders Association (later known as the AQRA). Jelks loved to mix the right kind of Thoroughbred blood with his beloved Quarter Horses, then watch his young runners perform. Jelks also bred Rukin String, a three-time World Champion runner.

Thompson said, "John Red was named after a Polish kid Hugh Bennett raised in Arizona, nicknamed Johnny Red. The kid got killed back East at a track. I only saw John Red run once or twice, but he'd run hard all the way. Bearry would match race him in South Dakota."



Clarence Bearry

Clarence Bearry, Fort Pierre, S.D., purchased John Red from Jelks. Jim Hunt of Faith, S.D., is in his early 40's and never got to see John Red, but the stallion's legendary history has been passed down in Dakota lore.

"Clarence Bearry was a rancher and breeder from Fort Pierre," Hunt explained. "He was born in the early 1900's and has been deceased about 15 years. He was one of the foundation (Quarter Horse) breeders in South Dakota. He also had Lonsum Polecat (Leo x Little Meow) and Sea Bar (Lightning Bar x Whisper W), and crossed these lines on John Red. I still have a Lonsum Polecat daughter. Bearry sold Lonsum Polecat, and he went to Louisiana for a few years, but he didn't have near the mare power there as did when Bearry had him."

According to Thompson, Bearry bought Lonsum Polecat as a 4-year-old from Jack Casement, and Thompson trained the stallion. Lonsum Polecat was a three-quarters brother to Old Tom Cat, also out of Little Meow, but sired by Robin Reed, by Leo. Although John Red reportedly was the first AAA-rated horse in South Dakota, Lonsum Polecat was the first horse in South Dakota to be AAA and an AQHA Champion.

"Joe Schomer and Bearry were partners on different studs about the early '60s," Hunt said. "Schomer later went more to the Skipper W and halter, and Bearry stayed more with the performance lines. Bearry's foundation was the John Red line. Most John Red's were blue or red roans." AQHA records verify Hunt's statement - of John Red's 113 get, 47 were registered as roans.

Hunt said, "Bearry raced John Red from '53 through '55. Some of Johns Red's offspring started showing up on race tracks in the '60s and '70s, then as performers, and were out of foundation running mares. The John Reds were gritty-type horses. They're not in your pocket, but show them you need something done, and they'll do it. They're not broncy, and are good work horses. Bearry bought John Red from Jelks as a young horse. He was 15.2 (hands) and most of his offspring were taller. As a breeder myself, when I see John Red on the papers, that's good stuff."

Although Bearry may have had possession of John Red earlier, the AQHA officially recorded the ownership transaction in May 1958. John Red would have been 12. His last race was in August 1954, the same year he placed third at Burwell for the Nebraska Quarter Horse Championship at 300 yards.


John Red ( Red Man x Just Sissy by Just David TB)



Hancock and Thoroughbred

John Red's strong propensity to throw roan offspring carried back through his top side. His sire was Red Man, a roan son of Joe Hancock, who was inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame in 1992.

Thompson said, "Katy Peake had Roan Hancock (also by Joe Hancock) in California, and maybe had him when he died." Peake, of course, owned the great stallion Driftwood.

Nearly earless due to some nippy Texas temperatures when he was foaled in 1935, Red Man matured to about 16 hands of long-hipped, deep girthed, good-withered and strong-boned horseflesh. His get excelled as race, ranch and rodeo athletes.


A powerful roping horse, Red Man was also noted for outrunning race horses like Clabber. His racing offspring included High Gear, Worryman, Red Head I, Wampus Kitty and Lilly Belle. Worryman went on to sire Bankette, dam of 1961 Champion Quarter Running 3-Year-Old Colt and 1962 Champion Quarter Running Aged Stallion, Rebel Cause.

John Red's speed came naturally. The late Nelson C. Nye, AQHA historian and author, devoted a chapter to Red Man in his book, "Great Moments in Quarter Racing History."

Nye wrote, "During the first three years of racing at Tucson's Hacienda Moltacqua track, 100 Quarter running horses competed. From these 100, 20 were chosen to be known as Celebrated American Quarter Running Horses on the factual basis of conditions and times established."

One of these elite 20 was Red Man, running one of the top six times.

