It’s darn tough when you’re a cowboy and want to make a living doing what you love. Bob Schild of Blackfoot loved rodeo. He was good at it. In 1954 he won the Intercollegiate championships in both saddlebronc and bareback riding. In ’53 and ’54 he was also the runner-up for the Intercollegiate All Around title.
After college he hit the professional rodeo circuit. Bob had one thing going for him that other cowboys didn’t. Whether he finished in the money or not, he could still make a little money. He’d learned how to do leather work when he was a kid, so he always brought a sewing machine along with him. He made rodeo chaps and other leather items to keep himself going.
After rodeoing for years, Bob and his wife Gay started B Bar B Leather in Blackfoot in 1961. They caught a lucky break when Western Horseman magazine did a couple of stories on Bob's rodeo days, mentioning the shop, and the shop took off. Bob made a lot of saddles, chaps, and other gear.
The next generation of Schilds came along and Jeff, Shawn, and Kelly took over the shop. In 1996, they started a wholesale business. Shawn did his share of rodeoing and learned something that would make that new business busy. Riding broncs, Shawn found out that the leather gloves everybody used were so thick and stiff you couldn’t close your hand and get a good grip. He got to thinking about it and over a period of years developed a glove that protects a rider’s hands while allowing them to get a grip. He patented the design and called the gloves “Bear Knuckles.”
When Shawn made his first prototype gloves he took a tip from his dad and made them pink so people would notice. They did. Shawn still does most of the sewing on the rodeo gloves, which have become standard attire for riders in the US, Canada, and Australia. Demand for Bear Knuckles work gloves is way beyond what the shop in Blackfoot could keep up with, so Shawn and a friend started a company to have them made overseas.
Bob Schild retired a few years ago and today does something else he loves, writing and performing cowboy poetry. His books are available on Amazon.