We lost a neighbor this week. A cowboy. A one in a million kind of guy. Bob Christophersen.
In the Dakotas, you don’t have to live down the street or across the fence to be a neighbor. As Garrison Keillor once said, “North Dakota is really just a mid-size town with real long streets.” So when we lose someone we’ve known and loved it hurts.
One of the weekly news shows on Sunday mornings always closes with a segment aptly named “A Life Well-Lived.” That show could be about Bob.
Bob was a cowboy. A Hall of Fame cowboy. A steer wrestler. One of the best in history. He bulldogged steers from his mid-teens until he was 60 years old. He went to the NFR several times. When he was 17 years old he was already a professional. Competing against the best in the world, and many times beating them.
When Bob moved to North Dakota he became one of us. He was good for us. He made us better.
If things were going bad, Bob could bring a smile to your face. He could find something humorous in any situation. Whether it was a cattle wreck, a snowstorm, a drought…it didn’t matter. Bob could come up with a one-liner that made you smile.
And he was tough. Physically and mentally. I remember greeting him at our door a couple days after he had both knees replaced. Both knees. The same day. He walked up our driveway with his familiar big grin on his face. Standing a couple inches taller than he had a few days before. And with no cane or crutches. I’ve never had a knee replaced. But I know that anyone who has both knees replaced and walks a day later with a grin on their face is tough.
Bob was a dad that raised two good men. And countless other neighbor kids. He taught them how to steer wrestle. If a kid wanted to be a steer wrestler, Bob would mount you and haze for you. And if you had a wreck, you would learn to laugh about it. I wouldn’t dare guess how many steers he ran for kids. But it was a bunch.
I never rodeoed with Bob. I’m not or never was that tough. But you couldn’t set down with anyone that traveled in the 70s, 80s, or 90s that didn’t have a story about Bob.
He was always looking for a deal. On anything. Whether it was a piece of machinery or a meal. The cowboys that traveled with him will tell you of stopping at an “all you can eat” buffet. By the time Bob quit rodeoing, I would venture he was banned from most buffets from Pendleton to Pensecola. He was legendary.
Bob was a rancher. He was born to be a rancher. I saw Bob a couple weeks ago at a cattle sale. He and Eunice had brought a couple of bum calves to Dickinson to sell. They had three cows killed by a lightning strike. The cows were standing under a tree during a thunderstorm. Bob said he could only find two of the calves. But with his big grin, he said, “The other one could be under the dead cows, but they were a little ripe, and he didn’t think it would do any good to look.” He was built to ranch.
A life well-lived. RIP my friend.