Merle Temple says final goodbye |

Merle Temple says final goodbye

Neighbors help Merle Temple gather cattle for his 2018 branding. Pictured: Allen Cuny in the distance on the palamino, Merle also on the far side of the cattle, on the dark horse. The closer riders are Heidi Cuny on the paint and Dave Keester. Photo by Ross Cuny

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Bareback rider Merle Temple, a five-time qualifier for the National Finals, passed away Feb. 26 from cancer. He was 57.

Temple qualified for the NFR in 1987-89 and 1991-92. His career-best finish in the world standings was seventh in 1988.

Temple grew up in Rocky Ford, S.D., and learned to ride bucking horses as a boy. He and his father, Doug, had an arena with bucking chutes on the ranch. Merle and his younger brother, Curtis, started breaking colts when they were 9 years old.

Temple competed on his PRCA permit in 1981 and bought his PRCA card in December 1982. He earned $230,593 in his career. Temple won the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo in 1987 and 1993 and was the circuit’s year-end champion in ’93.

Temple also was a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. He was a two-time World Indian Bareback Riding Champion.

“Rodeo is meeting people, traveling coast to coast, competing and being up or being down,” Temple said in the 1993 PRCA media guide. “What a way to mature.”

Ken Lensegrav, a 10-time qualifier for the NFR (1988-97), spoke fondly of Temple, his brother-in-law.

“He was a character, and you never had to wonder what he was thinking,” Lensegrav said. “He would let you know, he was a no-holds barred kind of guy. He went at things hard, and he was a heck of a bareback rider. I’ve known a lot of tough people in my career, and he’s right at the top of the heap. The great thing about Merle is he was a rodeo cowboy, but his first love was being a rancher and a ranch cowboy at heart. He broke and trained scores of horses from the time he was 9 years old.

“I want people to remember Merle as a cowboy’s cowboy. He was tough as nails, and he loved everything about the cowboy and ranching lifestyle. The first thing he did every morning was pull on his boots and put his hat on to face the day.”

Temple was living in Rocky Ford on his family ranch. He was third generation on the cattle ranch.

“He had a herd of saddle horses that he broke and trained that he was very proud of,” Lensegrav said. “He worked all his life to put together this herd, and they are as nice a bunch of ranch horses that you will find anywhere.”

Temple is survived by his son, A.J., 8; sisters, Kim (Ken) Lensegrav, and Jennifer; and younger brother, Curtis.

A visitation and prayer service will take place 5-7 p.m. (MT), March 3 at Behrens Wilson Funeral Home in Rapid City, S.D. The funeral for Temple will be at 1 p.m., March 4 at Rocky Ford (S.D.) School.