Gerard "Bud" Story Burkhart (1927 – 2010)

Gerard “Bud” Story Burkhart was born in Hollywood, California, on September 8, 1927, to Harold de la Cuesta and Mayo (Story) Burkhart. Bud was the last great grandson of Nelson Story, father of the Montana cattle industry. Bud enjoyed the fact that the movie Lonesome Dove was loosely based on the Story cattle drive.

Bud and his mother moved back to Bozeman when he was two years old. He spent his childhood in Bozeman, attending school in the winter and working on the family ranch in the Gallatin Canyon in the summer. At the time World War II was being fought, Bud was sixteen years old. He wanted to be a part of the men and women who were serving his country. He convinced his mother to lie about his age, so the recruiter would let him enlist in the United States Navy. Bud was in the Pacific Theater, assigned to the Marine Corps as a radio operator. He was part of the invasion of Saipan, Tinian, Guam and Iwo Jima. Bud was wounded in battle and was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, and Presidential Unit Citation for the Asiatic Pacific Campaign with three Battle Stars and the World War II Victory Medal.

After receiving an honorable discharge, Bud returned to Bozeman and received his GED then attended Montana State College. While attending school, Bud worked as a government mule packer for the Geodetic Survey Crew, resurveying Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas. He also worked for the Elkhorn Dude Ranch in the Gallatin Canyon as a wrangler. He was a horse wrangler for the legendary stock contractor Leo Cremer. Bud made many trips from Cremer’s to Benny Binion’s ranch with bucking horses.

Bud married Mary Biering on June 22, 1951. They moved to the family ranch up the Gallatin Canyon. Bud decided that he wanted to continue his education and he and his young family moved to San Luis Obispo, California where he attended Cal Poly. Upon graduation, the family moved back to Bozeman. Bud joined his father-in-law Harold Biering in ranching east of Bozeman. They raised Hereford cattle and foundation quarter horses. As a lifetime member of the American Quarter Horse Association, Bud’s first stud was a son of the great horse Wimpy. Later Bud purchased a grandson of the legendary Poco Bueno, Mr. Blackburn 32 from the Blackburn Ranch, and bred him to foundation mares. Bud had a reputation for raising good, honest, cowy horses. He sold horses to ranches all over the United States and Mexico. Bud was especially proud of the fact that in 1980, for Disney’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary, two of his 4-in-hand teams were chosen by Disney to pull coaches and to lead the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California. His teams were used for many years in the Disney Park pulling coaches as well. In 1989, Bud and his family were honored by the Crow Nation to commemorate Nelson Story’s cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Bud and a descendant of Chief Plenty Coup drove a symbolic herd of cattle for the ceremony.

Bud was a member of the Rodeo Cowboys Association, the precursor to the PRCA, competing in saddle bronc and bareback events. He was a founding member of the Montana Rodeo Association, serving several years as the President. For many years, Bud was selected by rodeo committees to judge their rodeos and was well respected by the cowboys and cowgirls he judged. Bud enjoyed team roping and helped to form the Bozeman Roping Club with a group of friends who were always trying to beat the “best” time. Another one of Bud’s passions was the Montana Winter Fair held each January in Bozeman. Bud served as the President, as well as, the Horse Director for twenty-five years. In 1969, Bud helped to bring the National Collegiate Rodeo Finals to Bozeman. He was instrumental each year with production of the rodeo and helped to keep the Finals in Bozeman until 1997. He was selected to Judge the National Miss Collegiate Rodeo Contest several times and his horses were used each year for the horsemanship competition. Rodeo was one of Bud’s passions and he built an arena at the home ranch, including bucking chutes, to not only hone his skills but also mentor young rodeo contestants in the area. There were many days and evenings spent in that arena practicing, instructing, and enjoying the comradery of the sport of rodeo.

Bud was among a group of residents in the Fort Ellis area that decided that a fire fighting service was necessary. In July 29, 1969, the Fort Ellis Fire Corporation was formed. Bud was one of twenty-four members who began the Corporation. Their first fire engine was a 1942 International fire truck purchased for $1,500. The fire department is still in service today as the Fort Ellis Fire Service Area.

Bud was a strong Masonic brother, receiving his Fifty-Year Pin in the spring of 2010. He was Grand Commander of the Knights Templar for the State of Montana, Grand High Priest of the Royal Arch Masons, member of the Scottish Rite, the Algeria Shrine and the Wyoming Algeria Black Horse Patrol. The Black Horse Patrol served as honorary guards and participated in major parades across the country while Bud was a member. He was also a member of several honorary degrees. Bud helped many young men over the years through his work with the DeMolay Chapters and Degree work throughout the state of Montana.

Bud lived and worked on his ranch until his death on May 13, 2010. He was known as true cowboy. His word was his honor and a handshake was as good as a written contract. Bud was right there if a person was in a bind and needed a helping hand. He was quick with an endearing smile and had a flair for writing poetry about life’s events. Those poems and stories will keep Bud alive in our memories for many years to come.

Bud is buried in the Sunset Hills Cemetery in the Story Family plot, located in Bozeman, Gallatin County, Montana. Mary is still on the home place and stays active with the haying and horses. Bud’s children, Robert (Gloria), Clinton, and Kathryn (Marty) and their children are continuing the agriculture and western heritage that was Bud’s life.

Resources: Burkhart Family History