Hollenbecks receive ranch family honor
Glen and Yvonne Hollenbeck are each legends of rodeo in their own rights, and together, they have spent more than 40 years on the Hollenbeck Ranch Incorporated, where Glen is third generation, earning them the honored ranch cowboy family at the 29th Annual Casey Tibbs Foundation Tribute Dinner Nov. 3 at the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Glen said of the honor. “There are probably people that should be there ahead of me.”
It isn’t the first honor they have received of late; Glen was recognized by the South Dakota Quarter Horse Association earlier this year for raising Quarter Horses for 50 years.
Yvonne grew up in a ranching community in the sandhills of Nebraska, but her family, short of Canadian cousins, didn’t rodeo. She found her way into the sport after high school through her career as a legal secretary; three men who made up Sandhills Rodeo Company asked if Yvonne would secretary their rodeo. If she wasn’t acting as rodeo secretary, or even if she was, she would complement the action at area rodeos with organ music.
“I was a musician and Jack Hunter, an announcer from Ardmore, South Dakota, talked me into playing for the Crawford rodeo, and the rest is history,” she said. “I played by ear since I had played in dance bands and things growing up, so I had quite a repertoire, and it was easy for me to match the action. Pretty soon, the biggest rodeos in the country wanted me.”
Yvonne got to know Glen, a pickup man, as they bumped into each other along the rodeo road. He had been picking up broncs since he was about the young age of 17, and he also competed in bulldogging and calf roping.
“My folks inspired me to rope and built an arena for me,” he said. “It wasn’t much, but it worked. They turned out a lot of calves for me; my mother was one of my biggest supporters.”
In 1960, Glen’s mother had entered him in Little Britches national calf roping competition in Littleton, Colorado. His father thought the trip would be too expensive, but regardless they were off due west in a car weighed down with pup tents, food, and cooking utensils, pulling a two-horse trailer.
“We camped the whole week, and I won it,” Glen said. “Dad was tickled. If I hadn’t won it, I don’t know what would have happened.”
While on the road to pick up broncs at the match bronc ride at Sentinel Butte, North Dakota, Glen was in the company of Don Hight, a good friend and business associate of Casey Tibbs. Tibbs and actor Joel McRae were in the Pine Ridge area filming the movie, “Young Rounders.” It was a thrill for Glen, Yvonne said, to meet his idol, Tibbs, and have coffee and a visit before going on to North Dakota.
Glen and Yvonne both were married and had two children each—for Glen, two boys, for Yvonne, two girls—prior to marrying one another 41 years ago. She and the kids joined Glen on the Hollenbeck Ranch 25 miles southwest of Winner, South Dakota,
“They were small. We had the Brady Bunch,” Yvonne said. “They all rodeoed together. The kids had a lot of fun together, and they still get along.”
When their children started rodeoing more steadily in the early- to mid-1980s, Glen retired from picking up broncs, and the demand for Yvonne’s skills lessened.
“They went to canned music and screaming announcers. They quit using rodeo organists, and there were several good ones around the country,” she said. “The kids started rodeoing, and it became hard for us to go to professional rodeos. The kids needed us so we both quit.”
Temporarily shifting their focus within rodeo was rewarding and worth it for the Hollenbecks. It became a family event, and the kids were mounted on home-raised and home-trained horses.
“Rodeo brought us together and kept us together,” Glen said. “Every rope horse we’ve had, I’ve trained them. We’ve never bought a trained horse, and a majority of them came off the ranch.”
In 1982, at the age of 40, the oldest calf roper in the competition, Glen won the Mid-States Rodeo Association championship calf roping; in 2003 and 2006, he won the U.S. Calf Roping Association Championship in the senior division, pulling home a new horse trailer, or lawn ornament as Yvonne calls them, each time; and just last year, at the age of 75, he won the Senior Pro Association World Tie-Down Roping Championship in the 68 and over division.
He accredits a great deal of his latter win to two new knees. “They have really given him his life back, as far as calf roping and being able to get on horses,” Yvonne said.
Yvonne has found her own success once again, this go-round in cowboy poetry. She was a closet poet for some time, before her friend outed her.
“A writer friend of mine came to visit, and she had asked to see my poems,” she said. “Next thing I knew, a lady came up to me in a grocery store and said, ‘I really liked your poem!’ My friend had published one of my poems in Stock Growers magazine.”
She will grace a sold-out crowd with her poetry at Homes on the Range as part of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, Feb 1. with Michael Martin Murphey, Brenn Hill, and Trinity Seely. Her poetry has taken Yvonne all over the United States and Canada and allows her to promote rodeo, ranch life, and beef.
“A lot of it is humorous about things that weren’t humorous when they happened,” Yvonne said of her poetry, which makes her husband hesitant to cowboy with her, even though she has been his top hand since they married four decades ago, for fear that he will turn up in one of her poems.
“If we go out and do something, and it doesn’t work out quite the way I planned, I tell her, ‘Don’t write a dang poem about this! No one needs to find out,’” Glen said, chuckling.
At the age of 76, Glen is slowing down, and Yvonne’s grandson is on the ranch to help where needed.
“I need to stand back a little bit,” Glen said. “I think I’m working, but I don’t get much done. I really hurry, but I don’t go nowhere.”