A Passion for Bucking Horses: ND Cowboy Hall of Famer Lynn Linseth
for Tri-State Livestock News
Lynn Linseth, member of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame and long time Killdeer rancher and rodeo man, has passed away. His eighty-three years were filled with the hard work familiar to all who make a living in rough country but colored with stories of extraordinary events and touched with the embellishment that only a good story-teller can add.
“Lynn and I married sisters,” recalled Dean Meyer, Dickinson, North Dakota. “I’ve known him for fifty years. We met in the late ‘60s. Everybody knew he was the toughest guy in the country.”
Meyer and Linseth did a lot together, partnering in a construction company, rodeoing together, and partnering in Meyer/Linseth Bucking Horses.
“We traveled a lot,” Meyer said. “We hauled bucking horses all over the country: to Oklahoma City, to Mesquite, Texas, to Denver. We probably traveled a million miles together, and every time we went somewhere I would hear another story that was surprising.”
Lynn was the son of pioneer parents Severin and Gudrun Linseth, who homesteaded southeast of Watford City, North Dakota in 1915. He was born July 29, 1936, in Watford City and raised on the family ranch near Croff. He was the tenth of Severin and Gudrun’s twelve children.
Lynn attended a small, rural grade school in McKenzie County and graduated from Watford City High School. Lynn started boxing with the Williston police department when he was fifteen. Later, he became a Golden Gloves boxer, and, according to Meyer, had a reputation for being a fighter outside of the ring as well!
Lynn received a scholarship to play football at Dickinson State College. While there, he was part of a team that went undefeated and is now in the DSU Hall of Fame. After attending college, Lynn enlisted in the Army and proudly served his country.
During his enlistment, Lynn served as part of the honor guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1957. He also served as a bodyguard to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and was chosen to be the personal escort to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, during her visit to the United States in the late ‘50s.
After his time in the service, Lynn returned to North Dakota and his roots. He worked oil rigs, ran his own construction business, ranched, rodeoed, and raised bucking horses.
“Lynn was always very athletic,” said his niece Kerry Christman, Lemmon, South Dakota. “He loved sports of all kinds, but especially rodeo.”
Lynn was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2013, being recognized for over four decades of participation in and support for the sport of rodeo.
Lynn started out bulldogging, and was a reserve champion steer wrestler in North Dakota, served as rodeo judge, chute boss and stock contractor. A staunch rodeo advocate, he coached riders and mentored stock contractors, was a strong supporter of the High School Rodeo Association, and always encouraged young competitors to keep at it.
Lynn purchased his first bucking horses at the Miles City bucking horse sale. He grew his herd, hauling horses to rodeos all over North Dakota and beyond.
“He really had a love of bucking horses,” Meyer said. “He had the respect of everybody in the bucking horse industry. If he bucked ‘em out and told you what he thought, you knew it was accurate. Everyone knew he told you the truth about his horses.”
The truth got stretched sometimes when Lynn got started telling stories.
“There was always a story,” Meyer said. “If you kept listening, the story got a little more far-fetched all the time! When he felt he had an audience, he would embellish things as he went along.”
One story Lynn told was not embellished, and Meyer recalled how Lynn was working the derrick up on the tower of an oil rig, when the driller made a mistake and sent the block flying up. It went right through the floor and knocked Lynn down.
“’You fell to the floor?’ I asked him. He just gave me a look. ‘Dean,’ he said, ‘gravity doesn’t stop half way down an oil rig.’ The doctor told him if he signed a complaint he would never have to work again, but that wasn’t Lynn’s way. As soon as he got out of the hospital he was back to work.”
Linseth was creative in his choice of names for his bucking horses.
“He bought a horse in Miles City one time, and I asked him what the horse’s name was,” Meyer recalled. “’Twenty-Six Miles,’ he told me, ‘because the last guy who rode him got bucked off and had to walk twenty-six miles to get back home.’ But he’d made it up. He made up a lot of stories.”
Several of Lynn’s horses were recognized as being exceptional, including ‘Hello,’ IPRA Bucking Horse of the Year, ‘Queenie,’ NDRA Bareback Horse of the Year, and ‘Centennial,’ NDRA two-time Bareback of the Year.
Centennial was a chestnut horse with a blaze and three white socks that stood 14.2 hands and weighed about 1,200 pounds. Linseth said he was gentler than a broke saddle horse and a great athlete. After Lynn sold him to Classic Pro Rodeo, he became ‘Skoals Centennial’ and made it all the way to the National Finals Rodeo. Centennial made ninety trips out of the chute and only four qualified rides were made on him!
The tough guy, the weathered cowboy, the fighter, the bronc buster, had a softer side too.
“He loved children, and he loved to tease,” remembers Christman.
“He would give you the shirt off his back,” Meyer said. “Anything he had he would share. Every time anyone called he was ready to help: hauling horses, working cattle, if your water line broke or your sewer backed up, if you had somewhere to go and needed someone to ride along—whatever came up Lynn was always ready to go. There was not a branding in the neighborhood that he wasn’t at.”
Linseth is survived by his wife Leone, of Killdeer, two daughters, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His life will be celebrated by family and friends at the rodeo grounds west of Killdeer on Saturday, February 29th.
“Of all the things he did, the things he was proudest of were his family and his country,” Meyer said. “When you spoke of a proud American, that was Lynn.”
“He would have been uncomfortable with all of the accolades,” Kerry said. “He never sought the spotlight.”
Lynn Linseth has found his eternal destiny, but Dean Meyer can’t say exactly what that is.
“One time we were going to a rodeo in Texas, and I asked him, ‘Lynn, when you die, do you think you’ll go to heaven or hell?’ He thought about it for a while and then he said, ‘Well, I don’t know, but I bet I know somebody either place.’”