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Rodeo cowgirl: Kristi Birkeland to be honored at Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center Tribute Dinner

Kristi Birkeland didn't expect to be awarded this year's rodeo cowgirl honor at the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center Tribute Dinner. Although she still ties goats, her focus has shifted a bit from competing with ladies around the region to feeding her 16-year-old's passion for rodeo and her 10-year-old triplets' love for wrestling, football, rodeo.

The Dupree, South Dakota, rancher found her passion for goat tying in college and was successful around the state and region for many years.

In high school and 4-H rodeoing, she wasn't a one-event wonder as she was later in life. In addition to goat tying, Kristi ran barrels and poles in high school, and barrel raced in college at Dickinson State University before transferring to the then National College, now National American University, in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Kristi won her first of more than 15 saddles in 1988 in goat tying as a senior at South Dakota High School Rodeo Finals.

"I think that first one's pretty sweet," she said. She has also gotten to witness her daughter, Sidni, win a saddle or two, and repeat the feelings of her own successes. Sidni was instrumental in solidifying the honor for her mom.

"She made the National High School Finals in pole bending and also won state senior girls gaot tying at 4-H finals in Fort Pierre this year. She had a good summer," Kristi said of her prodigy. "She also won state High School pole bending allowing her to go to finals. She got two saddles at two different events. I'm proud of her."

Once out of college, Kristi narrowed her focus to only goat tying within South Dakota Rodeo Association,.

"I was a very fierce competitor, and being in the goat tying and just a one-event person, I knew that I needed to do good everywhere I went to pay my way," Kristi said. "There weren't as many girls entered in goat tying so our paychecks weren't as big as other events, and I knew if I didn't win enough to pay my way, then I wouldn't keep going."

Kristi rodeoed in the days in which brand new, state-of-the-art pickups pulling $100,000 living quarter trailers weren't as common. Instead, she had a ranch horse turned performance horse, and she split the bill with one, two, or five traveling partners.

"I had the absolute best traveling partners. We would pack six of us in a four-door pickup with six to seven horses in a stock trailer with the nose full of saddles," Kristi said. "If you didn't have it organized just right, we couldn't even fit all our tack in there. It didn't cost a lot to rodeo then when you split the gas six ways!"

A friend who often watched Kristi compete at rodeos he entered says her work ethic and natural athletic ability are "amazing."

"She is athletic, sure, but she's also got no quit. 'Give it your all and worry about the pain later,' that's her mentality and what makes Kristi so good,'" said former Northwest Ranch Cowboys Association President Casey Olson of Prairie City, South Dakota.

"She's the perfect example of what you get when you are tenacious and you religiously practice," said Olson. He says Birkeland's dedication to practice was good not only for herself, but her horses, as well. "She practiced all the time. Practice isn't just for you, its for your horse, too. She would make the horse learn how she wanted it done."

Birkeland holds back nothing when competing, but gives it her all, every single run, he said. "Kristi proves what a person can do when you go with complete abandon, you don't worry about the wreck, you just go for it. She just goes by the skin of her teeth and that's why she's fun to watch," said Olson.

"I'm just glad she wasn't a bulldogger – she would have cut in on our winnings a little bit," he joked. Birkeland is very deserving of the award, Olson said, and said he's surprised she wasn't honored earlier.

Birkeland lost her most valuable rodeo partner this year, just last month. She won at least six SDRA goat tying championships on Walsh, a blaze-face sorrel Quarter Horse gelding.

"I had a lot of good horses when I was rodeoing, and one of the things I am proud of is, I believe, just about every one of them was horse of the year at one time, but my favorite has to be Walsh," Kristi said. "I got him from my good friend Alisa Nelson McGrath. She had an injury, so she couldn't rodeo one summer, so she offered him to me, and by the end of summer, I'd won enough to pay for him."

Both her nieces rodeoed on Walsh, as did Sidni, before the Birkelands retired him. He passed away at the age of thirty last month.

Kristi's sons, Cruz, Fletcher, and Tee, also rodeo and participate in local play days. Just this summer, they tried their hands at mini bareback riding and breakaway, and they have also done goat tying, the flag race, and calf or steer riding among other events.

"Once it's in your blood, it's pretty hard to get rid of. Now I can enjoy my kids, and I push them," Kristi said. "I wouldn't push them if they didn't want to do it, but, at my age, I do know how important it is. If I had pushed myself a little harder, I know what I could have accomplished."

Much like her kids, Kristi grew up on the family ranch, where the rodeo gene runs strong. Kristi's brother Ken Lensegrav is a former NFR bareback rider. Their parents Dave and Rhonda still ranch near Meadow, South Dakota, and though she and her crew live on her husband Jace's family ranch, they help her folks on the days more hands are needed.

"I'm still part of that; even though I live in Dupree, I try to get there when we're branding and shipping, and I still have my cattle there," Kristi said of her parent's operation. She helps with their production sale as well.

Her parents, Dave and Rhonda Lensegrav, were one of the first families to raise Gelbvieh cattle in South Dakota, and that breed of cattle led them to meet Jim and Barb Beastrom. After three or four years of considering Kristi a fitting honoree for the Casey Tibbs Foundation Tribute Dinner, Barb finally filled out the nomination forms earlier this year.

"She was about 16 when I first met her. She was traveling by herself to go to these rodeos; she's quite a hand," Barb said. "She is a mother of four, works with her husband, and is involved with her kids. She's just one tough gal. I thought she was very, very deserving of this."

Kristi was the SDRA goat tying champion nine times, and reserve champion six times, National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Great Plains Region champion three times, and a year-end champion in other regional associations multiple times. She simultaneously won the Northwest Ranch Cowboy Association year-end award and finals several times, as well as the Mid-States Rodeo Association championship.

"I'm very humbled by the honor," Kristi said. "To be honored the same time as Frenchman's Guy, just to be grouped together with those other people is amazing. I've known Glen and Yvonne Hollenbeck for years and rodeoed with Jake."

Click here to see the full list of honorees.

PICK ME UP: Berthold man selected as one of two pickup men at Y’s Men’s Rodeo

Minot, N.D. (October 1, 2018) – A Berthold native has been selected to work the Minot Y's Men's Rodeo.

