Remembering the 'Eight Second Man'Homer Stands was a master at saddle bronc
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Correspondent
nativesunnews.today With every passing year legendary Lakota rodeo cowboys are either lost to history, or distorted by what literature survives of their exploits. Ideally, these men should be interviewed in depth while they are still with us, and perhaps it is because the Lakota traditionally do not speak of the dead, that we tend to forget these tough, gifted rodeo heroes of yesteryear. Many Oglala cowboys jump out from the ranks of the accomplished: Jake Herman, Acorn Adams, Eddie Iron Cloud, Ray McGaa, Jake Little Thunder, Tom Tibbets, Howard Hunter and Buddy White Eyes. But one cowboy that became a saddle bronc legend, was from the town of Oglala, Homer Stands. Stands journeyed to the spirit world at the age of 86 in 2001, but the respect he had from his peers, and the mark he left on the memory of rodeo fans, got him inducted into the Real Cowboys Association Hall of Fame. “He was 54 years old when he last rode,” Maria Stands said of her father. “That was in Edgemont. I was always proud of him, but at the same time I wondered if he was going to be alive. I saw him dragged by his hand, just about every part of his body (at one time or another) was broken.” Stand’s specialty was saddle bronc, but he could go bareback or ride bulls as well. The horn of one bucking bull took out his front teeth. He was stoutly constructed, and like most successful cowboys, strongly built in the hands, wrists and forearms. It isn’t easy maintaining a grip on an animal many times your size, especially when that animal specializes in throwing you off his back well before eight seconds has elapsed. That’s how long you have to remain on an animal, eight seconds—keeping proper form, keeping your free hand from touching anything, before the horn sounds and you have an official ride. Stands so excelled at completing his ride, Maria said his nickname was “the Eight Second Man.” “He was a good father,” Maria said. “He always came home to provide for us. He was a cowboy, but he was the most sweet and kind-hearted man. My mother (Helen Long Warrior) was very loyal and always right behind him. She was from Rosebud.”
The problem with being a successful performer, who earns enough to support a family, is you have to go to the rodeo. They seldom come to you. That means long road trips, sometimes weeks on end, lots of travel expenses, and separation from loved ones. It is not an easy life now, but much more difficult back in the days before cowboys could earn the kind of purses that result in the present day six figure incomes. A cowboy the caliber of Stands could possibly earn seven figures today, but the only evidence that survives of his skill and professionalism are black and white photos over half a century old, and incomplete records of placings and purses, and the stories those who knew him and saw him love to tell. The thing that stands out the most about Stands is the respect he had from his peers. You knew if you beat Homer Stands that was probably a ticket into your state’s rodeo hall of fame. “He kept himself very healthy,” Maria said. “When he was home, he was running. He was always there for all of us, and he always made sure my mother had a lot of love. He loved my mother so much, my mother was very beautiful.” “He also started drum groups,” Maria said. “The Sons of the Oglala, with Matthew Two Bulls.” Hubert Stands also talked about his father: “I was probably about eight-years-old last time he rode in Edgemont. He told me, ‘Son, the way I want to go is in the chute, at a rodeo.’ That was on his bucket list. He was a cowboy all the way.” “Our mother, she never wanted us to follow him (into rodeo),” Hubert said. “His fingers were always bent this way and that, and she didn’t want us to be that way. My dad rode with Casey Tibbs, and Jim Shoulders, and they were way up there.” Like Maria, Hubert remembers his father as an exceptional family man: “He was a loving man. He cared for his children and his grandchildren. Sometimes he would say, I know you are not listening now, but when you meet the time, you are gonna remember my advice.” “He was very proud to be the first Native in the RCA rodeo cowboy Hall of Fame,” Maria said. “He always made sure his belt buckles were nice and shiny, those were his pride and joy; his hat, his boots, make sure his rigging, his chaps were all ready.”
Stands had simple hobbies: hunting, fishing, cooking. “He loved to cook,” Maria said. She said her father “would always wake the boys up at 5:30, to take care of the horses.” Even after Stands was gone, and the family would get together, Maria said, “My brothers would wake up at five, because they are so used to doing that. They came to visit me and were knocking at my door, saying, ‘Wake up, let’s have coffee,’ but I said, no, it’s still dark out!” The Stands were surprised by how many people showed up for their father’s funeral, Maria said there were “hundreds” of people she didn’t even know her father knew. Hubert said, there were horses, and the horses seemed to sense the nature of the gathering: “The horses were hollering, stomping the ground. The horse spirits know.” Rodeo cowboys do not see an animal as an adversary, but a challenge, a relationship to be respected, but a Lakota cowboy like Stands shares his world with the animal he rides, and he does not try to conquer the spirit of the animal—he just strives to survive an elemental test of wills, as old as time itself, for just eight interminable seconds.