Dakota Datebook

Figure Four, Famous Rodeo Horse

Friday, December 1, 2006

Figure Four was a famous North Dakota rodeo bucking horse that performed at the National Finals Rodeo during the 1960s.

Born in the late 1940s on the Figure Four Ranch about 30 miles northwest of Killdeer, he was bred by ranch owner Vic Christensen. He was born to a gentle saddle mare owned by an aunt of the Christensen children, and the sire was unknown.

Vic sold the yearling to Nick Fettig of Killdeer in the early 1950s, where Figure Four became part of the rodeo operation. Nick then sold him to Phil Fettig. When Phil died in 1960, the Figure Four ownership transferred to Jack Fettig.

A steel-gray gelding standing nearly 16 hands and weighing about 1,300 pounds, Figure Four had a good temperament and was easy to handle. According to LeRoy Fettig, of Dickinson, he was a smart, cunning and proud-acting horse. Figure Four loved to buck and was very athletic—jumping high and bucking hard.

Figure Four’s first time out of the bucking chute was as a three year old in the fall of 1952 at the Killdeer Mountain Rodeo Arena. North Dakota rodeo star Duane Howard, who was at that time a young rough stock hand, was on Figure Four’s back for his debut.

Perhaps his most famous performance was at the 1956 Dickinson Match of Champions before a capacity crowd. Six-time World Champion saddle bronc rider Casey Tibbs drew him for the final round ride.

Casey rode him that day, but it is still in question whether he made the whistle. He split first/second with North Dakota cowboy Joe Chase.

The next year, in 1999, Joe Chase rode Figure Four at the Match of Champions. Chase also drew him at the Minot Y’s Men’s Indoor Rodeo.

Figure Four bucked for 20 years at professional rodeos throughout the Dakotas and Montana. Top bareback and saddle bronc riders either won top prize money on him or were bucked to the ground before the whistle.

He was named the top saddle bronc at Deadwood, South Dakota, in the late 1950s and early 1960s and was selected for the 1959 National Finals Rodeo.

Figure Four returned to the NFR three more years—in 1961 and 1962 in saddle bronc and, in 1964, in bareback.

From 1964 to 1966, Figure Four was used only in bareback riding, with his final performance in 1966. For those fortunate enough to see him in action, he left many people with exciting rodeo memories.

Figure Four was still owned by Jack Fettig when he died on his home ground in the Little Missouri Badlands in the late 1960s. He was about 22 years old.

by Cathy A. Langemo
WritePlus Inc.

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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