Ryan Hanna is one of the two pickup men who will "pick up" – help the cowboys off the bareback and saddle bronc horses after their rides – at the RAM Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo, hosted by the Y's Men's Rodeo.

The pickup men are voted on by the bareback riders and saddle bronc riders in the Badlands Circuit, the rodeos in North Dakota and South Dakota.

Hanna will work alongside Tyler Robertson, Kadoka, S.D., who has also been selected to work the rodeo.

Hanna grew up in a rodeo family, steer wrestling professionally ten years, beginning in 1996. He traveled the nation, competing at some of the biggest rodeos in the country.

When he and his wife Susan had their first child in 2004, and he took on a bigger role with the family ranch, he chose to stay closer to home with his competition.

Hanna qualified for the Badlands Circuit Finals five times in the steer wrestling, winning the year-end title in 2002 and 2003. As the year-end champion, he went on to the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeos in 2003 and 2004, winning the national title in '04. Before the Minot rodeo began hosting the circuit finals, Hanna won the steer wrestling there, in the early 2000s.

Rib and ankle injuries caused him to quit competition. But he wasn't done with rodeo. In 2011, he was asked to help at a high school rodeo. "It's hard to just quit rodeo when it's been your whole life," he said. "I thought picking up would be my next opportunity to be involved again."

Hanna had watched his dad, Dennis, and his uncle, Lynn Meyer, work as pickup men, and he had helped them, so he had an idea of what he was doing. "There was always a place in my heart for picking up," he said.

The work snowballed. Hanna started with high school rodeos and now, between pro rodeos, Professional Bull Rider (PBR) events, and saddle bronc matches, he works from seventy to eight performances a year. He's picked up at major events in Las Vegas, during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

When Hanna chooses a pickup horse, he looks for "grit. A good pickup horse has to be somewhat like a firefighter, wanting to run into battle. They understand the timing, they know they could get kicked or smashed, but they're going to do it for you anyway."

Hanna keeps six pickup horses at his ranch all the time. Depending on the event, he might use two or three horses, or up to six. As a general rule, he brings four horses to each event. He takes his horses seriously. "I worked hard to get to this point of being considered for a circuit finals nomination, so I take my horses seriously."

He's delighted to have been chosen to work the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo. "It was a nice surprise," he said. "My wife and I try hard to do a good job." He's also complimentary of the other pickup men in the Badlands Circuit. "In our circuit, there are some exceptional pickup men, which makes it tougher (to be selected to work the circuit finals.)"

He and Susan have two kids: a son, Hayes, who is thirteen, and a daughter, Maysa, who is ten.

The Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo, hosted by the Minot Y's Men's Rodeo, is Oct. 5-7. Performances are at 7 pm on October 5, 1 pm and 7 pm on October 6, and 1:30 pm on October 7. Tickets range in price from $13-$33 and are available online at http://www.minotysmensrodeo.com. For more information, visit the website.

–Minot Y's Men's Rodeo

Chislic Circle: South Dakota town gains fame through first annual Chislic Festival

The quiet South Dakota town of Freeman — population 1,308 — is known as the Chislic capital of the world; yet outside of the 30 mile-radius of this small rural community (often referred to as the Chislic Circle), chislic is a relatively unknown dish.

Traditionally, chislic is salted, cubed mutton served on wooden skewers, deep-fat fried or grilled and served with a side of saltine crackers and a cold beverage.

The history of chislic has a great deal of mystery surrounding it and is frequently debated by the residents of the "Chislic Circle," which is a 30-mile radius around Freeman that includes Sioux Falls, Marion, Menno, Parker and Parkston.

Many credit Russian immigrant John Hoellwarth for bringing chislic to Freeman in the late 1800s, and since then, it's tradition for the community celebrate and socialize together by butchering a lamb and serving chislic for a crowd.

The dish is so iconic to the area and so unique to the state of South Dakota that in 2018, the state's legislators declared chislic the state's "official nosh."

Eight miles south of Freeman sits the Meridian Corner — a bar and grill owned by Roland and Jean Svartoien. Located at the junction of Highway 18 and 81, Meridian Corner serves chislic to locals and tourists alike, who stop in to enjoy the traditional Russian/German fare.

"We serve chislic with either lamb or mutton," said Abby Streyle, Meridian Corner manager. "The difference is really a personal taste preference. Lamb is lean and tender, and mutton is fatty and full of flavor. Both can be enjoyed with Greek salt, garlic salt or our house seasoning."

When Roland decided to add lamb chislic to the menu five years ago, the restaurant began sourcing meat from local sheep producers. Much like many of the local restaurants, Meridian Corner sources its mutton from the nearby Kaylor Locker, in the tiny town of Kaylor — population 47.

And though the Svartoiens are passionate about the restaurant business, they also have deep roots in agriculture, as well. Roland owns a custom harvesting and a trucking business and grew up watching his own father harvest wheat and run the restaurant.

"Meridian Corner was originally owned by Roland's parents — Paul and Marceen Svartoien," Streyle said. "They closed the business in 1989, and it sat empty for 21 years. When Roland's parents passed away, he purchased Meridian Corner from the estate and reopened the business once again. Today, we enjoy our loyal customers, and our customers enjoy the comfort food, including chislic, that we serve."

Chislic may be tradition in Freeman, but it's new and exciting in other parts of the country. Perhaps that's why Meridian Corner was invited to participate in Flavored Nation in early August. Held in Columbus, Ohio, Meridian Corner joined 49 other restaurants in serving up iconic state dishes for consumers to enjoy.

"Flavored Nation was a two-day event where people paid $45 to try ten meals from 10 different states," Streyle said. "We were one of two lamb dishes there; the other lamb entree was a chile relleno with lamb meatballs from Colorado."

Flavored Nation is truly a foodie's paradise. Other foods offered at the event included deep dish pizza from Illinois, Philly cheesesteak sandwiches from Pennsylvania, chicken fried steaks from Texas, shrimp gumbo from Louisiana, lobster rolls from Maine and even reindeer sausage from Alaska.

"We had so many people who stopped at our booth who had never heard of chislic and were really curious about the history," Streyle said. "Those of us in the Chislic Circle know chislic is made with lamb, but other places call their beef dishes 'chislic' and to us, those are steak tips. It was a neat opportunity to tell people about our state's history and the unique qualities of traditional chislic."

