Justin Koehler is a storyteller; a son of South Dakota … a land that inspires people to carve famous white leaders, famous native leaders and horses into the mountaintops. It’s a place with a richer, more crucial history than school books will ever teach. It’s a place that breeds legends, but what are legends without the storyteller?
Justin has skills and a soul captured by the need to tell the story of the flamboyant South Dakota bronc rider that all of America and half of Europe fell in love with in an era gone by, Casey Tibbs. He plans to do that with the help of 25 year old PRCA Bronc Riding Finalist Cole Elshere in the saddle. Elshere is also a South Dakota native, from the bronc riding town of Faith.
“I mean, who WAS this kid? His family was hard working, dirt poor and starving. His dad drilled into his head to never get around those rodeo bums. So at 14, he rides to town, enters and wins the bronc riding. A year later, he had a job trailing rodeo stock out of Ft. Pierre and by 19, he was a world champion,” Justin mused. “He dressed like a Dude, and not just any Dude … a flashy Dude. Nudie suits, purple silk, fancy cars and beautiful women. All in a world where bronc riders before him were stoic men, men of very few words.”
A media darling, Casey would be asked over and over what it felt like to ride the wild horses. He’d flash that grin, and with that faraway bronc rider’s flinty look he’d say ‘Floating horses. That’s what they do …. that’s what I do with them. It’s the same feeling as dancing with the prettiest girl, the best dancer in the hall.”
Casey Tibbs could make everybody feel it. He had that rare something that won hearts for a profession either not well known or looked upon negatively from bad press, a few bad actors and a world who’s values were shifting, even in the late ‘50s. Casey brought the public back to bronc riding and did it with style.
Justin Koehler’s first documentary film was about James ‘Scotty’ Philip, the Scottish immigrant to the United States who made it his mission to reestablish the buffalo after the tragic, national effort to eliminate them in his new country. By 1885, only 500 bison remained in the United States, down from the estimated population of 31,000,000 in 1868.
Like the legendary bronc rider himself, Koehler has a vision and is working to see Floating Horses: The Life of Casey Tibbs. As well, received by the film festival circuit, Public Broadcasting and viewers. You can find the page on Facebook or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org