Buckaroos build connections and futures
for Tri-State Livestock News
The mission of the Buckaroos is to “Bring people from all walks of life together to soak in the good that comes from the great outdoors of Western South Dakota.”
The organization started in 1966 by a group of about six men who were business owners or ranchers in the Rapid City area. The group of men wanted to find a way for ‘city folk’ and ‘country folk’ to come together for a ride through the beauty of Western South Dakota.
The first annual ride of the Buckaroos brought together nearly 35 men to share fellowship and the great outdoors. In 2018, 315 men gathered in Western South Dakota for the annual Buckaroo ride. This is the maximum number of Buckaroos allowed in the organization.
Creating an organization to bring businessmen and ranchers together was the foundation of the Western South Dakota Buckaroos, but somewhere along the line they wanted to give back. Today they do this in the form of scholarships for high school rodeo participants.
Seven scholarships are given annually by the Buckaroos and three scholarships are presented by the Buckaroos through memorials of past Buckaroo members. More than $10,000 in scholarships are presented each year to deserving high school students. One scholarship is awarded in the amount of $2,000 and the other six are $1,500. Memorial scholarships are awarded in the name of a Buckaroo who is gone, and given until the funds run out.
Boys and girls who are eligible for the scholarship must go through an application process and later an interview process during the South Dakota High School Rodeo Finals in Belle Fourche. Three or four Buckaroos conduct the interviews and choose recipients at that time.
“The members that do the interviews come back just awed by the quality of kids,” said Dan Warren, secretary and treasurer of the Western South Dakota Buckaroos. “The decision is always very hard on who gets the scholarships.”
Money for the awarded scholarships is earned at the annual Buckaroo ride through an interesting Greenhorn tradition. The number of While membership numbers in this prestigious organization is capped at 315, any open spot leaves an invitation for a Greenhorn to be initiated into the group.
To become a member of the Western South Dakota Buckaroos, a man must be invited. Getting tagged as a Greenhorn is an honor and tradition to most. It is a prestigious honor to be chosen as the man to invite the next greenhorn. Some are sons, family friends, or good neighbors of a seasoned Buckaroo. One family has four generations in the organization, a tradition they will likely carry on. Warren says most Greenhorns work hard the first night of camp to get as many signatures as possible, and while most of the Buckaroos give them a hard time, it is all in good fun.
“There is a stigma about young people not wanting to get involved, but that is certainly not the case with the Buckaroos,” said Warren. “There is a long waiting list of those who want to become a Buckaroo, but it is difficult to get in.”
In the case that a new Greenhorn attends the annual ride, he is welcomed with a green-painted hat and a few tasks to complete. Games like the ‘signature race’ trying to get as many members as possible to sign your paper and ‘poker run’ during the Saturday ride are just a few of the tasks they must complete. At the beginning of the weekend Greenhorns are up for sale in a calcutta, and proceeds are used for the Buckaroo scholarships.
Warren says in 2007 all 315 spots were taken. In order to raise money that year, members were chosen at random to act as the Greenhorns and fulfill the tasks new members would normally perform.
Annual fees are also used to supplement scholarships and the annual ride. There are different tiers of members: Regular members, Lifetime members, and Senior members. All members are required to attend the annual ride unless you are a Senior member, and once you miss a ride as a Regular member, you are no longer a member. Members who miss rides or members that pass away leave open spots for Greenhorns to be invited. The annual ride serves as the annual meeting as well so the group can plan the following year’s ride and take care of any other business.
When asked about the camaraderie at the annual event, Warren replied, “it is interesting.”
While all 315 members will set up camp in the same location, there are different groups. The Harding County Boys, the Badlands Group and various other groups set up in camps together. While they are all from different parts of Western South Dakota, they are a band of men that have one another’s back, no matter what.
“You get 315 guys together in a camp and you would think there is some tension,” said Warren, “but there just isn’t.”
There are only three rules in the Buckaroos. No women, no studs, and no fighting.
The third Saturday in September is the day the Western South Dakota Buckaroos set aside to create camaraderie and continue a tradition set forth nearly 53 years ago. A group of 6 men wanting to create a space to connect with men like and unlike themselves has grown into a prestigious organization chock full of tradition, heritage, and philanthropy.
“I have the best job in the world,” said Warren, “I sure have a lot of friends who I have met in this outfit.”