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Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees honored for contributions to history, culture

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News from the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center

Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees honored for contributions to history, cultureNews from the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center.

Four people from District 10, comprised of Flathead, Lake, Lincoln and Sanders counties, were honored recently by being inducted into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame. 

Roy B. King, Arlee, and Billy Schall, St. Ignatius, were honored with legacy awards while Ray and Shirley Jacobs of Eureka were given a living award.

Following are stories about the inductees who are honored for their contributions to the history and culture of Montana.


Roy B. King

Roy B. King was born in Ekalaka, (now) Carter County, Montana, on Sept. 5, 1899, to Fred W. King and Martha J. (Hockett) King. One can presume that Roy admired Eastern Montana rodeo legends, such as the Tookes and the Monroes, from a young age. 

Roy moved to western Montana in the 1920s. Initially he worked as a car inspector for the Northern Pacific Railroad in Missoula. Ranching and rodeos, however, were always his passion.  In the midst of the Great Depression, he quit his “good” job with the Northern Pacific to follow that desire. One of the first ranches he owned was located in the upper Valley Creek district near Arlee and was formerly owned by Governor Joseph Dixon who used it as a summer home. 

Roy’s wife, Mary Jane (Munro), and her brother were tragically killed in a car-train collision in June of 1938.  In the spring of 1939, as single father of three young children in the depression era, Roy saw an advertisement which sparked an idea to make some income to support his family. The Junior Chamber of Commerce in Missoula was preparing to celebrate Montana’s 50th anniversary of statehood with a Golden Jubilee Fair and Rodeo. The organizers advertised for vendors to provide bucking horses for the rodeo. Roy submitted a bid and was awarded the contract. Now he had a problem to solve; how would he acquire a herd of 75 bucking horses by July? Roy then turned to his friend Jake Johnson for assistance.

As the Golden Jubilee drew near and the bucking horses had been secured, Roy needed to transport the stock from the Arlee area to Missoula. Always the promoter, he wanted to involve the public and make it an event for all. So, he organized a chuck-wagon drive where about 50 members of the lower Flathead community joined the journey from Arlee to Missoula. On June 29, 1939, (a Thursday), “riders to make the trip gathered at Camp Jocko. The caravan got underway early Friday morning.  Mounted participants followed the grub wagon drawn by four horses. A noon-day lunch was served at Evaro and the procession arrived in Missoula shortly after 5 p.m., where the horses were quartered in readiness for the mammoth parade Saturday morning.” One can imagine the spirit of the caravan riders enjoying their journey to Missoula.  

The Jubilee was considered a success for Roy and those who participated in the chuck-wagon drive. This event was the start of his rodeo production business which lasted nearly a decade.  During this period, Roy was the “go to”rodeo producer for many shows in Western Montana. Roy produced rodeos in Arlee, Polson, Kalispell, Drummond, Plains, and Ronan, to name a few.

As Roy gained more experience with rodeo production he added events to entertain and attract larger crowds, including parades, Roman riding, horse racing, pow wows, and Native American 

dancing. Roy’s showmanship was indeed successful. In 1940 Les Baldwin called on Roy to produce the first Polson rodeo which was held in conjunction with the Western Montana Stockmen’s Convention. It attracted a crowd of 1500 spectators. 

Roy’s vision for starting a profitable business venture ultimately came true. The total proceeds for the 1942 Polson rodeo were $2,001.31.  Roy’s fee for the rodeo stock was $540.00, an amount that virtually equaled the total amount of prize money paid out to all the contestants for the two-day event.

In addition to the financial incentives, Roy also earned accolades for his production efforts. He was selected to produce the first Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA) sanctioned rodeo in Drummond.  A reporter for the Flathead Courier described Roy King’s bucking horses as “one of the best strings in the West.” Another reporter said, “Roy brings a western rodeo second to none.” 

Regrettably, Roy experienced some wear and tear from his days in the rodeo business. In 1944 he sustained serious injuries while Roman riding at the Plains rodeo, which guided his decision to sell the business. The business was eventually sold to Cremer-Autry Rodeo of Big Timber.

Even years after officially getting out of the rodeo business, Roy’s passion for showmanship never left him.  In 1976, three years before his death, he purchased a team of four white mules and a wagon. Roy’s highlight of that summer was entering the four-up hitch in the local parades.  

Roy’s business skills extended beyond the rodeo arena.  He was ahead of his time, having a knack for buying low, fixing up, and re-selling at a respectable profit. His sales approach was unique. If something wasn’t selling, whereas most of us would lower the price, Roy would raise the price. This would create a sense of urgency to buy it before the price increased even further … it frequently worked. 

