How much do you know about rodeo? Not much?
It’s surprising how little North Dakotans know about a sport that is one of the most attended in the world, just behind soccer, by both city dwellers and country folk.
It’s even more surprising when you realize that it is a sport that has flourished in our back yard for many decades and one that has so often been dominated by our own people, nationally.
In the ’50s and ’60s, from New York to Los Angeles, North Dakotan Alvin Nelson, the 1957 saddle-bronc riding champion, and his band of North Dakota buddies, including Jim and Tom Tescher, Duane Howard, Dean Armstrong, Joe Chase, Pete Fredericks, Bob Aber and so many more, were the best of the best in rodeo, nationally.
Then in the ’80s, along came perhaps the greatest saddle-bronc rider of all time, from Marshall. His name was Brad Gjermundson. He won everything there was to win in rodeo long before he ever put a razor to his face. And even President Ron Reagan knew him and wrote him a letter.
Still, you could ask almost anyone in Fargo who he is and they wouldn’t have a clue. Then again, most people in Fargo don’t know where Dickinson is.
Wayne Herman, our 1992 World Champion bareback bronc rider, was once asked how he got into rodeo. He said that he didn’t really get into rodeo. He simply did in the rodeo arena what they were already doing at the ranch.
“Son, you need to go a bunch of rodeos,” someone said to Herman.
“Why?” Herman asked.
“Because you’re very good,” they said.
“I am?” Herman asked.
He proved he was by going to the National Finals Rodeo, the Super Bowl of rodeo, 12 times. People who go to the NFR 12 times are few and far between. But how many North Dakotans east of Bismarck know who Wayne Herman is?
It is also interesting to note how many North Dakotans have never been to Medora. After all, one quick exit off of Interstate 94 and a jaunt over the hill will earn you a panoramic view good enough to make the rest of the state look like an asphalt parking lot by comparison. Why would you want to miss that?
There are few other places like it in the state or the nation for that matter, except for the rest of the badlands.
Still there are more license plates from Minnesota parked on Medora’s streets on an average weekend than there are from North Dakota. And that’s despite the fact that those Minnesotans have 10,000 lakes. Do they know something we don’t?
We’ve all heard it said that we don’t know what we have until it is gone. That’s true. But it’s also true that a lot of us know what we have ... we just don’t think that we’ll ever lose it. Don’t be so sure.