Foaled on the Tom Burnett ranch in Iowa Park, Texas, Red Man was out of a Burnett roan mare sired by Tom (Scooter), by Midnight. Owned for a period by a man named Byrne James, about 1941, Red Man was purchased by Kenneth Gunter of Cochise, Ariz. In July 1943, Gunter reportedly loaned the stallion to Buckshot Sorrels, who won the calf roping on him at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.

Gunter also raised one of Red Man's other noted sons, Blue Valentine, a mouth-watering blue roan stallion. Earlier in life, Blue Valentine was owned by Dell Haverty. The stallion was later owned by and helped put King Merritt into the AQHA limelight, and later (1977), into the Cowboy Hall of Fame. A Wyoming rancher, Merritt was the 1942 World Champion Steer Roper.

Merritt's son, Hyde, roped at his last Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo in 1970, riding Blue Valentine. By 1999, Hyde's son, Chip, was still standing two Blue Valentine grandsons, Plenty Try and Wyo Blue Bonnet.

Other early ropers riding Hancock bred horses included Shoat Webster on Popcorn and Everett Shaw on Peanuts.

Red Man's performers included Cibecue Roan, the 1965 AQHA High Point Steer Roping Stallion. Red Man also sired John Hancock and Mr Jack Daniels (full brother to Blue Valentine).

Just Sissy

John Red's dam was a 1934 Thoroughbred mare named Just Sissy. According to Jockey Club (Thoroughbred) records, the mare also produced two Thoroughbred foals - Heno Sissy, a colt, in 1949, and the mare, Lady Sissy, in 1950, both sired by Piggin String (TB), which Jelks owned. John Red was her only AQHA-registered offspring sired by Red Man. Just Sissy was by a 1921 Thoroughbred stallion named Just David, which was out of Domo, a daughter of a muscular stallion named Cyllene. Foaled in Great Britain in 1908, Cyllene was the British leading Thoroughbred sire in 1909, 1910, 1912, 1921, and died in 1925 at age 30.

Dam of Just Sissy was Sissy C, by Uncle Jimmy Gray (Bonnie Joe x Mary Hill), a paternal half brother to Joe Blair. A first class Thoroughbred racehorse, Uncle Jimmy Gray was foaled in 1906, ran for 10 years on the tracks, winning $10,176. Acquired by the US Remount in 1921, the brown stallion's height was recorded being 16.1 hands.

Sissy C was out of Lilly White by Horace H, a sprinting Thoroughbred reported to be "a very fast horse for one-half mile." Horace H also sired Billy Sunday, sire of a King Ranch foundation stallion, Rialto P2.

John Red Offspring

Of the 113 AQHA-registered foals John Red sired, 19 were performers, earning 250 AQHA points. His first foal hit the ground in 1951, his last 7 arrived in 1969.

John Red sired one AQHA Champion. In 1974, this honor was earned by Miss Red Rack, a 1967 roan mare last owned by Margaret Trewe of Phoenix Arizona. Miss Red Rack was Open High Point Calf Roping Mare and Steer Roping Mare for 1974. Was third in Open High Point Steer Roping standings and second in Open High Point Calf Roping. In 1975, the mare placed fifth in Open High Point Steer Roping standings. Also Superior Halter Mare, Miss Red Rack was out of Racket Gal by Sea Bar.

Also out of Racket Gal was John's May Lady, a 1968 mare which placed third in the 1970 South Dakota-Bred Futurity. The mare was registered to Syryl Wagutspcack Jr. of Saint James, LA.

John Red's daughter, Blue Fancy, earned $2,151 in NCHA monies, and 1966, was awarded an Open Performance ROM. The 1952 gray mare was out of Sweetheart Shurbet by Little Rainy Day.

Also earning an Open Performance ROM was Dakota John, a 1962 gray gelding out of Gene's Flapper.

In 1958, the John Red daughter, Boyd Flick, was foaled. Bred and owned by Clarence Bearry, Boyd Flick produced 14 foals, which included an AQHA Champion. Boyd Flick was out of Palo Gal by Sandy McCue.

Four of Boyd Flick's daughters (Sea Flick, Twist My Flick, Leota Flick, and Leota Gal), helped found the basis of Stan and Mary Kay Steyskal's breeding program, who have been breeding horses at Omaha NEB., for 30 years. Long included on AQHA's list of leading breeders, the Steyskal's owned the stallions Tiger Leo and Iron Rebel.