At one time, Roy owned some of the best ranches in western Montana. Namely these included the Butler Creek Ranch in Missoula, (that is now part of the Missoula Airport), the Flansberg Ranch at upper Valley Creek, as well as the Bonderant Ranch and current King Ranch in Dixon. When ranching wasn’t profitable enough to support his family, Roy would go into the bar business to reset his financial situation. In between the ranch acquisitions, Roy owned the Log Cabin and Stockman’s Bar in Arlee, the Valley Club and the Mint in Ronan, and the Buffalo Bar in Ravalli.  

Roy typically dressed in full cowboy regalia including hat, boots, and neckerchief - a traditional Western style, that also reflected his pride as a rodeo producer. 

Roy B. King passed away on April 5, 1979, at the age of 79. He is buried at the Pleasant View Cemetery in St. Ignatius, Lake County, Montana. 

To this day, Roy’s family and friends find great joy in reminiscing the stories about a charismatic gentleman who was respected by men and adored by women. 


Billy Schall

Billy Schall was born William Wallace Schall on July 2, 1926 in St. Ignatius, Montana, to Ed and Anna Schall. Billy was the first-born son and fourth child of eight children. He was raised on a ranch, five miles north of Arlee, Montana. Billy attended grade school up Valley Creek in a one-room schoolhouse and high school in Arlee. Billy was a gifted athlete, excelling in football and track, but chose only to attend school into his sophomore year. He spent a great deal of time with a Salish elder, Pechum Finley, who lived up the creek. Billy stayed with Pechum often, where he was taught the Native American way of life. He learned horsemanship and skills (that would prove useful when he got older), respect of people, spirituality, and the Salish language.

When Billy turned sixteen he began arena competition in the rodeo world, where his natural born athleticism came to life.

Billy married the love of his life and schoolmate, Betty Mae Wemple, on Aug. 4, 1948. Billy had taken Betty to a rodeo in Sandpoint, Idaho, where they ended up tying the knot while in Coeur d’Alene. Upon returning home, they decided to announce their marriage at a later date so he departed to his folks and she to hers. 

Billy rodeo’d every summer thereafter, entering the saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding, calf roping and steer wrestling events. Traveling outside Montana to Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, he was rodeoing every weekend, where he rode a lot of Kelsey Rodeo Stock. Joe Kelsey had observed and liked his riding style and as a result invited Billy to ride his circuit, which he accepted. Billy always brought home a paycheck and a lot of the time the all-around championship. He calf roped for some time using his own horse, Smitty. That horse would get so excited when they got close to home, he would get his front feet up on the over cab for the final stretch of the road. When Billy sold Smitty he borrowed other cowboy competitor’s horses, but that ended when he beat out the cowboys who loaned him the horse. From then on it was just bareback, doggin’, broncs and bulls. 

Billy, who could build, wire and plumb a house on his own, built his and Betty’s first home on South Valley Creek, across the county road from his cousin Bob Schall’s (old Bob) place.  He later built five more homes between Arlee and Dixon.

Billy built an arena with three bucking chutes, a timed event chute and catch pens cut Christmas trees in the fall with Betty’s help. 

In 1958, Billy won the bull riding competition in Grand Coulee, Washington, but not without a little excitement. The bull he rode jumped the arena fence and the bank of the Grand Coulee Dam, breaking its neck. Billy not only won the bull riding, but butchered the bull he rode right then and there.  

Billy retired from professional rodeo competition when he was 36, realizing he couldn’t compete with youth. His RCA gold-card number was 33.

Billy died in 1995 leaving a unique legacy.  He always rode bareback wearing moccasins. Billy would buy cattle and horses at the sale ring in Missoula and herd them home horseback, by himself. He always liked the solitude of riding alone in the early morning and did so until his death. He liked horned cattle and had developed quite a herd of Longhorns. His dream was to raise a champion bucking bull that would go to the National Finals Rodeo, but that never transpired. He had built a half-mile exercise track for the horses on the river bottom. He rode full-out, 16 times around that very track when he was 65 years old. 

He was gathering cattle for his daughter, Nancy, the day he passed. He got the last cow in, slid off his horse, Floyd, and laid down in the field. Richard, his hired hand, and Billy’s grandson, Numa, brought him home where he died of a massive heart attack just a few hours later. 

Accompanied by several outriders, Billy was carried by team and wagon, driven by Rod Bailey, to the St. Ignatius Catholic Cemetery, where he was laid to rest. His favorite horse, Floyd, followed with Billy’s moccasins laid over his withers.


