Miles City Bucking Horse Sale: Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes? |

Miles City Bucking Horse Sale: Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?

By Bailee Murnion, for Tri-State Livestock News
The Miles City Bucking Horse Sale will be missing two familiar faces this year, as both Bill Harding and Lavetta Weeding passed away.
Bill Harding & Lavetta Weeding

A Bucking Horse Sale Tribute to Bill Harding & Lavetta Weeding

It had been a beautiful weekend. Temperatures in the mid 70s for the third weekend in May had a way of putting smiles on faces. The smell of dust, liquor and sweaty horses filled the air that hung upon the eastern Montana fairgrounds. The 2021 World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse sale shattered the previous ticket sales record. After a cancellation in 2020 due to COVID-19, spirits were high at the “Cowboy Mardi Gras.” Old friends were reunited, and stories were told as attendees seemed eager to push past the doom and gloom of 2020. As the final checks were handed out and the last horses loaded onto the trailers, Bill Harding jokingly told his longtime friend Lavetta Weeding, “I think it’s time that we both retire, we’re getting too old for this.”

Only God would know that when they left the fairgrounds on that Sunday evening that it would be their last Bucking Horse Sale.

As the result of a horse-related accident at the family ranch northwest of Miles City, Bill passed away the weekend following the 2021 Bucking Horse Sale. Lavetta passed away unexpectedly on October 29, 2021. The two longtime friends, who some would describe as “two peas in a pod,” spent countless hours devoting their time and skills to the Bucking Horse Sale. Former executive secretary Nyoka Twitchell said, “I truthfully don’t know how this show can go on without them. They were both so instrumental.”

A native of Miles City, Montana, Bill Harding devoted 41 years to working the Bucking Horse Sale as an employee of the Miles City Livestock Commission, a position that his father, grandfather and two sons, Matt and Jimmy, have all held with admiration. Bill got his feet wet working at the sale barn, following closely behind his father, D.L. He legally started earning a paycheck from MCLC in 1978. As the unofficial “yard foreman” (a title that he refused to take), Bill took great pride in working alongside mentors and friends such as Doug Wall, Walt Secrest, and Scorio Dolatta. Every Tuesday, rain or shine, Bill was at the sale barn.

His appreciation for his co-workers and the volunteers that he worked with at the sale barn and Bucking Horse Sale was paramount, and they were like family. He took a “very select crew” to assist with the Bucking Horse Sale duties. Lorin Larsen, Randy Pluhar, Kyle Shaw, Derek Pierce and son, Jimmy Harding were considered his “right hand men.” Everything that took place behind the bucking chutes was Bill’s responsibility, a duty that he loved. For ten days a year in May, Bill worked tirelessly at the fairgrounds. “You have to give back to your community,” was what he would tell his wife of 38 years, Roxanne.

Roxanne handled the beer sales during the events and would also cook lunches for the crew and serve supper in the evenings at the sale barn. No matter how late he had to work into the night, Bill loved every minute of it. Bill developed friendships with and was highly respected among the visiting stock contractors. Having worked behind the chutes for 40+ years, he was known to keep the show running smoothly and horses flowing in and out of chutes with ease. He was honored to have worked the sale with three generations of Lingers: Sonny, Pat and Ty. He found great joy in watching Cal Davison pull gates. “He just loved the people he worked with,” Roxanne remembers.

One of Bill’s favorite tasks at the sale was picking the eliminator pen for the popular Wild Horse Races. You better have your hat cranked down if you were up in the first or second session on Saturday, because that was where Bill put the eliminator horses.

Not only did Bill work behind the scenes, he also picked up the wild horse race in 2021. Picking up was one of Bill’s most loved hobbies, as he would pick up at area rodeos and ranch rodeos, in addition to judging many ranch rodeos across Montana. A true cowboy, with a heart made for helping others, Bill was always quick to help a kid out and root for the underdog. Roxanne recalled numerous times that Bill would step up and cover entry fees for kids that couldn’t afford to enter.  His greatest treasures were his family and the friends that he made along the way. One of his closest friends was a lady from Jordan, Montana named Lavetta Weeding.

Spending most of her life in eastern Montana, Lavetta Weeding was better known as “Rodeo Mom” to numerous kids across Montana and the Dakotas. As a ranch wife and mother first, with a deep appreciation for rodeo, she started her secretary duties at the Bucking Horse Sale in 2007 and continued every year with a smile on her face. Whether it was tending to secretary duties at High School, YRA, Ranch Rodeos or the Bucking Horse Sale, Lavetta had an encouraging presence. “You would never meet a kinder woman,” Roxanne Harding said about her dear friend. “She took her job seriously and she was top notch. Very professional.” Lavetta and Bill worked side by side for many years at the Bucking Horse Sale. “When I needed to find Bill, I would just look for Lavetta,” Roxanne laughed.

With humor and cheerfulness Lavetta would start her Bucking Horse Sale duties on May 1 of every year, when phone entries opened. She would anxiously sit by her phone taking entries for bucking horses, bulls, mutton busting and her favorite event, the wild horse races. “She lived for that,” said her husband of 47 years, Doug. “It was something she looked forward to every single year.”

Lavetta did not know the cowboys as “entries,” she knew them as family. Lavetta knew every individual that walked through the door of the rodeo secretary’s office by name and developed such friendships with the riders that one wild horse racer graciously awarded Lavetta the championship buckle he won. Lavetta completed all her secretary work with a pencil. She never used a computer and figured all the payouts longhand. “She could work calmly under pressure and never get mad at anyone when there would be complete chaos going on,” said Nyoka Twitchell. Nyoka recalls Lavetta insisting on having a clean rodeo office. “She would clean that office for hours before one person stepped in the door.”

Lavetta’s love for rodeo and ranch rodeos was evident. She and her husband, Doug followed the rodeo trail for many years with their kids, Clint, Jennifer and Chantz, and more recently enjoyed watching their grandkids compete. Doug and Lavetta’s home arena at the ranch in Jordan was always open to any young up and comers that wanted to practice. The couple always had cattle and were eager to help kids that were hungry to learn or perfect their event. They were known for welcoming kids to jump in with them to haul to rodeos across the state as they always had a trailer going. Lavetta and Doug never turned down helping or hauling kids that wanted to rodeo.

Over the combined 55 years of service that Bill and Lavetta gave to the Bucking Horse Sale, they often joked that they were never able to sit down and actually watch the event. Though greatly missed, as the 2022 Bucking Horse Sale kicks off, Bill and Lavetta will finally be able to enjoy watching the production–from the best grandstand in the sky.

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