North Dakota Cowboy hall of fame inductees announced for 2012
Ryan Summerlin June 1, 2012
The ballots have been cast and the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame (NDCHF) Trustees have identified seven individuals, one rank horse and a ranch renowned for their expansion of the beef market across the European countryside to be inducted in to the Hall of Honorees.
Ceremonies for the inductees selected for the Hall of Honorees will be in Medora, ND, on June 22-23. Activities for the latest inductees begin with a special reception to Honor the Honorees at the NDCHF-Center of Western Heritage and Cultures on June 22. Tickets for this reception, meal and entertainment are limited to 250 guests and must be made prior to June 22, by calling the NDCHF Medora Center at 701-623-2000.
Activities continue June 23, with the induction program at the Tjaden Terrace, in Medora. Entertainment begins at 12:00 p.m. (MST).
The 2012 inductees include:
Leaders of Ranching and Rodeo
Walter Piehl, Senior – Born in Marion, ND, and lifelong rodeo enthusiast, Piehl started buying horses at Miles City, MT, in the early 1950s for saddle and rodeo prospects. He eventually partnered with Olaf Berg, of Kathryn, ND, and began producing local rodeos in the early 1960s. Piehl incorporated as Dakota Rodeo and bought out the Utke rodeo bulls of Fargo. He produced NDRA rodeos and supplied stock for other producers for PRCA, NDRA and open rodeos in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota for 15 years. Piehl was generous with his time and financial support to neighbors, friends and rodeo.
Anchors Aweigh – In 1971, Clarence Wirtz brought him into town to be tried out at the Blaisdell NDRA Rodeo because he didn’t appear to be cut out for regular ranch duties. Maybe he was meant to be a bucking horse. He bucked in the bareback and saddle-bronc events that day, and the Figure Four Rodeo Company out of Watford City, ND, purchased the standard-bred for $100. He proved to be a good investment. “Anchors” dominated the saddle-bronc riding scene in North Dakota for two decades. He was NDRA Saddle Bronc of the Year several times and, in 1982, he earned the “Most Outstanding Saddle Bronc Horse” title at the North American Rodeo Commission Finals in Denver, earning his owner $1,000.
Norman “Peg” O’Neil – From the Mercer County area, Peg O’Neil has been dubbed the “Father” of the idea of the NDRA and served as its first president. He also worked tirelessly with Dr. George Christensen to get the Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo off the ground. He was a charter member and first president of the NDRA in 1953. The NDRA established the “Peg O’Neil Rookie of the Year” buckle in 2001 in his honor. In 1993, Governor Edward T. Schafer commended the NDRA and O’Neil for the leadership and support of the sport of rodeo in North Dakota.
Pete Pelissier – This Medora cowboy worked at the Eaton Brothers’ Custer Trail Ranch and the HT Ranch owned by A.C. Huidekoper. The Little Missouri Horse Company was considered the world’s largest horse outfit at the time, and he was a top-notch roper. Pelissier married Harriet Eaton and they built a ranch on Sully Creek where they raised four children. Theodore Roosevelt was a friend and ranching associate. Pelissier served as sheriff of Billings County, and then created a Wild West Show that he took to many important events around the state, traveling along the route of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The entourage even performed as far east as Boston. The specialty acts and Pelissier’s sense of showmanship and style were well received; he was called the “Buffalo Bill of the Missouri Slopes”.
Newton Burr, Sr. – Born at Elbowoods, Burr was a member of the Prairie Chicken Clan of the Four Clan and a child of the Flint Knife Clan. He was raised near Mandaree and educated in Elbowoods. He entered his first rodeo at age 14, at Burr Crows Breast Rodeo in 1944, placing first in the bareback event. From that time on, he entered rodeos wherever and whenever he had the chance. He won his first saddle-bronc championship at the same rodeo in 1945 and first place in the steer-wrestling event at the 1949 Sanish Rodeo. By the time he was 17, Burr had first places in three events. He joined the PRCA in 1950 and won his first bareback belt buckle at the Sanish Rodeo. In 1961, Burr retired from riding and moved to Texas, where he made a living doing welding. He resumed riding broncs in 1966 and was the Central Rodeo Association saddle-bronc champ of Texas, in 1967. He got his PRCA card again in 1969, and won the Mesquite Saddle-bronc Championship. That year, Burr also won the Jim Shoulders Championship Rodeo saddle-bronc division and was featured in the Western Horseman magazine. He didn’t hang up his spurs until he was 53, after winning five championship saddles. In 1989, he retired from rodeo and moved back to New Town, ND. He was a master craftsman and owned Newt’s Saddle Shop, where he made custom saddles, leatherwork items and horsehair braiding. After his death on July 22, 2006, his memory was honored with a Memorial Bull and Bronc Bash at Four Bears Casino
Bob Christophersen – He began wrestling steers at youth rodeos in 1959, competed in high school and college rodeo and earned his RCA card in 1967. Christophersen qualified for six NFRs in the 1970s, winning the average in 1971 and 1975. He lived on what he earned on the rodeo circuit during the 1970s. After a stint as a welder that allowed him time off to travel to PRCA events, Christophersen operated Big Sky Hitches in Glendive. He coached the rodeo team at Dawson College while in Montana, and also mentored his sons and their friends in the sport. After he remarried in 1989, Christophersen and his wife, Eunice, moved to a spread west of Grassy Butte where he ranches and continues to participate in PRCA-Badlands Circuit and NDRA events.
