The story of Jack Budlong stands as a cautionary tale for anyone who watches a professional at work and thinks, "That doesn't look so hard — bet I could do that." In this case, the pro to be emulated was an actor; the "that" was riding a horse at breakneck speed for a movie. Budlong was a skilled horseman and polo-playing buddy of the screen star Errol Flynn. Out of friendship, Flynn got Budlong a role as an extra in his latest film, a fictionalized biopic of George Custer called "They Died With Their Boots On"[source: Gagliasso]. Budlong would appear in the climactic scene recreating the Battle of Little Bighorn. The filming's scheduled start, June 25, 1941, marked the 65th anniversary of the real event popularly known as Custer's Last Stand. For Budlong, that proved a bad omen.
For some reason – an amateur's enthusiasm? — Budlong decided to brandish a real saber, rather than a wooden prop other professional stuntmen used, while riding into the battle scene. When his horse spooked and reared, perhaps startled by an explosive, Budlong had the presence of mind to toss the saber away before the horse threw him. Unfortunately, the sword landed with the blade facing upward. Budlong landed on it, impaling himself. He was taken to the hospital where he died a few days later of peritonitis, an inflammation of the abdominal wall [source: Gagliasso].