“I’m Old School”
Stitching on his weathered cap is telltale notice.
If one isn’t immediately aware, within short order, it becomes quite apparent those three words are the most concise description possible.
Not only because Stan Seuser proudly repeats the self-description, “I’m old school,” frequently, but because his philosophical lifestyle, vast collections and agricultural operations and interests all back it up time and again.
“I never cared that much for history in school, but even in my early adulthood I became interested in things that had happened in the area and around the country,” the Salina cowboy reflected.
“Now, I have memorabilia all relating to an earlier period. I’ve been accumulating this for many years now, but I really wished I would have started earlier.
“There are things I had an opportunity to acquire, didn’t realize their worth at the time, and so wish I had them now” added Seuser, more recognizable in that cap than a cowboy hat, but yet with record proven undeniable cowboy achievements and continuing way of life.
“There are so many people, and especially the younger generation, who don’t have a clue about their ancestry, hardships this country went through, and what little, actually very simple things, there was to work with, survive and sometimes even prosper,” evaluated Seuser in his unending deep-thoughtfulness.
In a rural community development of nearly four decades, Rocky Knoll Appaloosas, clearly identified by the gate overhead, is known for high quality horses produced and shown to local and statewide recognition by Stan Seuser, his wife Beverly, and their now grown sons Russell, Chad and Justin, each with noteworthy printable stories of their own.
Yes, there are a handful of champion Appaloosas in corrals as one enters through the cedar tree windbreak into the barnyard and to the doorstep where one knock on the ranch home door is answered by: “Come on in.”
Inside the warm, but crowded home: “What do you want to see?” the host questioned. Just an instant eyes’ blink verified there would be plenty.
Of course, Appaloosas, but menagerie semblance of a county fair petting zoo with “all those other little critters,” the Longhorn cowherd with “big black heavy muscled calves,” and two metal buildings stuffed with anything and everything else Western and historically of interest to just about anybody.
Attempt to list it all would literally be impossible, because numbers truly are in the millions, but suffice to say there’s at least 150 saddles, more than 500 spurs, hundreds of bits, much more, related, or unrelated, whichever, whatever.
Fortunately, Beverly, wife of 48 years, takes a liking to the possessions and has her own tokens too, specifically thousands of horse show ribbons and trophies, and one of the nearest-to- complete Breyer plastic horse collections one could find anywhere, numbering well into the hundreds, too.
“I’ve been keeping my Breyer horses in their original boxes since I’ve found out that increases the value to collectors,” she noted.
“We do like to go to sales, antique stores and follow the internet to find more relics,” Stan insisted.
“It’s harder to buy at sales anymore. People are finding out how valuable some of this stuff, they used to think was ‘just junk,’ really is these days,” he admitted.
“I’m retired, have been for seven years, support my habits with my cows, pensions and all these possessions, they’re what’s profitable,” Seuser spoofed. “But, Beverly still works fulltime, been at Triangle Trucking for 30 years, so she has her spending money, too. That way we don’t have qualms over what we get, if one of us wants something.”
Wife Bev questioningly inserts, “The problem is what are we going to do with anything else?”
“Keeping open water is a big deal these days with all of these thirsty mouths,” insisted Seuser as he pointed out the Appaloosas, including their service stallion; Stormin’ Norman his soccer playing mule; ’coon dog acquired to reignite his lifelong affection for that nightlife sport; at least four more dogs, including those inside and outside the home; and all the rest.
“I had a great ’coon hunting mule, Missy for a number of years. She’d go anywhere and jump right over any fence we’d come to out in the pasture or timber. That’s about as much fun as I can think of,” Seuser insisted.
There’s a yard full of guineas on their own making presence apparent by squawking, five Bard Rock black speckled hens that supply ranch egg needs although the cold snap has curtailed laying, ducks, geese, lamas, sheep, goats, Baxter the donkey, miniature horse, and what else?
How many are there? “I don’t know. Too many sometimes when the water’s all frozen, and they’re wanting their breakfast and supper,” Seuser admitted.
Do they all have names? “Something or other, depends if I can remember, and the day and the situation,” he rumored.
“We use the eggs, but we don’t eat anything else we produce here. It was always difficult for the whole family when we’d have to sell their 4-H calves,” Dad Seuser frowned.
Then, emphatically the capped cowboy contended: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Fourteen miles in the classic pickup through scenic Saline-Ellsworth county countryside past historic Brookville to near Ellsworth, Seuser steps out to open the barbed wire gate to his quarter section pasture where 15 picture-perfect, rainbow-colored Longhorn cows, with long uniquely curved ‘antlers,’ barely look up as five big round hay bales in feeders assure they aren’t hungry.
But, instantly when Seuser shakes that cube sack, the herd, with big solid black heavy muscled calves, and their daddy, a five-year-old registered Angus bull estimated to weigh about 2,500 pounds, are all anxious to get their fair share of the treats they’ve become accustomed from their owner’s visits about every other, or third day.