Two weeks prior to Flavored Nation, chislic was promoted in Freeman in another big way with the first annual South Dakota Chislic Festival.

"We have a great story to tell with chislic, and when we were looking for ways to attract people to our small community, we wanted to tie together and promote our heritage, the arts, community vibrancy, agriculture and tourism," said Joshua Hofer, one of the event organizers. "A couple of years ago, Freeman received a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which really opened the door for us to host this event."

The South Dakota Chislic Festival included music, a bouncy castle, a raffle, door prizes and other entertainment. Held on the grounds of the Freeman pool and ballpark, it was free to the public and also featured a cooking contest, with 15 judges including politicians, media and chefs — selecting for best classic sheep, new age nosh (that included beef, deer, goat and buffalo), and the people's choice.

"We were expecting 1,500-2,000 people, just based off numbers from other summer festivals," Hofer said. "Within 30 minutes of opening the gate, we had gone from 2,000 people to 8,000 people."

As the crowds grew and the chislic ran low, people traveled to local restaurants to grab a bite to eat. At the Meridian Corner, it was a packed house.

"We went from just a few people to a packed house within minutes," Streyle said. "We had a line of people standing outside our drive-in window waiting to be served, and that night we ran through 160 dozen lamb and 120 mutton chislics. Fortunately, we had prepped extra meat in anticipation of the festival, but we still were three dozen short of what we needed."

"I'm so proud of our crew of volunteers who helped things run smoothly despite the massive crowds," Hofer added. "We are already gearing up for next year with plans for improvement and expansion. We are looking at expanding the layout, providing different vendor options and bringing in unique entertainment like mutton busting."

The second annual South Dakota Chislic Festival is scheduled for July 27, 2019, in Freeman. Proceeds of the event benefit the Freeman Community Development Corporation and the Heritage Hall Museum and Archives.

"The vast majority of the lamb served at the first festival came from South Dakota sheep producers," Hofer said. "We are already receiving calls from vendors who want to come next year and serve lamb chislic, so I see this as an exciting opportunity for local sheep producers who have branded meat programs to gain more notoriety and publicity for their products."

To learn more about the South Dakota Chislic Festival, go to http://www.sdchislicfestival.com. F

Filming Feek’s Vision: Legendary stock contractor’s story documented in new movie

With about nine out of 10 broncs in the rodeo arena today tracing back to Feek Tooke's stock, the work he completed before dying 50 years ago is still bucking in the bronc riding industry. Filmmaker Ken Howie first approached Toby Tooke, Feek's great-grandson, about a 20-minute episode to air on Special Cowboy Moments on RFDTV. Feek's story evolved into something far bigger. The film, Feek's Vision, featuring interviews with rodeo names like Harry Vold, Larry Mahan, Ty Murray and many more, is set to premier Dec. 7, 2018, during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, 50 years to the day that Feek fell off his horse, dead. He had just accepted an award for one of his horses, Sheep Mountain, on behalf of Rodeo Inc. at the NFR, hosted in Oklahoma City at that time.
"He died in 1968. He received the award for Sheep Mountain, the top saddle bronc from the prior year that he sold to Rodeo Inc., which was John Snow, Jack Brainard, and Mel Potter," Toby said. "They had booked another rodeo, so they asked Feek to get the award and flank their horses. He rode in, got the award, rode out, and fell off his horse, dead before he hit the ground."
Feek's horses came by their size and agility from two unexpected places, a shire stallion called King Larrygo, bred primarily to the daughters of an albino Arabian stallion dubbed Snowflake. The two bloodlines intertwined created talent that trickled down to current stock such as Powder River's Craig at Midnight, Burch's Lunatic Fringe, Frontier's Medicine Woman, their own General Custer, and many more.
"[Great] grandpa started bucking horses back in 1930, when most believed there was no way to breed a bucking horse; people thought they would get broke. The old spoiled military horses and saddle horses were the bucking horses," Toby said. "It took awhile, but he bought a horse out of Iowa, King Larrygo, a blue-ribbon winner at the Iowa State Fair, a full-bred Shire. He crossed him with those hot-blooded mares of Snowflake, and he was in the bucking horse business." Feek got one colt out of King Larrygo, before he was kicked and ruined, that continued the legacy. That colt was Prince.
Feek's son, Toby's grandpa, Ernest Tooke, kept bones for DNA tracing from Feek's prodigy, General Custer and Gray Wolf, allowing for decades of bucking horses to be traced back to their significant stallions.
"One angle Ken knew would be beneficial is the genetic side. People might be interested to learn how well the bloodline records are kept," Ken's wife Theresa said. "Dr. Gregg Veneklasen has been insturmental to the story; his knowledge is immense." Dr. Veneklasen owns Timber Creek Veterinary Hospital in Canyon, Texas, and is known for his work in equine reproduction and cloning.
In addition to preserving the bones, Ernest also retained rare footage of Tooke horses bucking in the 1940s through 1960s from rodeos in Ekalaka, Glendive, Baker, and Red Lodge, all in Montana.
"There isn't usually a lot of footage from that long ago. I'm excited to see how he incorporates that," Toby said of Ken using the footage in Feek's Vision.
Ken is still traveling through the United States and Canada gathering interviews and footage for the film. He has already traveled an estimated 37,000 miles, and has about that to go, Theresa said. He interviewed rodeo great Harry Vold just three days before his death, and has also interviewed such greats as Ty Murray, Deb Copenhaver, Dan Mortensen, and more who are being kept back as an element of surprise in the film. Some of those mentioned are in the trailer of the film, which can be found at http://www.FeeksVision.com.
Feek's family still produces horses from his original broncs; they have about 65 to 85 at his ranch in Ekalaka, Montana.
"His dad and his mom migrated from New York; their names were Earl and Bessie. They homesteaded in Carter County and had six boys. Feek was the one that fell in love with horses," Toby said. "He quit school after eighth grade, and started Tooke Brothers Rodeo. Then Feek took it and ran with it. My honest opinion with [great] grandpa is that he didn't think it would be as big as it is or important as it was."
Feek is also the brains behind the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale, which is in its 68th year. He told Bill Linderman about the vision, but didn't have the time himself to make it come to fruition.
"I knew there was something special, and I wanted to get grandpa into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame," Toby said. "It's been quite the ride the last 10 years of being recognized. Harry was a huge part of that too. I tried to get [great] grandpa in numerous years, but it didn't happen until Harry Vold and Clem McSpadden worked on it."
Toby's dream came true for his great grandpa in 2008, and for one of their stallions, Gray Wolf, in 2016.
The film will be released on DVD at the same time as its premier, and more information will be posted to the website as it comes available.
"I'm very grateful people are still interested in our story, everyone from cowboys to contractors to clowns. It's really humbling," Toby said. "I didn't really have any part of any of it other than making sure the story doesn't get forgotten. Ken and Theresa are amazing and make sure things don't get forgotten, and the story is told accurately."
Ken and Theresa Howie, the producers of Feek's Vision have requested that anyone who personally knows the Tooke family and has photos, video, or stories to share to please email theresa@kenhowie.com.

Montana Hall and Wall of Fame honors 19

The 18-foot-tall bronze sculpture of six-time World Champion bronc rider Dan Mortensen outside of the Metra Park in Billings, Montana marks the monument site for the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame, an organization dedicated to honoring past Montana professional rodeo cowboys and cowgirls and encouraging and supporting the rising generations of Montana rodeo. Each January, the Hall and Wall of Fame holds a scholarship fundraising banquet in Billings where certain individuals and organizations are recognized as supporting the Western way of life. This year, the event included a ground school before the banquet with former rodeo champions, Monty Henson and Dan Mortenson, a live and silent auction, what was promised as the best prime rib ever served in the West and a live band.

Fourteen scholarships are given out every year, with nearly half a million dollars awarded to date since the program began in 2006. Of the 14, 12 are given to Montana High School Rodeo seniors who are selected by a committee from the Montana High School Rodeo Association. The selection criteria is based on grades, rodeo participation, community service, educational plans and finally, financial need. The final two scholarships are given to Miss Rodeo Montana and Miss Montana High School Rodeo.

At the fundraising banquet, the Hall and Wall of Fame also presents awards to those who have exemplified Western heritage throughout the state. Nineteen awards were given to individuals, ranches, rodeos and businesses in a variety of categories this year.

The Legends awards are given to former or current Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association members who have left their mark on professional rodeo. Inducted this year was Marvin Joyce of Helena, Bud Pauley of Miles City, Rooster Reynolds of Twin Bridges and Gary Rempel of Fort Shaw.

Joyce was the 1969 Rodeo Cowboys Association Saddle Bronc Rookie of the Year and the 1972 saddle bronc riding national champion.

Pauley qualified for the National Finals Rodeo six times, and won the national title in saddle bronc riding in 1985.

Rooster Reynolds is the son of Benny Reynolds, an All Around World Champion cowboy, and proceeded to follow in his father's footsteps by qualifying and placing in both state high school finals and college national finals and in 1995 he was the Wrangler National Finals Average Champion and placed third in the world.

Rempel may not have heard his name over the announcer's speaker much in the arena, but he is remembered as the pickup man with the most trips to the National Finals Rodeo, the Canadian Finals and the Montana Circuit Finals Rodeo.

Three individuals who have stood out for contributing to rodeo and the western way of life in Montana received the Western Heritage award.

Marge Taylor of Fromberg is as "original as her art and as durable as the leather she designs with" according to the event's program. Taylor began her leather working business in 1993 and has since won numerous awards and outfitted countless working and professional rodeo cowboys and cowgirls.

Clyde McFarland of Miles City has paid more entry fees than anyone in Montana, but never entered a rodeo in his 98 years. The part owner in the infamous Bison Bar was a mentor to young cowboys and cowgirls and a devoted rodeo fan.

Butch Bratsky of Billings was a bull rider until his body couldn't handle it anymore, so he then became a rodeo judge. He has worked with numerous organizations promoting rodeo and was instrumental in bringing the annual Professional Bull Riders event to Billings.

Although Montana has many influential women who have spent their lives preserving rodeo and western tradition, Shirley Clark is well deserving of this year's Lady of the West award. Through her youth and into college, she competed in rodeo. During her marriage, she supported her husband through the military and his rodeo career and as a mother, she encouraged and supported her daughters through their rodeo events, all while working full time at the Montana Department of Livestock. She has worked on rodeo committees, served on rodeo boards and perhaps her greatest rodeo-related accomplishment was being the first secretary of the point keeping system for the model of what is now known as the national PRCA circuit system.

Of course, there would be no rodeo in Montana if it weren't for the great Montana ranches and the working cowboys that inspired the sport. For this reason, four Montana ranches were recognized for having made great contributions to the western way of life in the state.

The JP Cooney Ranch from Harlowton has made the transition from running sheep to Hereford cattle and finally to Angus cattle since its inception in 1926. Today, the fourth generation of Cooneys live and work on the operation.

The Mothershead Ranch from Brockway is home to three generations of Mothersheads who raise commercial Angus cattle.

The Lande Ranch on the Crow reservation began in 1917. At one point, the ranch was run by two women and today, the ranch is run by the fourth and fifth generation of Landes.

Finally, the Butcher Ranch near Hilger began in 1913 as a 320-acre homestead and grew to 25,000 acres while remaining debt-free. Until the purchase of their first tractor in 1938, the Butchers farmed 1,000 acres with 75 head of work horses. Today, the fifth generation of Butchers manage the historic ranch.

The Great Montana Western Store award was given to Shipton's Big R for their dedication to supplying ranchers and rodeo cowboys with all they could need and for their generous support of many regional rodeos. Shipton's believes that many young rodeo cowboys and cowgirls grow up in the western lifestyle, so the purpose of their stores is to provide a service for those families.

And of those families, the Hall and Wall of Fame chose to honor four at the banquet.

The Stringari family of Belfry boasts of not only domestic rodeo successes, but a European Military Rodeo Circuit bull riding championship as well.

The Lenning family from Columbus have rodeo in their blood and now breed the ability into rodeo horses as well.

The founder of the World Class Bucking Horse Association is also a Montanan, and a part of the Pecora family from the town of Racetrack.

The final Montana Rodeo Family that was honored hails from Kinsey. Jack Witcher placed in Calgary, Cheyenne and the Montana circuit.

Without Great Montana College Rodeo Programs, the scholarships that the Hall and Wall of Fame provides to graduating high school seniors wouldn't be possible. There are many college rodeo programs in the state, but this year the University of Province in Great Falls was chosen to receive the award. For having a rodeo program for only the last eight years, the university has achieved great successes in the rodeo arena in a short time.

The final award of the evening was given to a Great Montana Pro Rodeo that exemplified the sport of professional rodeo: the Fallon County Fair and Rodeo. Nearing it's 100th year, the Baker rodeo has grown in size, updated its facilities and added more sponsors to create an excellent event.

Rodeo is deeply rooted in Montana's past, and the Hall and Wall of Fame intends to keep rodeo in Montana's future by supporting the dreams and education of the state's up and coming rodeo stars.

2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Results – Round 8


Stock ContractorStock NamePrize Money
81Richmond Champion88.00Hi Lo ProRodeoPretty Woman$26,230.77
82Clayton Biglow86.50Beutler & Son RodeoSouth Suds$20,730.77
83Jake Brown86.00C5 RodeoVirgil$15,653.85
84/5Tim O’Connell85.00Powder River RodeoCraig At Midnight$8,884.61
84/5JR Vezain85.00United Pro RodeoPow Wow Nights$8,884.61
86Bill Tutor84.50Frontier RodeoFull Baggage$4,230.77
8Steven Dent84.00Calgary StampedeSpecial Delivery$0.00
8Caleb Bennett81.50C5 RodeoMakeup Face$0.00
8Ty Breuer81.50Three Hills RodeoMr. Harry$0.00
8Mason Clements81.00Pete Carr Pro RodeoAlberta Child$0.00
8Tanner Aus78.50Pete Carr’s Classic Pro RodeoDirty Flirt$0.00
8R.C. Landingham78.00J Bar JTickled Pink$0.00
8Orin Larsen75.50Calgary StampedePrincess Warrior$0.00
8Jake VoldCBeutler & Son RodeoRedigo$0.00
8Wyatt DennyCNorthcott MaczaSpilled Perfume$0.00


Steer Wrestling

Stock ContractorStock NamePrize Money
81Chason Floyd3.70$26,230.77
82Rowdy Parrott3.80$20,730.77
83/4Dakota W Eldridge4.10$13,326.92
83/4Jon Ragatz4.10$13,326.92
85/6Tanner Milan4.40$5,500.00
85/6Ty Erickson4.40$5,500.00
8J.D. Struxness4.70$0.00
8Olin Hannum5.20$0.00
8Kyle Irwin5.50$0.00
8Tyler Pearson5.50$0.00
8Scott Guenthner5.60$0.00
8Nick GuyC$0.00
8Ryle SmithC$0.00
8Tyler WaguespackC$0.00
8Baylor RocheC$0.00


Team Roping (Headers)

Stock ContractorStock NamePrize Money
81/2Clay Tryan4.10$23,480.77
81/2Luke Brown4.10$23,480.77
83/4Dustin Egusquiza4.20$13,326.92
83/4Erich Rogers4.20$13,326.92
85Chad Masters4.30$6,769.23
86Garrett Rogers4.70$4,230.77
8Charly Crawford5.50$0.00
8Dustin Bird5.70$0.00
8Coleman Proctor9.00$0.00
8Clay Smith9.20$0.00
8Kaleb Driggers11.60$0.00
8Jr. DeesC$0.00
8Cody SnowC$0.00
8Tom RichardsC$0.00
8Riley MinorC$0.00


Team Roping (Heelers)

Stock ContractorStock NamePrize Money
81/2Jade Corkill4.10$23,480.77
81/2Jake Long4.10$23,480.77
83/4Kory Koontz4.20$13,326.92
83/4Cory Petska4.20$13,326.92
85Travis Graves4.30$6,769.23
86Jake Minor4.70$4,230.77
8Joseph Harrison5.50$0.00
8Russell Cardoza5.70$0.00
8Billie Jack Saebens9.00$0.00
8Paul Eaves9.20$0.00
8Junior Nogueira11.60$0.00
8Tyler McKnightC$0.00
8Wesley ThorpC$0.00
8Jeremy BuhlerC$0.00
8Brady MinorC$0.00


Saddle Bronc Riding

Stock ContractorStock NamePrize Money
81Ryder Wright92.00Powder River RodeoShow Me Again$26,230.77
82Jake Wright88.00C5 RodeoBlack Hills$20,730.77
83Clay Elliott87.50Mo Betta RodeoSue City Sue$15,653.85
84CoBurn Bradshaw87.00JK RodeoDakota Babe$11,000.00
85Hardy Braden84.50Outlawbuckers RodeoOLS Tubs Magic Carpet$6,769.23
86Heith Allan DeMoss84.00Salt River RodeoSmoke Ring$4,230.77
8Brody Cress83.50Harry Vold RodeoPillow Talk$0.00
8Audy Reed82.00Cervi Championship RodeoHATisfaction On Fire$0.00
8Sterling Crawley79.00Beutler & Son RodeoTequila Sheila$0.00
8Cody DeMoss78.50Three Hills RodeoJumbo Jet$0.00
8Jacobs Crawley77.50New West Rodeo ProductionsRight Spur$0.00
8Zeke ThurstonCSmith, Harper & MorganMidnight Cowboy$0.00
8Layton GreenCFrontier RodeoGriz$0.00
8Jesse WrightCDakota RodeoLittle Sicillia$0.00
8Taos MuncyCJ Bar JJulia$0.00


Tie-Down Roping

Stock ContractorStock NamePrize Money
81/2Caleb Smidt7.60$23,480.77
81/2Cory Solomon7.60$23,480.77
83Marty Yates8.40$15,653.85
84Marcos Costa8.50$11,000.00
85/6Trevor Brazile9.10$5,500.00
85/6Cade Swor9.10$5,500.00
8Randall Carlisle9.50$0.00
8Shane Hanchey9.80$0.00
8Tuf Cooper10.80$0.00
8Matt Shiozawa12.70$0.00
8Ryan JarrettC$0.00
8Tyson DurfeyC$0.00
8J.C. MaloneC$0.00
8Cooper MartinC$0.00
8Timber MooreC$0.00


Barrel Racing

Stock ContractorStock NamePrize Money
81Amberleigh Moore13.54$26,230.77
82Tillar Murray13.73$20,730.77
83Ivy Conrado13.86$15,653.85
84Nellie Miller13.87$11,000.00
85Lisa Lockhart13.93$6,769.23
86Kellie Collier13.95$4,230.77
8Kimmie Wall14.07$0.00
8Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi14.16$0.00
8Taci Bettis18.43$0.00
8Hailey Kinsel18.57$0.00
8Kassie Mowry18.95$0.00
8Kathy Grimes18.97$0.00
8Sydni Blanchard18.98$0.00
8Stevi Hillman19.05$0.00
8Tiany Schuster23.56$0.00


Bull Riding

Stock ContractorStock NamePrize Money
81Jordan Hansen86.00Corey & Lange RodeoTequila$28,980.77
82Ty Wallace84.00Corey & Lange RodeoCowahbunga$23,480.77
83Guthrie Murray82.50Pete Carr’s Classic Pro RodeoTold Ya So$18,403.85
84Joe Frost81.00Four Star RodeoBlizzard$13,750.00
8Trey Benton IIICUniversal RodeosPandora’s Express$0.00
8Garrett SmithCD & H CattleHeartbreak Kid$0.00
8Cole MelanconCCorey & Lange RodeoKnock It Off$0.00
8Sage Steele KimzeyCPickett Pro RodeoCheckmate$0.00
8Tim BinghamCFour Star RodeoYellow Fever$0.00
8Jordan Wacey SpearsCLancaster & Jones Pro RodeoEl Patron$0.00
8Roscoe JarboeCBridwell Pro RodeoOmaha$0.00
8Brennon EldredCChampionship Pro RodeoCowbanger$0.00
8Dustin BowenCCorey & Lange RodeoDouble Down$0.00
8Trevor ReisteCMo Betta RodeoYellowstone$0.00
8Boudreaux CampbellCAndrews RodeoMo Money$0.00


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2017 NFR Fashion LIVE from Las Vegas


Fashion Possehttp://www.theboutiquehub.com/WesternRunway
“Fashion Posse is for everyone that loves western fashion! Posts by Tiffany and @shainacliffordlifestyle

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“Offering affordable unique outfits that help define your style and personality, so you have the confidence to find the lost beauty in us all.”

NFR Fashion from 2017 Wrangler NFR Contestants Welcome Reception

Sequins, turquoise, leather, bling, bling and more bling.

The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo brings together the most talented cowboys and cowgirls in the world for 10 days of rodeo and with that comes a whole lot of western glamour! These are a few of our favorite looks from Wrangler NFR Contestants Welcome Reception, or “Back Number Night” held on December 5th, 2017 at South Point Grand Ballroom in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photo credit: Fashion Posse, http://www.theboutiquehub.com/WesternRunway
“Fashion Posse is for everyone that loves western fashion! Posts by Tiffany and @shainacliffordlifestyle

The always beautiful Lisa @missrodeoamerica2017 #NFR #BackNumberNight #Fashion #Vegas #WesternFashion

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@kellie_lolo_muffin 💕💕💕 #NFR #BackNumberNight #Fashion #Vegas #WesternFashion #BarrelRacerFashion

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@smashwebster 💕💕💕 #NFR #BackNumberNight #Fashion #Vegas #WesternFashion

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@brennasmidt 😘 #NFR #BackNumberNight #Fashion #Vegas #WesternFashion

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This jumpsuit was so great on her! 🔥 #NFR #BackNumberNight #Fashion #Vegas #WesternFashion

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Barrel racer fashion!!! #NFR #BackNumberNight #Fashion #Vegas #WesternFashion

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To see even more great fashion from the Wrangler NFR Contestants Welcome Reception, check out Fashion Posse’s Instagram feed: @fashion_posse

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White House plans to reduce National Monument designations in Utah, restoring public lands grazing

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Public Lands Council applauded the White House's plan to reduce the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The decision – which follows an extensive review of monument designations by the Department of Interior – is a clear win for rural communities who have suffered the consequences of egregious federal overreach.

"Previous administrations abused the power of the Antiquities Act, designating huge swaths of land as national monuments without any public input or review," said Dave Eliason, president of the Public Lands Council. "Rural communities in Utah and across the West have paid the price. Sweeping designations locked up millions of acres of land with the stroke of a pen, undermining local knowledge and decimating rural economies."

The President's decision means that traditional uses of the land, including livestock grazing, will be restored on public land in Utah.

"We are grateful that today's action will allow ranchers to resume their role as responsible stewards of the land and drivers of rural economies," said Craig Uden, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "Going forward, it is critical that we reform the Antiquities Act to ensure that those whose livelihoods and communities depend on the land have a voice in federal land management decisions."

Ranchers who hold grazing permits on public land do vital work that benefits public land including the improvement of water sources, conservation of wildlife habitat, and maintenance of the open space that Americans enjoy. Limitless power to make massive designations under the Antiquities Act poses a serious threat to that noble mission and rich heritage.

Six months after the smoke cleared: Gardiner Angus Ranch, Ashland, Kansas

Gardiner Angus Ranch has been in the cattle industry long enough to know it's a business based on relationships. The three brothers, Greg, Mark and Garth Gardiner and their families are the fourth generation to face the fires, droughts and blizzards in their Ashland, Kansas community.

Mennonite Disaster Services sent a large group of volunteers.

In the ash of a fire that burned 42,000 acres, 200 miles of fence, 7,000 round bales and killed 570 cows on their ranch alone, they're reminded again that staying in this business wouldn't be possible without a network of support.

In all, the fire that burned through the Clark County area in early March of 2017 consumed more than 600,000 acres and 12 homes, including Mark Gardiner's. Two people died, one in a vehicle accident and one who became disoriented in the smoke and died of smoke inhalation after leaving his vehicle.

An FFA chapter from eastern Kansas volunteered to help out.

But six months later, the focus is on recovering and helping those who are now dealing with the same situation.

"We've been very blessed that we've had a tremendous amount of rainfall since March 6," said Garth Gardiner. "Since the fire we've had 15 inches of rain. The grass is recovering nicely. Efforts to get fences put back up and things repaired are making progress. We've started calving and we're back in our normal routine. We're kind of back to life as we know it."

Gardiners received letters of encouragement from all over the United States.

While the moisture has allowed the range to recover quickly, Garth said they're being cautious and letting the grass get established again before they graze it. Not having all the fences up helps resist the temptation to graze the burned ground too soon. "Some of the weeds got a head start, but the grass will eventually come back. Mother Nature will take care of it," he said.

The Gardiner family has been ranching in Kansas for more than 130 years and has built a reputation as a premier seedstock Angus producer.

The Gardiner family was given an American flag that flew on the back of a load of donated hay from Michigan to Kansas.

They lost some of their registered cattle, but a lot of them were commercial cattle carrying embryos that would have been registered calves. Some of the cows that lost calves were from their spring-calving herd, a combination of commercial and registered cows, with the larger number of them being registered.

Garth said they lost some cows because their udders were too badly burned to recover, so they had a handful of bucket calves to help through the summer. "That, of course, is fun for about two days, then it becomes a real nightmare," Garth said.

These gentlemen brought a load of supplies from Louisiana and fixed dinner for everyone one night.

When they were evaluating the cattle immediately after the fire, he said some obviously couldn't be saved, but after that, triage became more difficult. "Some didn't look good, but they still had eyes and teats, but were severely burned. We have a few that made it, but are going to have some scars. Our opinion is that if they made it through the fire they deserve to stay around."

As for doctoring, he said there wasn't much they could do. "It was more up to Mother Nature. Doctoring wasn't necessarily going to help them survive. It was just a matter of how they healed from their burns." They kept the cattle in pens and monitored them daily, but didn't interfere much with the natural healing process.

When it came time to start pondering rebuilding, they knew they wanted the same genetics they'd been developing for generations.

Luckily, they had been working with a new herd of recipients for their embryos when the fire started, so they pursued that relationship and put in more embryos than usual.

Donated hay, money and supplies have allowed them to feed the herd that remained after the death toll was tallied, and some providential events have given them the opportunity to rebuild quickly with their own genetics.

One of the customers who had built a herd with Gardiner genetics was looking to disperse that cowherd when the fire happened. That allowed the Gardiners to add 320 cows back to their herd that already had the genetics they had developed.

When it comes to rebuilding a herd with losses in the hundreds, while also putting up 200 miles of fence and keeping the remaining cattle fed, the Gardiners were reminded of the value of their relationship with their local bank.

"It's a bank we've worked with our entire lives," Garth said. "They understand our business more than a metropolitan bank would. They understand we have to have a product that we can market and sell. By allowing us to go out and purchase these cattle, they're allowing us to rebuild quicker."

As much as they depend on the relationships they've built over generations in the industry, it was the kindness of strangers that made the most difference, at least from a morale standpoint.

"The most overwhelming, unexpected thing was probably the response we got from all over the country," Garth said. "People just showed up from out of nowhere to help and volunteer and it was just a truly humbling event to go through from the standpoint that you saw so much good in mankind during that time. It just surprised me. I knew people were good, but I didn't know they were that good."

The Gardiners told their story to many mainstream media outlets, from The New York Times to National Public Broadcasting. The story resonated with many people from all over the country—vegetarians, liberals (Garth mentioned being a Trump supporter in one interview), urban residents, people retired from agriculture and those who have never been off the pavement. They responded to the severity of the disaster and depth of emotion of the story and sent donations and letters of encouragement.

"You see an awful lot in mainstream media today about what's wrong with our country, and a lot of things that make you think our country's got a lot of problems, and we do have a lot of problems," Garth said. "But there's an awful lot of good and going through this experience has shown a tremendous amount of good in the country and mankind."

Being on the receiving end of kindness and donations is difficult for most ranchers. Garth said they met with their U.S. senator and one person told him, "We don't want your money, but we need it," of the federal assistance.

"We're prideful people and you don't want to accept things, but the intent with which it was given, from all different directions, is just unbelievable," Garth said.

Several organizations started relief funds. The Ashland Community Foundation took in nearly $2 million in monetary donations and the Kansas Livestock Association received $3 million. All those funds went directly to the aid of people affected by the fires.

"For people to not even think twice about writing a check to help other people out was just an unbelievably heartwarming gesture from not only people we consider neighbors, but people from all over the U.S. and the world," Garth said.

That Gardiners took those gestures to heart. After their summer of rain and recovery, they were ready to respond when the fire season heated up in Montana and drought hit the Dakotas.

"It's very important to reach out and help those in need in Montana and the Dakotas," Gardiner said. "We've experienced both sides of it. I don't know if we would have reached out prior to the fire, but now we realize how important that is. It's been a real eye-opener for our family. I think that was a sign from God that that's what you're supposed to do."

Garth said the fire and the outpouring of support reminded them of what's truly important in this business and directed them back to the foundations built by their parents, Henry and Nan Gardiner. Henry passed away in 2015, and Nan died in June of this year.

"I think it's our duty as stewards of the land and people in agriculture to continue to operate, and teach future generations that this is how you operate," Garth said of their "pay it forward" approach. "That's what my dad would have done. I'm not sure I would have done that prior to this, but I hope my children understand that now. And I hope someday they'll do the same thing when that opportunity is presented to them.

"The ag and ranching industry is salt of the earth people and I couldn't be more proud to be part of that."

Words of Encouragement

Garth Gardiner shared a small sample of the letters that accompanied donations following the fires that burned much of their ranch last spring.


Dear Mr. Gardiner,

I read in the NY Times of your tragedy and wanted to send something to help, though I know it is little, as I am retired. I felt so terrible reading about the animals and all your losses. I hope you won't take it amiss.

-New York City, New York

Hey Garth,

Heard your story on NPR the other day and was really moved by your loss and the effect the fires have had on the community of Ashland. A few years ago the Jersey coast got hit real bad from a hurricane named "Sandy." It was one of those 100 year storms that kicked our butts. Hundreds of homes were lost to flooding and the wind damage. The recovery was long and a lot of hard work. But what effected me the most was all the folks from other states that showed up to help or sent supplies to rebuild. I'll never forget the outpouring of love and kindness. I'm sure this money is just a drop in the bucket, but it's sent with love and our prayers.

"We in Jersey heard your voice."

Your brother in Christ…

Dear Garth Gardiner:

Yesterday I wept listening to your interview on Public Radio. I am a resident of Manhattan in New York City who did not vote for Donald Trump. I am also a rural-urban hybrid who has lived and worked on farms. It is with horror I think of the fear and suffering experienced by your five hundred lost beasts. And it is with grief for you and your family that I try to imagine what you are facing.

I know that the enclosed will pay for only a small part of a new calf or cow. But I hope that you will accept it as a token of this Easterner's respect and admiration for those who work in the challenging arena of agriculture and who serve as stewards of the land.

Let us hope that the new administration will come to realize that the federal government's role is not only to provide the military and intelligence part of our national security. It can also be to provide protection and support to citizens who face economic and natural disaster challenges that are too large for any single person or family or region to meet without the assistance of the larger national community.

With warmest sympathy to you and your family as you work to recover from this painful catastrophe.

-Manhattan, New York

Dear Garth,

Your tragic loss of livestock and property damage from the fire was aired on our local WHHY NPR station in Phila, PA.

After reading Timothy Egan's book, "The Worst Hard Time," I appreciate the never ending work, determination and courage it take to farm in this area of our country. Enclosed is a small check to help in any way to keep your farm going. You need to realize we appreciate your efforts and encourage to continue.

Best Regards,

Havertown, Pennsylvania

To Whom it May Concern,

This load of hay being hauled by Jeff Long of Oaks North Dakota is being donated to the hay relief effort in Kansas. It is going to Ashland, Kansas to the Gardiner family.

Our hope is that it will bring hope to our friends in Kansas that we have not met…

Our prayer is that this effort will comfort them (and their cows). And know that we feel deeply for the loss of life, livestock and property.

In His Love,

-Yale, South Dakota


I wish I could offer more than the enclosed, but I'm unemployed and even this seems extravagant with all of my bills, BUT…

I heard your interview on NPR and my heart broke at the thought of your loss. I am a "liberal Democrat" from California, different in so many way, but we are all humans on this earth and we all need to take care of each other.

Good Luck,

-Oakland, California

Mr. Garth Gardiner

(from a vegetarian woman from the bottom of my heart)

Dear Mr. Garth,

I heard your talk today on NPR (West Virginia). I really wanted to do something to help. I cannot see people or animals suffer. Please accept from my little business small help. God bless you all!

-West Virginia

Hi Garth:

I was fortunate enough to by chance hear your interview on NPR today, and was inspired enough, that I wanted to take the time to write you a note of appreciation, and encouragement. I am sorry for the loss of your cattle, your grassland, your fencing and all else that was lost by you and your family during the recent and horrible wild fires that you described in your interview. That was certainly a great tragedy but the sense of grounding that you expressed is certainly a guidepost of encouragement for others of us who have suffered our own personal tragedies in our lives.

In searching for a way to write to you, I came across your family website and the tributes to your father who sounds like a very remarkable man, whose legacy will live on for generations. It sounds like your family has had ups and downs a generation or two ago and yet has always emerged stronger and more successful, so hopefully that will also be that case after these fires. Certainly the common sense inspiration that you presented during your interview will help continue the greatness of your family, and to a large extent, that of this country.

You mentioned being a Trump supporter. I am not, but nonetheless appreciate the way your words helped encourage a spirit of unity that we all need to strive towards. Where I live, Ft. Collins, CO, home of Colorado State University, which is a big Ag College, in fact log ago we were known as the Colorado Aggies, is a fairly diverse and progressive community, but nonetheless with strong ties to its agricultural roots. AS long as we in this country remember that are similarities are greater than our differences, we will remain strong, and that is one of the inspirations I also took away from your interview, so thank you for taking the time, especially at such a difficult time, to share your words of courage and inspiration with the listeners of NPR. I feel fortunate to happen to be listening when your interview was aired. You are no doubt a hero to many of those who know you personally, but now also to some of us who have only heard your voice and words on the radio.

Sincere regards,

-Fort Collins, Colorado

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Dear Garth,

I do apologize this letter is not hand written but my handwriting is no longer what it was, and I did not want to have you suffer through it.

I heard your story on public radio today and was moved by it. So I took a brisk walk to the library (it is about 12 degrees and very windy) so I could use the computer.

I hope this small donation can help you and your family on their farm. I have little else to offer but my prayers of support.

Keep well.

Respectfully yours,

-Lawrence, Massachusetts

(Handwritten postscript)

When our family came to America, they had difficult times and we suffered with the great textile strike of 1912. Others, across American, helped up. Keep up your spirits.

Dear Garth,

I have never been to Kansas, and to be honest, up until today the only thing that came to mind when one said Kansas, was Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. But this afternoon I heard your interview on NPR and Kansas became a real place to me. I am not sure at what point my eyes filled with tears, but I know when you said your daddy had passed away two years ago and what a strong man he was, I was pretty much sobbing. I too, lost the strongest man in my life two years ago, and like your dad, he was the anchor in our family and the one, who no matter how dire the situation, could always make us believe there was a way out.

I cam home and googled your name and found the news clip about the fires and your dad's celebration of life, both touched me deeply.

After my husband's death, we set up a scholarship fund in his name, with the hope of trying to make our world a little better, with one small act of kindness at a time. He loved survivors and no doubt would have loved you and your family as well.

"We can do this! So let's get to doing!"

Be well,

-Boston, Massachusetts

Dear Garth,

I listened to your interview on WNYC yesterday on my way home from work. I was struck by your depth of emotion and ease with which you painted a picture of the losses you and other ranchers have sustained from the wildfires. You have a way of putting a human face on this tragedy that came across crystal clear through the FM. I hope that those who are able, will hear your plea and bring aid to our country's ranchers.

I don't know much about your world. I know that your family, your neighbors and employees have lost much. That is something I do understand.

Please accept this small token… even if it's just to get those cokes at the mart down the road with your neighbors.

I hope that relief comes quickly and in abundance.

With warm regards,

New York City, New York

Dear Mr. Gardiner,

I just heard your story on Public Radio station from a Boston reporter.

My great-grandfather was a rancher somewhere near Topeka which I know is not near you but I was moved by the compassion you shared during the interview. I've never been to Kansas and will most likely never get there. This is a small token of support for all you have suffered.

God bless you and your family.