Norman Schuchard: Horsing Around

Norman Schuchard has his own unique way of responding to Hello, How are you? “If I was any better, we’d have a runaway. And, I never tell a lie.” The latter sentence is a recent addition.

Well, he might have been fibbing a bit when he entered the hospital four months ago with a forearm shattered by the flying hoof of a yearling colt. He told the nurse who greeted him with a similar question pretty much the same thing. A man has to maintain his poise and sense of humor. At least, Norman does.

“Everyone is unique. I’d like to meet that one NORMAL guy out there. If there is one. But, I shy away from ‘adults.’ They bore me to tears. I hope I never grow up.”

Norman was born in 1940 in Napoleon, North Dakota. His father was killed in World War II which pushed his mother, Nellie, to eventually move with her six children to Montana. Norman first saw mountains - the Crazies - when the train stopped at Two Dot on the 7th day of May in 1950.

Schuchard remarked that sometimes he has felt like another North Dakotan who moved to Montana. When he did, the IQ of both states rose!

Nellie brought Duane, Vernon, Ralph, Lucille (now Cameron), Norman and Dennis to Montana and pretty much raised them all by herself. She never had much money and never owned a car. At one time, Nellie managed to buy a bicycle for the children. The six of them shared the one bike.

Norman does fondly remember Hughie Stewart who lent Nellie a helping hand. Stewart never married, cowboyed a lot, and owned a ranch north of Martinsdale where the children visited frequently and got to know horses.

Horses make Norman tick.

Norman Schuchard is a horse trainer, a saddlemaker, and a bit of a poet-philosopher and story teller,

Leather work is mostly a hobby, but occasionally a business for him. He has made nine saddles over the years and makes all of his own tack. But, “Wes Schenk doesn’t need to worry about me being competition.”

Schuchard wasn’t much of a student. “I sat there in class many years ago and drew horses.” I wonder what was on his mind. Nonetheless, he graduated from HHS in 1959.

“I can’t spell. I gave up phonics when they told me the word started with the letter p.”

How does he train horses? Norman uses the Easy Method. “I take a lot of time before getting on the horse. I do a whole month of ground work, generally. You’ve got to have patience. You can’t get mad at the horse or beat on it.”

“I used to ride bucking horses. Rode saddle broncs for 12 years.” He won the Montana Saddle Bronc Championship in 1970. Norman did put in a stint with the railroad and few weeks driving a UPS over the Christmas rush many years ago.

Schuchard is also a cowboy horseshoer. “If I was a farrier, I could charge more.”

How did Norman make a living training horses? “Well, it was tough. I didn’t make much money. Just enough to get by. Begged, borrowed, and stole. And very little  stealing.” Schuchard made his way with training horses, shoeing them, and doing some leather work.

Norman and wife Sally raised four children: Norman Jr. in Atlanta, Shawn and Lisa in Harlowton, and Scott recently deceased. Sally has worked for over twenty years at Wheatland Memorial Hospital.

Norman worked for seven years at the Haymaker before the family moved to Caliornia for six more. It was in California that Schuchard first got serious about training horses. He started with cutting horses.

While living in Oakdale, CA, the Schuchards bought and sold a house over a 2 1/2 year period of time gaining $12,000 on the sale. Norman thought he could DO real estate. Well, they bought another house, and inevitably decided they had enough of California and came back home. The twelve thousand and then some was lost in the process. Norman says, “The best way to ruin a story is to get the other side.”

On returning to Montana and Harlowton in 1981, the Schuchards bought their present home on the north side of Harlowton. Time goes by. “I love Mother Nature but I hate old Father Time.”

Norman has leased 10 acres east of town for almost as many years. He has been working with horses out there ever day since. At least twice a day, training horses, feeding his animals and hauling water. “I’m getting good a hauling water. I’ve had lots of practice.”

After all these years, Schuchard built a barn on the leased property in 2004. He feeds his horses $100-a-ton hay rather than grass.

