SM Fencing Lassoes win at Dunn County Fair’s Ranch Rodeo

Saturday’s blue skies and gentle, cooling breeze brought over 250 people to the Killdeer Rodeo Grounds for the 3rd annual “Day of the Cowboy Ranch Rodeo.”

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By Jennifer Strange

Nearly $30,000 was raised during the Dunn County Fair event.

The money came from sponsors, fairgoer donations, entry fees and the Calcutta, said rodeo announcer Wendell Vigen of Killdeer at the evening’s award ceremony at the High Plains Cultural Center (HPCC).

“The broncs weren’t all good, but then, they’re not all good,” Vigen said philosophically of the day’s Ranch Bronc Riding event. “What is all good is how the cultural center and Dunn County Fair Board did a great job today.”

Following a Chuckwagon Supper of baked beans, jalapeno corn, pulled pork and biscuits, the winners were announced. Vigen invited them all to the stage, beginning with the winning Ranch Rodeo team, SM Fencing of Dickinson. (See box for full results.) Linda Vigen and arena director Dean Olson presented each winner with a donated gift; many also received checks.

Earlier in the day, before the big money-raising Calcutta could occur, Vigen and co-announcer Gene Harris had called all the cowboys to gather in front of the Killdeer Rodeo Arena’s crow’s nest. The rodeo’s rules and regulations were explained and then the horses were released for a run.

The bucking broncos entered the arena in a great cloud of dust. The audience clapped and children pointed and oohed and aahed as the wild equines moved in synch through the grounds.

“They look gentle,” said Vigen to the folks in the grandstand and to the fans sitting on the grassy hill to the west. “But not that gentle.”

The Calcutta consisted of 12 teams. Auctioneer Abe Dillman of Grassy Butte kept the betting crowd on the edge of their seats. Dillman was assisted by HPCC Board President Terrald Bang and Seth Murphy, owner of SM Fencing.

After the Calcutta, Dunn County ranchers Tex and Pauline Appledorn were honored with a historical presentation about their lives on the High Plains. As their story was told, the Appledorns were pulled around the arena in a two-seated, horse-drawn wagon by Neil Hoots of Killdeer. The crowd applauded the family’s pioneering ways.

As the wagon exited, the rodeo cowboys rode in and lined up. The American flag waved from a crane supplied by Mitchell’s Oilfield Services/Wood Group PSN of Killdeer. Everyone in the arena removed their hats as tenor Clayton Severson, who is from Iowa and currently works in Killdeer, sang a resonant version of “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

The rodeo consisted of five events: Trailer loading, mounted shooting, team roping, water race and saddle bronc riding.

Killdeer Mountain Roundup Rodeo Arena is the oldest arena in the state of North Dakota. The grounds were first established eight miles north of town in 1923 and were moved to the current location, at the southwest corner of Killdeer, in the late 1940s.

Rex Cook, of the Westerheim area north of Sentinel Butte, has been here since the beginning. In 2010, Cook was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame as a Leader of Ranching & Rodeo. At age 87, he’s now the oldest team roper in the U.S. He rode in Friday’s Dunn County Fair team roping event.

“Rex also cuts horses and is a saddlemaker,” said Connie Hartman of Medora, who serves on the Billings County Historical Society and traveled to Killdeer with her husband, Steve, for the rodeo. “Our barn is full of nothing but Rex Cook saddles.”

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