“Watch out for Snowball. She’ll get in your pocket, if you’re not careful. We had Snowball in the kitchen warming her up as a baby, so she thinks she’s one of us. She is my favorite,” contended Seuser, as he rubbed the neck on the big white cow with her own trophy horn set.
“Started the herd in 1993; they’re all registered Longhorn cows. I raised Longhorn calves for several years, sold some breeding cattle and had a good demand for them to rope, too. But, this black bull has made it easier to sell the calves for a higher return. Only pulled one calf since I’ve had cattle. The calves weigh good, go right through the sale barn, even top the market sometimes,” owner revealed with obvious satisfaction, noting the couple of nearby purebred Longhorn heifers to guarantee continuation of the breed, for which he’s known.
“I keep my intact male llama Buckshot with the cowherd to protect the newborn calves,” Seuser showed.
Quick check of the windmill verified running warm water available all of the time, further enhancing seemingly-charming life of the overfed Seuser cowherd, also with liquid protein tubs, versus neighboring herds that have to graze dried grass and lick frozen pond water for their keep.
“I kinda like ’em,” insisted Seuser, almost grudgingly driving out the gate.
Nonstop reflections continued: “I was raised on a farm at Sterling, had to hand milk 16 cows, and got my first horse, a white mare called Babe, for $50 with a saddle. I hand pumped water for a neighbor for a dollar a day and paid for Babe all by myself. She was a good riding horse,” remembered Seuser, a 1961 high school graduate.
Managing the Tractor Supply store at Hutchinson initially, Seuser has fond memories of when transferred to Kansas City, where he took over the Tractor Supply affiliate in the stockyards district.
“That was a great time. The stockyards was still thriving then, not like 40 years earlier, but it was a terminal market, packers were nearby, the cowboys would come to town to sell their cattle, shop at Shipley’s Saddlery across the street from my store, then stop in there, before going to the Golden Ox next door for dinner.
“I wish I could have recorded all of the stories I heard. I have some Shipley saddles in my collection; they’re my favorites. But, I could have had more keepsakes from those ‘good ole days,’ if I’d just realized how valuable they’d become to me in later years,” Seuser sentimentally recalled.
Back to Tractor Supply at Hutchinson, Seuser was drafted, served in the National Guard, the Houser unit at Great Bend, but when called to active duty was honorably discharged for his eyesight.
“My right eye was damaged by rays from a movie theatre projector not long after I got out of high school, and it just kept getting worse until I lost my sight. I’ve had some trouble with my left eye, but it’s good now, even though I use dime store glasses for reading,” Seuser related.
One wouldn’t know it by guessing or looking, but Seuser was perhaps best known as a rock-and-roll guitarist and band leader during The Beatles era, with album pictures showing such semblance one might initially think he was in their group.
“I played rhythm guitar, then lead guitar, and couldn’t ever keep a base player, so I took that up. Still have my Fender base guitar; it’s really a collectible. I’ve seen ones like it advertised for $25,000. Mine’s not for sale,” Seuser claimed.
As band members rotated, so did the name change. “We were The Bellaire’s, Gary and the Capris, The Fabulous Gents. We got Union wages, could make $50 a night, that was a good gig in those days. We even recorded one record, “Inner Sanctum;” only had a few copies made, so it never went gold,” Seuser smiled.
But, when the band was playing at the Lamplighter Club, a pretty farm girl from Glendale took special note of the base player.
“Bev (Breer) came up and started talking to me, we had a double date, and the rest is history. Now, she’ll say it wasn’t quite the way I remember it, but we’ve been married 48 years,” told Seuser, grin broadening.
After a quarter of a century in Tractor Supply management, rating a wall filled with sales achievement recognitions, Seuser operated an automotive parts store in partnership for a while, and then retired after 10 years as head of maintenance for the Solomon school district.
“Those were good years, too, getting to be around the students, and I was there long enough to qualify for that state retirement fund, which is a nice supplement to my IRAs,” he admitted.
When first married, the couple didn’t have any horses; “We had a trailer before we had a horse,” Seuser claimed.
But, they soon developed a mutual attraction to Appaloosas for their uniqueness and diverse abilities, made some initial purchases, had limited successes, further pursued showing, developed a breeding program, and became well known for their Rocky Knoll Appaloosas.
“We’ve all showed in the Eastern Kansas Horseman’s Association, won lots of awards, and in the Kansas Appaloosa Association, some national events, and the kids at one time or another won about everything they could in 4-H competitions.
“We’ve had leadership positions in all of the horse groups at some point. Bev’s been the county 4-H horse leader for many years, now is the district 4-H leader, and helps out with all of the district, and state 4-H shows, as well as of course the Tri Rivers Fair here in Salina. She still competes and wins in the EKHA shows,” Seuser verified.
They’ve collected horseshow honors in all performance and speed divisions, and at a time had an Appaloosa for pleasure driving, accumulating accolades in those classes, too.
