Ranching and Rodeo: South Dakota Stoddard family has ranched for 100 years, excelled at rodeo
When Herb and Inez Stoddard settled near Norris, South Dakota over a century ago, they had no idea the fifth generation of Stoddards would be still be there, raising cattle, horses, and rodeoing.
Now Joe, the third generation, his son Sam and his wife Danielle, and their kids Ciara and Caden are on the ranch that was established in 1924, when Herb and Inez bought it after leasing land in the area for six years prior.
The ranch always produced cattle, but Joe added rodeo and horses.
His dad, Harold, was dead-set against his son rodeoing, so after dad went to bed, Joe would ride five miles in the dark to Burrell Phipps’ place. Burrell, a cutter and team roper, got Joe started in both events.
Joe didn’t start rodeoing till his early twenties, competing in playdays, showdeos, jackpots, and a few South Dakota Rodeo Association events.
He married Linda “Wink” Livermont in 1965, and the couple made their home on the ranch.
They ranched, and as their kids came along: Jodi, Lori, Sam and grandson Kyle, who they raised, they hauled them to rodeos.
They produced some of the Little Britches Rodeos in the area, hiring out the contract people. By this time, Joe quit rodeoing so he could help his kids rodeo. “I could see my kids were going to be a lot more successful than I was, because they had started young. So I switched over and started helping them,” he said.
His kids competed in Little Britches, 4-H and high school rodeo, often practicing at Burrell’s place. Burrell and Joe would partner on team roping steers.
The first competition son Sam remembers is when he was four years old, going over to Gordon Good’s place, for a local play day. Being the youngest of the Stoddard kids, he thinks he benefitted the most from rodeo, as he started out at a younger age than his sisters.
Like his dad, Sam was a team roper and a cutter but also tie-down roped and steer wrestled. In 1991, he was the 4-H state champion tie-down roper. He was a two-time high school state cutter (1990-1991) and in 1992, his senior year, was the high school state champion steer wrestler and all-around.
Jodi and Lori both won state high school cutting titles, and grandson Kyle, who was raised by Joe and Wink after Lori was severely injured in a car crash, won a state cutting title as well, as did another grandson, Tanner O’Daniel. Both Jodi and Sam served as president of the National Little Britches Rodeo Association.
After a year of college, Sam came home but continued to rodeo. He competed in the SDRA and the Northwest Ranch Cowboys Associations a little, but the PRCA was his strength. He qualified for the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo once in the steer wrestling and five times in the team roping. He also competed in the Great Plains Indian Rodeo Association, finishing the 1994 season as regional tie-down roping champion and qualifying for the Indian National Finals Rodeo once in the steer wrestling, twice in the tie-down roping, and eight times in the team roping.
Sam married Danielle Faulk, a rodeo cowgirl, in 2003. Danielle, a native of Gordon, Neb., competed in the breakaway roping, barrel racing and goat tying in college and at Nebraska State Rodeo Association and Mid-States Rodeo Association rodeos.
For several years, Sam and Danielle owned the Gordon Livestock. Sam’s mom, Wink, had Parkinson’s, and when her care required more and more time from Joe, Joe asked them to come back to the ranch. They leased it for a year, till Joe sold it to them in 2014. Wink passed away in 2019.
Their focus has been on the Red Angus cattle they raise, and a rodeo company.
Sam and Danielle formed Stoddard Rodeos, a stock contracting company, when they realized youth rodeos don’t get a lot of roughstock competitors. They bought a handful of bucking horses and now provide horses for youth, high school and some regional rodeos. In the last few years, they’ve contracted to take horses to the Little Britches Rodeo Finals, the National High School Finals Rodeo, and the South Dakota 4-H Finals. In 2021, they were at thirty rodeos across South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
Their family fills most of the roles. Sam sorts; son Caden flanks; Tyler Jones, their hired man, picks up, and Danielle makes sure the little details are taken care of. At the bigger rodeos, Tanner O’Daniel and Kyle Stoddard help out. “It’s a family affair,” Sam said.
Sam and Danielle’s kids competed in rodeo, too. Ciara, a registered nurse in Omaha, was the 2015 state high school champion girls cutter and went to the National High School Finals in 2015 and 2017. Caden, a junior in high school, won the state junior high team roping title in 2019 with Eastan West and that same year, was state champ in the goat tying. He’s qualified for the National High School Finals in the cutting in 2020 and 2021.
Joe believed in volunteering. He was a state high school association board member for six years, serving three of those as president and a director for the National High School Rodeo Association for eight years. He was vice-president of the SDRA in the 1970s, and on the Long Valley Roping Club board for five years. He served as president of the S.D. Cutting Horse Association and the Western South Dakota Buckaroos, and spent 22 years on the Kadoka School Board, twelve of those as chairman.
“I’ve always wanted to be involved when there’s something going on,” he said. “Somebody’s got to do it.”
For a while, Joe and Wink raised American quarter horses. The more memorable ones were Chico, Tiger, Dandy, Cap, Wagamoo, and Big Brown.
Yellowstone Dash, “Chico,” was the best stud they had, Joe said. “He could run. He had a 95 speed index at two different distances,” he said. Sam made the Badlands Circuit Finals twice on Chico and hazed on him, too.
He had another horse, Big Brown, by a stud called Van Dee Frost, who was fast. When Joe raced at the Western Buckaroo races, he rode Big Brown, and “most of the time I could stand up halfway down the race and see who was coming in second.” The races are fundraisers for the scholarships the Buckaroos grant, and when Joe first started racing, when the gun went off, he was the only one standing on the starting line; everyone else had left.
So Joe left the starting line early, too, and the guys gave him flack about it, calling it the “Stoddard Start.” Joe had an answer for them: “if those guys don’t leave early, that’s their fault,” he laughed. “They can see the guy pull the (starting) gun out of his holster,” he joked.
Joe believed his horses and cattle should be good at whatever was needed of them.
For the horses, he wanted good bone, straight legs, a good mind and a good back. Color didn’t mean anything to him. A neighbor used to argue with him, that he should raise horses for color. “I raised them for performance and ability,” Joe said. “He told me, ‘you need to breed color into your horses, and I said, you can’t ride color.” The neighbor argued, “no, but you can sell it,” Joe laughed.
For his cattle, he wanted good mothers, durability, easy wintering, and good disposition. Sam raises Red Angus now and they are “very, very satisfied,” with the breed, Joe said.
When his wife, Wink died, after 53 years of marriage, he reconnected with a school friend, Jo, and they are enjoying life together.
His 77 years on this earth have been good.
“I’ve had a wonderful life,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate. A lot of guys haven’t got to do half the things I’ve done, and I’m grateful that my kids have supported me through my whole life.”
The Stoddard name lives on, in good cattle, good horses, and good rodeo. While some things have changed since Herb and Inez put down roots, the family carries on, stewarding the same land the couple started on many years ago.
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