By Nelseena Lehmann / Horseman’s Corner
Somewhere in the middle of Nebraska, this girl decided to have a saddle shop and then because of where she lived, she decided that perhaps mobile would be the answer. Along those lines a business was born and more importantly, a wealth of friendships were made and continue to thrive at this time.
One of those friendships seemed inevitable from the very start. This feller was easily noticed. He was confident, but not boastful. I could tell by the way he shaped his hat and the rig that he drove and the way he set a horse, it was not just horseshow riding, it was years of riding. Chasing cows, riding broncs, cold mornings and late nights horseback. This one was different, not better or worse, just different.
Ironically, I had never met him before. Later we found out we had traveled a lot of the same trails and new some of the same people and had been in lots of the same country, but we had not crossed trails. His best friend was a feller that my sister held in highest regard. She had spoke of him and talked about him in the best light. She loved his family, his wife was a wonderful woman and she had told me of his tragic passing. Tom Whipplinger was sorely missed by many people and he was a reined cow horse guy in Nebraska.
I had just encountered his best rodeo and horse show buddy. Bruce Keller was the confident and driven man in the black hat, riding a coon tailed sorrel horse. The horse and the man seemed much alike in many respects, and I watched the duo around several shows. I spoke to him in passing and he would speak with a winning smile and a quiet demeanor.
One day after we had exchanged pleasantries at several shows throughout the season. Bruce came to my trailer and he pulled up a lawn chair in the shade and we chatted. What a great guy, he told me about his daughter and his wife and how supportive they were of his adventures as a horse trainer. He talked about Tom and I found it ironic that my sister and Tom were friends and it seemed that Bruce and I were becoming fast friends as well.
We talked about horses and religion and politics and all the things that you aren’t supposed to talk about because of the controversy. However, we were like minded enough that it didn’t seem to phase us.
As the show seasons came and went and Bruce and Einstein seemed to have so many successes and accomplishments, it was such a great time to watch him win with that coon tailed stud horse.
One day I talked to Bruce before he was going in to show. He only had to just be clean to get a check, but in true Bruce fashion, which he relates to his days of riding broncs around the great Bill Smith, he was always charging for the front end. Going for the win… and win he did. I made the comment that he had just engineered a Tin Cup moment. Bruce did not know who Tin Cup was, so when I got home, I found a dvd for sale and sent it to him. Tin Cup is a Kevin Costner, Cheech Marin golf movie and I still love it to this day. Find a chance to watch it, you will enjoy. Ever since my friend has always been fondly known as TinCup and it makes me smile.
Bruce has done clinics and judged and all manner of things, but the best has been that he’s my friend. He has done much for me, he showed me how to run a check rope and he has taught me so much about a horse and he taught me Smokey Circles. Just my everyday riding horses have benefited from the lessons and the wisdom of my friend, my mentor, my very own Tin Cup.