Former local rancher in ND hall of fame

Former Halliday rancher Leo Sorensen was among those inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Each year, nominees are chosen from a field of candidates submitted by the general public. Fourteen finalists in five categories were recommended for consideration this year for their contribution to North Dakota’s history and western culture. The final group of inductees were determined by North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame trustees through a ballot process.

Sorensen was inducted in the Pre-1940s Rodeo category.

The other 2017 North Dakota Hall of Fame inductees are: Clarence H. Parker (Great Westerner); Paul Christensen (Cowboy Long Rider); Herb Birdsall (Pre-1940s Ranching); James Louis Connolly (Modern-era Ranching);  Denver Jorgenson (Modern-era Rodeo); Brenda Lee Pickett (Modern-era Rodeo); and the White Earth Valley Saddle Club (Special Achievement).

Formal recognition for this year’s inductees will commence Friday, June 23rd, with a dinner to be held at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora. The induction ceremony follows on Saturday, June 24th, at Tjaden Terrace, also in Medora.

Sorensen was born to pioneer parents on their farm north of Garrison on March 30, 1909.

He lived his entire life in North Dakota.

He was destined from the beginning to be a cowboy. He went on his first cattle drive while attending grade school, helping move cattle from north of Garrison to the Fort Berthold Reservation. That was the first of many cattle drives and horse roundups over the next several decades.

At age 17, he began leasing land in Dunn County for his cattle. At age 21, Sorensen started ranching northwest of Halliday where he made his home in a one-room dugout.

He kept his pet bull snake, “Ole Joe,” in his dugout to kill packrats. He preferred a bull snake to a cat in the house.

In 1956, Sorensen began experimenting with raising animals not common to the area.

He raised buffalo, highlanders, long horns, Galloway, Brahma and Afrikander cattle.

He was a rodeo judge for near 50 years and worked rodeos throughout North Dakota.

He loved team roping, an event he competed in well into his 70’s. Leo was known as “The Judge” and was proud of his two Indian names – “Moccasin Foot” and “Hawk Face.”

He collected saddles, spurs and guns and crafted spurs, bridles and diamond willow canes. He was a member of the Great Plains.

Indian Rodeo Association, the Galloway Breeders Association, the National Bit, Spur and Saddle Association, the North Dakota Rodeo Association, Roughriders Rodeo of North Dakota and the National Hall of Fame. He was a featured and charter member in 50 Years in the Saddle.

Leo passed away in December 2000 at the age of 91. The 18th Annual Garrison Rodeo gave tribute to Leo the following summer by featuring the empty saddle and awarding silver buckles to team roping winners which were designed and created by Leo’s grand-nephew, Scott Sorensen. An auction of his personal belongings brought collectors from around the country to see and purchase a part of North Dakota history.

Leo would have been very proud to be considered for induction to the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.


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