Boyd Flick's first foal was Flick Bar, a palomino stallion and 1965 South Dakota-Bred Derby Champion, and Open AQHA Champion.

In 1966, the South Dakota-Bred Derby Champion was Boyd Flick's second foal, Leota Flick. In 1967, Leota Gal won the Futurity and 1968, the Derby. Both daughters were by Lonsum Polecat. Three more of Boyd Flick's offspring went on to win the South Dakota-Bred Futurity-Flick's Gal (1968), Mr Flick (1969) and Lonsum Flick (1971).


Pick Pocket
son of John Red and a full brother to Red Rockette (dam of PC Bronsin)
roping with Tigh Cowan


Boyd Flick's last foal a 1978 buckskin mare named Flick My Twist, by Twister Jet, was last registered to Douglas Kerr of Sarver, PA.

Known in roping arenas as Pick Pocket, this 1968 red roan John Red son was the 1980 Sun Country/1981 Badland PRCA Circuit Calf Roping Horse of the Year. Pick Pocket carried Tigh Cowan to the 1979 National Little Britches Finals.

The Cowan Connection

Pick Pocket was trained by Roy Durfey, now a noted rope horse trainer from Savannah, MO. Durfey worked for Pat Cowan of Highmore, SD. for four years, from about 1968-1971. Besides Pick Pocket, Durfey also trained South Dakota's living legend, Sun Frost.

Durfey said, "I don't recall seeing John Red, but I liked his colts, they broke out pretty good. Pat loaned me Pick Pocket and I rodeoed on him about '80 or '81. I broke nine ropes on that horse in one summer. Hard-stopping horse. Nice horse. Later, the Cowan kids rodeoed on him. I think he colicked and died when he was about 18."

Durfey also relayed a bit of Sun Frost trivia.

"I rode Doc's Jack Frost in '69, Sun Frost's daddy," he said. "Really liked him. They put Doc's Jack Frost on the track to see if he could run. He only ran one race in his life, and I rode him. Few people know they ran this horse. He won it, it was up at Fort Pierre. They hooked him up with Frenchman's Fox by Laughing Boy, just to see if he could run. She was AAA, and he won."

Besides Pick Pocket, Durfey competed on another John Red bred horse affectionately called "Blue".

"About '75, I had a blue roan horse, Blue, I placed at Houston on," Durfey continued. "He was out of a John Red daughter and by Country Rebel. I broke him to ride for Pat, and later owned him."

When asked how many John Red offspring he trained, Durfey replied, "There's no telling how many I broke. Pat (Cowan) and Clarence Bearry were good friends. Most all the John Reds I had, I loved. They had good minds. The only way I'd fault them, I've always liked a low-made horse, but most of the John Reds were more Thoroughbredy. Crossed on the right horse, you got quite a pony."

Although Durfey doesn't brag about it, he trained Blair Burk's good PRCA rope horse, "Hammer," Troy Pruitt's horse, Little Big Man, and Baldy, which helped Dave Brock win the 1978 PRCA World Champion Calf Roping title. Durfey's own roping title include-8 times each- URA (United Rodeo Assn) Champion and MRCA (Missouri Rodeo Cowboys Assn) over 40 Champion. Durfey's fathered some ropers himself-son's Wes, Travis, Tyson, all swing mean loops too.

John Red Daughters

According to Jim Hunt, "John Red's daughters were phenomenal broodmares. It was a delicacy to own a John Red daughter or son, and Cowan probably had more than anyone. Cowan was an ex-racehorse trainer and as Clarence (Bearry) got older Cowan started buying up John Red daughters and bred them to Sun Frost. He had 10-15 of the John Red daughters. Cowan brought life back to the John Red line. The John Reds, their minds and bones are great. The Hancock people really like the John Red line. Cowan also took the John Red daughters and bred them to Stanley Johnson's Orphan Drift (Driftwood Ike x Orphan Annie C) and named them with a Redwood prefix."

One example is Redwood Mari, a Cowan Brothers LLC broodmare. By Orphan Drift, the 15.3 hand mare is out of Miss 3 John by John Red. Hunt owns a similarly-bred mare, Redwood Beth.

