BELLE FOURCHE | Sculptor T.R. Chytka is staying busy, immortalizing rodeo's best riders in bronze.
Last month he attended the unveiling of his third and final statue for the Casey Tibbs South Dakota Rodeo Center’s Johnny Smith Memorial Sculpture Garden, as part of the center's 10-year anniversary.
Joining his statues of South Dakota rodeo legends Casey Tibbs and Billy Etbauer is a bronze of Clint Johnson of Spearfish, portraying Johnson’s second-round ride on Kicking Bear during the 1985 National Finals Rodeo, according to a release.
“They picked three subjects that were the winning-est cowboys in South Dakota,” said Chytka, who was joined by Johnson for the unveiling, surrounded by their families and roughly 150 other guests at the Fort Pierre center.
Tibbs, born north of Fort Pierre in 1930, became the youngest man (19) ever to win a national saddle bronc riding championship and a six-time saddle bronc championship (1949-55).
He was also a two-time All-Around Cowboy titlist, and won a bareback riding title as well. He died in 1990.
Etbauer, a Huron native, won five saddle bronc titles while competing with brothers Robert and Dan. He is retired and raises quarter horses in Edmund, Okla.
Johnson, a 1974 Spearfish High School grad, won four saddle bronc titles, 1980, and 1987-1989. He also won the state saddle bronc title and won saddle bronc, bareback and all-around titles at South Dakota State University.
Chytka said sculpting the three legends, along with his many rodeo-themed works of art, including trophies and awards for the Black Hills Stock Show, Central States Fair and National Finals Rodeo, has allowed him document riders who have had a great impact on his life.
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Chytka made the bronze trophies for the inaugural Xtreme Broncs Finals event at the Fair two weeks ago.
“Three-dimensionally, I’m recording my own lifetime. Most of the people that have been my subjects I’ve actually known through life and that’s been really gratifying,” he said.
Chytka first began sculpting in high school, working with clay models fired as ceramics. He also worked his way through college at Black Hills State University selling some of his early ceramic works at Wall Drug Store in Wall and at Duhamel’s Western Store in Rapid City.
He now operates his own foundry at his studio near Belle Fourche.
Chytka’s own rodeo experiences give him a special background for his sculptures.
“I got to see it from all different angles, especially from the ground up. What the dirt looks like and tastes like, all that good stuff,” he said.
Chytka’s bronzes of Johnson, Tibbs, and Etbauer are available for purchase through the Casey Tibbs South Dakota Rodeo Center, located on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River at Fort Pierre.
The public is welcome to visit the sculpture garden and the museum at the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center year-round.