Ray and Shirley Jacobs

Based on a personal interview in April 2017 by Rita Collins

Ray Jacobs was born on May 9, 1935 in Ely, Minnesota. He came to Montana in January 1958, after returning from Germany, where he had served in the Army. He moved to Missoula at that time, as his father was working there as a forester. Ray then moved on to Seattle, Washington, where for a short time he worked for Boeing.  From there he relocated to Priest Lake, Idaho, where he worked for the U.S. Forest Service scaling and marking timber. He was employed at various jobs when he returned to Washington, including fruit harvest, work at a sawmill and uranium mill, on a cattle ranch and for the state highway department. In general Ray kicked around in the northwest for the next five years, eventually making his way back to Montana.

He returned to the Missoula area where he began contracting with the U.S. Forest Service for tree thinning. Ray and his brother were the first ones to get this type of contract in Region 1. When he began to develop physical problems, he decided to enroll in college to become a teacher.  He had nearly finished that degree when he got a job teaching in Idaho on a provisional certificate. Over the next three summers, he completed his degree. When Ray graduated from the University of Montana in 1970, he took a job teaching grades 4-6 in Eureka, Montana, until his retirement twenty years later.

Shirley Jacobs was born July 13, 1937, in San Diego, California. At the age of eight, she began to study piano. When she was sixteen, she took up the viola and by the time she was nineteen, she performed with the San Diego Symphony.  During her twenties she relocated to the east coast. By the time she was thirty, she was playing viola with the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra in West Virginia where she lived with her first husband and two small sons. In her early forties, Shirley was playing with the Richmond Symphony and began to explore the guitar and lute. It wasn’t until 1990, when she moved to Montana, that she picked up the fiddle. For Shirley, fiddle music represented old Montana culture.

While teaching young students in Eureka, Ray gave group guitar lessons. He quickly realized that younger children needed a simpler musical instrument to learn on so he developed a three-string necked dulcimer, which could easily be made from a kit and allow the students to build their own. For 15 years Ray and each new class of students built their dulcimers, learned the basics of making music and playing traditional folk songs. Since then, Ray has made thousands of these Rocky Mountain dulcimers with people in workshops and individually.

Ray and Shirley met at the 1990 Montana State Fiddle Contest. It’s a lovely and treasured story. At that time Shirley was living in the Bitterroot Valley so she moved to Eureka to be with Ray. Living off the grid, they built a log house for $3000 complete with solar but without running water or indoor plumbing.  Ray retired from teaching in 1991 and shortly thereafter, he and Shirley began the Eureka Folk Music Society.  As he had done with the school children, Ray continued to experiment with building instruments and teaching people how to play them. The Eureka Folk Music Society, which doesn’t have any structure such as a newsletter or website, meets for a few hours twice a month. They potluck together and play traditional as well as country western, Cajun, Irish and western swing. Shirley and Ray constantly bring new songs to the group’s members, which offers them exposure to the likes of Bob Wills, Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie. Ray and some members of the folk music society also compose their own songs.

The Jacobses both firmly believe the Eureka Folk Music Society is an amazing and talented group to have formed in a town of a mere thousand people. Usually when these musicians meet, there will be from ten to fifteen playing on dulcimers, guitars, fiddles, accordions and harmonica. Besides the twice-monthly evening meetings, members of the group also perform at the local nursing home, the Eureka farmers market and numerous other community events.

If Ray were to list all his accomplishments, he said, “The one I would put at the top is a method I developed using phonics for students who had trouble learning to read. This process allowed those students to feel better about themselves as well as do better academically and where I felt I excelled in my teaching career.” Though there was never recognition for such, parents of these students were forever grateful. 

For many people in Montana, Ray and Shirley are viewed as “keepers of the flame” through their music. They have performed at Weiser, Idaho, the Missoula Museum of Art and on Montana Public Radio, featured in a short documentary film by Western Folk Life Center and in an article in Horizon Airline magazine.  In 1993, Ray and Shirley did a one-month tour taking their dulcimer music to schools across northeast Montana through a grant received by the Fort Peck Arts Council.

Over the years, Ray has built many remarkable instruments - guitars, basses, violins and of course the dulcimers - while Shirley adds her artistic designs on each of them. He constructs them in a way that makes them affordable for the people who often don’t have the resources to buy expensive instruments but want to play. Ray has also developed the skills to repair most any stringed instrument and accordions. 

The Jacobses participate in the Montana State Old-Time Fiddlers Association going to jams and other events. Shirley and Ray continue to be strong supporters of novice musicians giving countless performances whenever they travel, helping to maintain the musical and cultural heritage of this region. 


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