Hunt knows horsemen who still own John Red-bred breeding stock.


Whispering Flick (Sea Bar x Boyd Flick 2 by John Red)


"I've got three. Geno (Hunt's father) has about six," he said. "The Crago's (Chuck and Mary) have a stud, Mary Dawson has a stud, Roy Cleveland has Pat Cowan (the horse), and the Haythorn's (Haythorn Land and Cattle Co., of Nebraska), have three, four, or five granddaughters. I just lost a Sea Bird daughter out of a daughter of John Red. Whispering Flick was 27, and was purchased thru Bearry's estate sale about eight years ago. They had some granddaughters - six or seven - in that sale.

"Ropers really liked the John Reds. They have good feet and bone, and are hard to tear up. You can rope lots of cattle on them and they won't wear out, and they're a little better-looking than some of the Hancocks. Anytime you mention John Red to anybody who's had them, they go looking for them. There were very few sons of John Red kept as stallions, and I think Mary Dawson had about two of the last John Red daughters."

Dawson, of Bellevue, NEB., once owned four John Red daughters and two grand-daughters. She still owns two great-grand-daughters, Rockette Poco Finale and JD Polecats Sunfrost, as well as a maternal grandson, Pocos Lonsum Man. The 1992 Black stallion is by Poco Blunder and out of Miss Cougar by John Red. Dawson most often breeds the stallion to daughters of her Sun Frost son, PC Rushon Frost.


PC Super Sal (Sun Frost x John's Sal by John Red)


Dawson said, "Roy Durfey got us into the John Reds. Roy said John Reds were the best all-around. Bearry had him for many years and raced him. They didn't know until down the road (that) they had cow in them. The John Reds seemed to have really good minds. The older, original mares were pretty big. When the Cowans had their first sale after their dad had gotten killed in a plane crash, we'd gone up after the sale, it was about '87 or '88. Someone had bought two John Red daughters in the sale, then couldn't pay for them, and brought them back. The four daughters we had were Miss Cougar, Cougar Gal, John's Sal and Red Rockette - she was a full sister to Pick Pocket."


PC Bronsin (Sun Frost x Red Rockette by John Red)


Dawson explained how Ogallala, NEB., breeder Roy Cleveland almost got to the mares first.

"Roy Cleveland said he had gone up to buy those mares," Dawson said. "When we (Dawson and her husband, John) gone up to get those mares, one mare hung off from the rest. Our son said, "We don't want her, she's on her death bed." She (Miss 3 John) was the only daughter left when Roy went up there, and he got one colt out of her, and named it Pat Cowan."

Foaled in 1989, Pat Cowan is a buckskin stallion by Sun Frost, and is still owned by Cleveland, now aged 72.


Pat Cowan (Sun Frost x Miss 3 John by John Red) with Ty and Roy Cleveland


"I always said John Red was probably the best son of Red Man," Cleveland said. "I've raised horses all my life, and John Red was a nice horse, a little breedier looking than most of the Hancocks. I never saw him run, but he had a great disposition."

John Red and Blue Valentine, other Red Man sons stood in Nebraska or South Dakota.

"The Haythorns had one, Oliver Manning in the Dakotas, he brought Red Wood Man to this country." Cleveland said. "The Whitakers had Red Wood Man at Chambers, NEB."

Red Wood Man, foaled in 1957, and Cibecue Roan, foaled in 1958, were out of Driftwood daughters, and earned performance ROMs.


Chick E Wood (Orphan Drift x Cougar Gal by John Red)


Cowan's sons have retained John Red granddaughters in their broodmare band.

Jill Cowan, Tim's wife, said, "It was Tigh's dad (Pat) who meshed Stanley's (Johnson) program with John Red."

Stanley Johnson believed in versatile horses, and introduced stallions like Doc's Jack Frost, Orphan Drift, Poco Speedy and Sak Em San to South Dakota - all horses which are still prominent in Cowan Ranch bloodlines today.