Norman has trained hundreds, “but it seems like I didn’t really know anything until after 500. It’s a little like raising children.”

Schuchard started breaking horses when he was in the 8th grade. He rodeoed for years and worked horses for practically all of his life with no serious injuries until a few months ago. Norman was training a yearling for the thousandth time and the colt kicked with both his hind feet and smashed the bones of Schuchard’s right forearm. Two plates and 14 screws later, Norman is convalescing, but hasn’t got full use of his right hand and muscles, yet.

Norman recalls another cowboy who broke his arm. He asked, “Doc, will I be able to rope when my arm heals?”

The physician assured him that he would. The cowboy replied, “That’s great. I never could before.” Norman loves a good joke and a good story.

Another story tells that Norman once drove a horse into a local saloon. “Oh, gosh. I’ve done that several times. Got their heads in there, any way. One time, we pushed part way into Schenk’s Saddle Shop on Central. Dutch Callant was there and he invited us to come on in. So, I got the whole horse in that time. They moved the furnishings around to make room for us. But, we didn’t stay long.”

After letting his medical insurance lapse a few years ago, he told Sally, “I hope I don’t get hurt until I get on Medicare.” Well, he just made it as he’s now 66 years old.

This appears to be a turning point in Norman Schuchard’s life. With the help of friend, Dennis Voss, Norman is about to become an author. He is starting to “write” a book. You’ll have to ask him the details.

Mr. Schuchard and the interviewer got along well between stories and jokes. We didn’t get into politics, though. However, Norman did remark in a closing comment, “You’re such a nice guy, you must be a Republican.”


Cowboy Driving for the UPS
by Norman Schuchard

You can call this a true story, I guess.
It’s about a cowboy who ended up driving for the UPS.

I was breaking a bunch of horses a while back,
But for some reason, I wasn’t puttin’ much in my sack.
Right about then, this ol’ boy, who said he was my friend,
Told me about this part-time job, driving for the UPS.

Now, maybe I’m getting old,
‘Cause I thought the snow was deep and the wind was cold.
As far as I know, this friend of mine had never lied,
And he said, “That ought to be a real good job,” so I applied.

Now, when they hired me, they said,
“This is the end of your vacation,”
And scheduled me for an orientation.
I had to go to this big meeting in this big town,
And when I walked in, they said, “Sit down,
There’s a couple of things you’ll have to do,
And a few things you’ll have to know,
Before we can let you go.”

The boss said, “Get rid of that cowboy hat, Norm.
Here, climb into this uniform.”
Now, after they stripped me of all my pride,
They gave me a clipboard and said,
“Keep it by your side.”
Then, they gave me this little brown truck
They called a car, and said,
“Keep it clean, you can’t have a mess,
If you’re going to drive for the UPS.
Now this may be contrary to what you’ve don in the past,
But we want you to move, FAST.
Now, go deliver mail, and if you lose any of it,
You’ll go to jail,
Without bail.”

The first day on the job,
I drove nearly three hundred miles,
Trying to treat all the customers nice,
Although the roads were solid ice.

When, I pulled into the station late that night,
I was feeling mighty proud. I called the office to report in,
And the boss said, “Where the !@#!@# have you been?
You must be talkin’ too much,
You’re going to have to cut out the BS,
If you want to keep driving for the UPS.

I pulled into this big ranch, with this little package,
And this ol’ boy was riding this spooky colt,
And when he saw that little brown truck, he started to bolt.
I wanted to stop and help,
But then, I remembered what the boss said, and fled.
By now, the weather was getting nice,
And I was getting tired of them bosses,
And wanted to get back to them hosses.

Just the other day,
We were digging up lunch money for the kids,
And was short a dime,
When my wife pipes up and says,
“Sure wish you could get on full-time.”

Well, I had a bad dream that night,
And when it woke me, I was on the fight.
I dreamt that I had committed a real bad crime,
And the judge said, “Son, you did confess,
So, I’m only giving you 25 years driving for the UPS.”