Living in Salina, the couple acquired their 11 acres home place west of town in what might be called a rural Saline County development area in 1977.
“There wasn’t anything here. We built our home, and have added all of the other barns and facilities,” Seuser said.
Their 35-acre tract near the airport was acquired by the city in the early ’90s, when Seuser got the opportunity to purchase his cow pasture.
“It’s all worked out well. Let’s look at some of my collectibles,” invited Seuser, opening the door to one of the red metal buildings, with barely a path, actually only if one imagines so, and inside, an inkling is given of what actually is collected: “everything.”
“I guess you’d have to say my main thing is saddles. I have more than 150 of them. Oh, there’s people who have more, but I don’t know if there’s anyone with a broader range. I have lots of Cavalry and even Civil War saddles. There’s everything from every time period here, all sizes, shapes, conditions, disciplines, you name it, even have a camel saddle, ” Seuser said.
“My favorite would have to be this Civil War officer’s McClellan mule saddle. It is complete, blanket, bridle, bedroll, canteen, sword, scabbard, everything. I’d have to say I’m as proud of it as anything I have,” he showed.
A number of silver mounted parade saddles, several by the famous maker Ted Flowers, are eagerly pointed out, as are two white leather parade saddles. “This white Hereford saddle is really a rare collector’s item,” Seuser said.
While Seuser has done minor saddle and tack repair, along with leather craft work, and designed and constructed horse sleigh bell neckpieces, little of any of that is done these days.
Bits are scattered everywhere, with about every shape and size of mouthpiece and cheek dimension one could envision. “These Civil War bits and the U.S. Cavalry bits with insignia and numbers are rare and quite valuable to me, and would be to most collectors,” Seuser evaluated.
“I’m a Custer fanatic. I have a lot of biographical material about George Custer. But, Will Rogers and John Wayne are my heroes, too. I have lots and lots of books, history books, horse books, collectors’ books. I like books, and I’d like to have time to read them all. I might get around to that sometime,” Seuser claimed.
“Of course, I prefer a matching pair, but there are lots of single spurs here. Anytime, I see a spur, I do my best to acquire it,” Seuser assured.
Various bridles and headstalls are displayed with large framed displays of vintage and some more modern day glass bridle rosettes. Chaps from a century or more ago are highlighted by a pair Seuser had made from a tanned buffalo hide.
Okay, where does it all begin and end? There’s no end. Several horse drawn vehicles from elaborate-parade-ready carriages to family collectibles, including a 1861 spring wagon, to parts and pieces that could be compiled into drawn vehicles of value are strewn throughout.
Antique tractors including a 1948 John Deere MT that Seuser used in developing roadways for the home are displayed beside more modern implements previously operated for limited farming, typically harvesting and baling hay for the livestock
There are many branding irons, dozens of kerosene lamps, more blow torches than one has ever seen, larger accumulations of barbed wire than most collectors could imagine, frames and frames of every size and shape arrowheads from several tribes.
“I have hundreds of belt buckles, a complete set of Hesston buckles,” Seuser showed dozens of display cases.
Western merchandize posters, movie theatre signs, along with many autographed photos of Western movie stars and horse training clinicians are displayed on all walls, hallways and staircases.
While Beverly’s Breyer horse collection counts into the hundreds, there are about every other imaginable horse toy one could ever find, as well as horse lamps, several carousel horses and even stick horses.
“I’ve always been a sports fanatic and have one room almost filled with sports memorabilia. We were really into collecting basketball cards at one time, so there’s lots of them,” said Seuser, as he showed several family albums featuring his sons participating in athletic events from a young age up through college and adulthood.
Farm toys, many in their original boxes, take up considerable storage space in another room, too.
Hundreds of knives have been collected, but likely most valuable of the possessions are the firearms, rifles, shotguns, handguns, all safe in gun vaults. “I have a special edition John Wayne lever action Winchester that has to be my most prized gun,” Seuser said.
Vacation time is often collecting time for the Seuser couple. “We go to sales all around, really like the Wild West Collectors shows, have been several times to the weeklong Amish horse and merchandise sale at Waverly, Iowa. That’s just a great time. But, we went to the Kentucky Derby last year, and that was quite an experience, too,” he said.
Like many collectors, after constructing two display buildings, Seuser soon found out “They weren’t big enough.” Now that everything’s full and running over, are additional structures in the plans?
“No. We’d just fill them up, too,” insisted Seuser, yet no indication of slowdown in expanding the most diverse compilations.
“Live, Laugh, Love” is the appropriate kitchen wall hanging, as Stan Seuser lives life to the fullest, laughs a whole lot, even sometimes about himself, and obviously loves it all, his wife, his family, his critters, millions of keepsakes.
“Different strokes, different strokes. Like Will Rogers said, ‘I never met a fellow I didn’t like, just some more than others,’ and some a lot less than the rest. I love that history stuff, that’s for sure.
“I’m old school. Damn proud of it,” no question about Stan Seuser.
“I’m old. I like old,” he concluded.