One of my favorite events of the year is the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame banquet. It has been held at the 7 Seas in Mandan for several years. It is a chance to enjoy a great meal, great speaker, and great friends. Friends you’ve rodeoed and ranched with for a lifetime. And this year was no exception.
Some of the old-time cowboys were there. Dale Little Soldier, Pete Fredericks, Willard Schnell, Rodney Nelson…Wait, he’s not an old-time cowboy, he’s my age! Holy bucking horse Batman! I’m getting a little long in the tooth.
The banquet stirred up a lot of memories from the past 40 years or so of competing, producing, and announcing rodeos. Jim Thompson, the speaker, talked of announcing circuit finals rodeos, the NARC finals (that’s National Amateur Rodeo Commission, not like a rodeo for narcotic-addicted cowboys, although there was maybe a few there), and the National Finals Rodeo. I was thinking of announcing a rodeo at New Town with a handful of spectators, freezing as snow drifted across the arena. They had to be dedicated. I thought of announcing Hettinger with the spotlight off the firetruck the only arena lighting as the rodeo stretched into the darkness. I thought of announcing Blaisdell from a crow’s nest that was built for Walt Bieri, who only stood about 5’8.” Jim talked of announcing and meeting men like Jim Shoulders, Casey Tibbs, and Larry Mahan. I thought of hundreds of high school contestants I had the opportunity to watch grow up and become farmers and ranchers and teachers and nurses!
We talked about bucking horses like Jake, Anchors Aweigh, and Tom Collins. We talked of bulls like Top Hand, Inky Dink, and Tornado. The horses and bulls bucked better as the night wore on. But we rode better too, so it was great.
Don Schmidt mentioned the rodeo where Shirley had to put down her secretary’s pencil and jump on a horse and be a pickup man (woman) when one of our regular pickup men was injured in a wreck. We dang near got a section of horses broke to ride because Shirley didn’t want to get close to a bucking horse, and none of the cowboys wanted to be picked off by the other pickup man!
We talked of hauling a load of Brahma bulls and a handful of Mexican steers down the road at night and the lights going off in the truck. I hit the brakes and got it stopped, right side up, but those little Mexican steers all ended up down under the bulls. And I had to crawl in the back of that truck and tail up those steers, while Shirley held a flashlight and screamed at me.
We talked of coming home from a rodeo in the middle of the night and I was played out from rodeoing, and maybe a little other stuff. So I had the semi lined out on 23 just south of Minot. I set the throttle and did a switch- on-the-go with Shirley. I told Shirley to just hold it steady and wake me up before New Town. She didn’t. And she didn’t shift real good. So we were going through New Town at about 60 mph in the middle of the night. Traffic was lighter years ago.
Shirley got pulled over by a New Town police officer. She climbed down out of that truck. Did I mention she was about 10 months pregnant? The cop shined his light on her. Then he shined his light on the Brahma bulls in the bottom of that truck, shook his head, and got in his car and left!
The Cowboy Hall of Fame is up and running! See you there in the summer!