Redwood Beth (Orphan Drift x Blue Star Rocket by John Red)


"When he (Pat) was rodeoing, he saw John Red match race at the neighboring track to the arena, and decided that was what he needed to have in an arena horse. When he finally got to put his own broodmare band together, he went and bought a bunch of own John Red daughters. He bred a number of them to Orphan Drift and named them with the Redwood prefix. They are hard-stopping, big-hearted, good-boned horses with good minds. We currently have seven John Red granddaughters in our broodmare band-three by Sun Frost, two by Orphan Drift, one by Tuff Time Peppy, and one by Bobby Seeker. Two of our stallions are out of John Red granddaughters-PC Reddy Frost and PC Redwood Ike."


Redwood Beth (Orphan Drift x Blue Star Rocket by John Red) and foal


Another John Red granddaughter Cowan owned was PC Lace N Leather, Champion of the Dakota Classic Cutting Futurity back in the 1980's.

Chuck and Mary Crago of Belle Fourche, SD., own PC Bronsin. By Sun Frost, the 1989 buckskin stallion is out of Red Rockette by John Red. PC Bronsin is a past All-Around Champion Stallion of the annual Foundation Quarter Horse Registry Round-Up in Grand Island, Neb.

A 1978 sorrel stallion, Bodancer Johnnie is registered to Edith Knight of Duprise, SD. With eight wins from 19 starts, Bodancer Johnnie earned a speed index rating of 96, as well as $24,826, and is John Red's leading earner for maternal grandget. The stallion was Champion of the 1980 South Dakota-bred Futurity, and, in 1981, the Central States Fair Derby and the South Dakota-bred Derby.

Related Runners

The 1968, Kaweah Bar (Alamitos Bar x Angie Miss) was then only the third 2-year-old in history to be named World Champion Quarter Running Horse. The pretty palomino was also voted Champion Gelding and Champion 2-year-old Gelding of the Year. His dam, Angie Miss, was out of the John Red daughter, Johnnie Angel, John Red's all-time leading money earner.

Johnnie Angel's other produce included Angie Miss (by Go Man Go), which set a new track record at Ruidoso in 1960, and Meyers Angel, a 1964 roan mare by Mr Meyers. Bred by the late Robert Moore of Wichita, KS., Meyers Angel won the 1967 Southern QHRA Derby.

Remembering John Red

John Red's last foal crop included three stallions and four mares - Blue Cougar, Johnny Lodi, Prancing Polecat, Boyd Flick 2 (full sister to Boyd Flick), Dakota Seaweed, Johns Kitty and Little Sally Jane.

Nineteen of John Red's get were performers, earning 95 AQHA halter points, and 155 performance points.

As maternal grandsire, John Red's grandget are credited with 126 wins from 825 starts, 24 Race ROM earners accumulated $136,139. In the performance arena, his grandget earned 223 AQHA performance points. One grandget, Miss Tammy Rebel, earned a Performance Superior in Western Pleasure. The 1974 black mare was out of Cougar Kitten.

In 1992, one of John Red's grandsons, Bankers Luv (out of Johns May Lady), was still being ridden in AQHA's Horseback Riding program. Earning his performance ROM in 1988, and a racing ROM in 1983, 1981 sorrel gelding is registered to Trina Schlamp of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Although John Red's last foals arrived in 1969, Jim Hunt could not recall exactly when the horse died, he would have been 22 in 1968. However, Hunt does recall where the blue roan stallion was laid to rest.

"He's buried on Clarence Bearry's ranch," he said. "It's owned by Dennis Hansen now, who owns Fort Pierre Livestock," Hunt said.

John Red may be gone, but his tale has no ending. That's one of the great beauties of bloodlines and genetics. It's rather like what one man once said about dates on a tombstone - "It's what's in the hyphen that counts."

John Red set the pace for generations of South Dakota runners and ranch horses alike. He was one of those legends you wish you could have known.


Reprinted from the *Quarter Horse News* June 1, 2003, Foundation and Ranch Horse Section.
Written by Christie Miller. Some of the photos for the John Red article are from the article and some are from Open Box Rafter Ranch sale catalogs.

This article was generously submitted by Roz Smietanski, a longtime Quarter Horse enthusiast, who keeps detailed records on AQHA horses. She saw our request on the Hancock Horse Message Board and went to the trouble to scan and send us the entire article, even though she is not a Hancock breeder. Thank you very much, Roz  !!  






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