Angus Bell – Bell was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1876. His parents moved to Jamestown, ND, when he was young. At age 15, he went out west to Medora and got a job breaking horses at the Eaton Brothers Dude Ranch. Bell later filed on a homestead west of Medora and developed his own ranch. He won the heart of a Jamestown girl and persuaded her that setting up housekeeping on the ranch out west was her destiny. They had one son, Edwin. Highly respected and well known as a rancher, Bell not only ranched for more than 30 years, but he also traded horses and ran a livery stable in Medora. Tom Mix depended on Bell to train and board his horses. Lucky and skilled in poker, Bell won the Rough Rider Hotel in a card game and became its proprietor for years. Bell died in the dead in the winter of 1935 and is buried in the Medora Cemetery.
Melvin Leland – Born in 1944, Leland grew up on the family ranch homesteaded by his father. His father died in 1948, so Leland started helping on the ranch at a young age. He attended the Squaw Gap School in McKenzie County and Sidney High School. He earned a B.S. degree in Animal and Range Science from North Dakota State University (NDSU) in 1966. Leland married Luella Mary Roedeske in 1967, and had three children. After his mother died in 1971, he purchased his sister and brother’s shares. In 1980, the couple purchased an adjoining ranch and, in 2005, another one. They started marketing Red Angus bulls in 1971 and became known as the Leland Red Angus Ranch. They have hosted annual production sales for 28 years. He has been recognized as Society for Range Management’s Rangeman of the Year, Saddle and Sirloin Agriculturalist of the Year, McKenzie County Soil Conservation, NDSU Agriculturalist of the Year, Red Angus Breeder of the Year, MT Red Angus President’s Award and ND Stockmen’s Association Honorary Membership Award.
Price Ranch – Established north of Mandan in the early 1900s by William and Emily (Watkins) Price, the Price ranch started with a quit claim deed of range land. The ranch, now, consists of 18,000 acres, with 5,000 acres being irrigated and a 10,000 head feedlot. In the feedlot, the Prices background calves, finish beef and have a dairy heifer development project. They work closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) to improve their pastures and a veterinarian to improve the genetics of their cattle. In the mid-1990s, a delegation from the Republic of Kazakhstan, toured the Price Ranch. After two more visits, Bill and Dan Price were invited to Kazakhstan to meet with their President and Secretary of Agriculture. As a result, the Price Global Beef LLC formed a partnership between the Government of Kazakhstan to form Kazbeef LTF, LLP. The Prices are responsible for acquiring the cattle and managing the 209,000-acre ranch, with the assistance of a ranch manager out of Nebraska and local Kazie cowboys. In 2010, the Prices shipped over 1,327 heifers and 20 bulls, all registered Hereford and Angus. They now have 2,000 head of registered females in two reproducer centers near the City of Mamai. They are also building a 5,000-head feedlot. Their first calf crop came in the spring of 2011. There are also 1,200 head of steers and heifers and plans to have the first sale on the ranch in 2012. They operate a very modern ranch utilizing all the most modern technology. They have done a lot to develop the export of U.S. beef.
These nine inductees will bring to 148 the number of men and women who have been honored since 1998. This year’s inductees come from across eastern, central and western North Dakota. Inductees are voted on by the 200 Trustee of the NDCHF.
The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame-Center of Western Heritage and Cultures in Medora is the premier interpretive center for showcasing the history of Native Americans, ranching, rodeo and the western lifestyle of the plains and Badlands. This facility presents the culture and legacy that is the character of the Great American West ensuring its resiliency will be available for future generations.
The facility, named North Dakota’s Tourist Attraction of the Year for 2007 and the Top American Cowboy Museum in 2010, is open daily from mid-May through mid-September from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. (MST) and by appointment during the winter months. Its galleries and exhibits detail the history of the plains horse culture. The facility is also used for meetings, reunions, weddings and other events. Additional information can be found by logging on to www.northdakotacowboy.com or www.facebook.com/northdakotacowboy.
– North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame