Jerry Olson inducted into hall of fame
Black Hills Pioneer
The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum will induct a local man into its Rodeo Hall of Fame later this month.
Jerry Olson, of Belle Fourche, will be inducted during ceremonies Sept. 25-26 in Oklahoma City.
Jerry LaRue Olson, 80, is the son of LaRue and Rena Olson and lives in Belle Fourche.
He began performing in the rodeo arena early on.
Born in Sturgis in 1935, he entered his first rodeo in bareback riding and tie-down roping around 1947. He soon gave up bareback riding stating he was too big to be competitive. He also began performing in front of crowds at rodeos at a young age as his family put together a horse act including roman riding, something he incorporated into the rest of his career.
He and LaRue were also well known for their rodeo acts using buffalo.
“Dad got the first buffalo when I was a junior in high school,” Olson said.
LaRue was talking to an acquaintance when the topic of buffalo came up. LaRue told the man that he’d like to train a buffalo some day, Olson said. When the man told LaRue it couldn’t be done the bur was put under the saddle.
“You didn’t tell my dad he couldn’t do something,” Olson said. “We got our first two buffalo calves in May.”
One calf got pneumonia and died, but the other, Pat, became part of the act and the Olson’s reputation. Later came Sam, a bottle-raised buffalo that soon became Olson’s favorite of all his buffalo.
Olson said it takes three or four times longer to train a buffalo than a horse. Additionally, each animal requires different training.
“Training an animal is like raising a kid. You don’t train two kids the same way; you train them with what fits,” he said.
In the late 1950s, Olson began his bullfighting career when the bullfighter contracted for LaRue’s rodeo failed to show. He also became an accomplished steer wrestler and when he found himself entered in a rodeo that he was also contracted to work, he would bulldog while in full clown garb.
Olson’s results were good enough to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in steer wrestling in 1969.
Using a borrowed horse — his was too sore to perform — he placed in a couple rounds of the finals, held at that time in Oklahoma City.
In 1973 he returned to the NFR as a bullfighter, part of his tenure in the Rodeo Cowboys Association, later called the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, from 1954 to 1990. He is one of only three people to have been to the National Finals Rodeo as both a contestant and later a contract act.
Olson also served on the PRCA board of directors for two terms, the first from 1969-1973 and the second from 1985-1986. A ranch accident cut his second term short.
Honors include receiving the PRCA contract act of the year in 1983 staring Chief, the family’s third buffalo; an induction into the Casey Tibbs South Dakota Rodeo Center in 1994; induction into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2001; and in 2004, he was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame.
“This is the most honorable hall of fame I’ve been part of,” Olson said. “It’s a great honor to be inducted.”
He was quick to point out that he was only half the equation behind the induction.
“The people I performed to are just as responsible,” he said. “Without them and my family, there wouldn’t have been anything.”
Olson’s family also became part of the act. His wife Fern Olson would ride a third horse in the roman riding act. Their son, Jerry Wayne Olson, who now maintains the Olson act, started off as a lad riding on Olson’s shoulders.
Olson also served on the High Plains Heritage Society and the Red Water Irrigation District boards of directors.
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Reprinted with permission from Black Hills Pioneer
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