Remembering Orin Muri
“All he wanted to do was cowboy,” Orin Muri’s father said.
Dax and Beth Muri were often told that their son would be special. With bronc riding skills that came naturally, an unbeatable work ethic, and a determination to build a life and ranch of his own, he most certainly was a unique young man.
Orin Muri, 18, of Miles City, Montana, died in a single vehicle accident on the morning of April 29th, 2020. He is survived by his immediate family: father, Dax; mother, Beth; and sister, Tailey.
From the time Orin was a seventh grader, he had a deep desire to be a bronc rider. “We kind of had him reined in until he was a freshman. We let him get on some saddle steers when he was an eighth grader. When he was a freshman, we couldn’t keep him away. He would’ve done it anyway,” Dax said.
Orin’s learning curve wasn’t easy. His parents took him to The Battle of the Scholars in Wright, Wyoming, where Hank Franzen matched young bucking horses to aspiring roughstock riders. “He was the youngest one there. He’d only been on 20-30 head. He got pounded. And he kept getting on,” Dax said. After getting on six horses, he stopped at Walgreens to pick up liniment and bandages. “He went back the next day and got on more. He was pretty sore, but you wouldn’t have known it. He was watching the videos and just grinning ear to ear. There were a couple guys there that asked why he kept getting on. They said he must be crazy. I said, ‘Nope, it was just what he wants to do,” he said.
Two years later, The Battle of the Scholars was held in Miles City, and Orin won the final bronc match of the weekend. “He was making leaps and bounds the last few months for how few horses he got on. Every one was way better than the one before,” said Dax. In just two short years, Orin had made phenomenal progress, noticed by the many professional rodeo cowboys that helped coach him.
Beth says that Orin always had a natural ability to sit a horse, which translated into his bronc riding. “A lot of kids black out on a horse for a long time before they see what’s happening. He remembered what happened on most of his bronc rides, even early on,” said Dax.
Orin’s parents say the list is long and not comprehensive, but they would like to thank Craig Miller, Marty Bremmer, Shaun Stroh, Cole Elshere, Houston Brown, and Josh Davison for supporting and teaching Orin how to better himself in the bronc riding. Additionally, they are grateful for area stock contractors and pickup men who were ever-supportive of Orin, including Shane Vaira, Dean Clark, Sparky Ross, Lorin Larsen, Todd LaRowe, Brad Marshall, and many more.
Athletic ability aside, Orin was a man of integrity, which was felt by all who knew him. “We’ve been receiving a lot of letters from classmates,” Beth says. “They’ve told us about what he did for them. It’s amazing how many classmates and younger kids said that he would help out by including them in things, just making them feel comfortable and welcome.” In one letter, a young lady said, “He made everybody feel like a somebody.”
“We always hoped he would grow up to be a good man. Just the things we’ve heard, we are very proud of the man he became,” Beth said.
Orin’s work ethic transferred to ranch work and the many jobs he had throughout his life. “He was pretty much either doing something or sleeping,” says Beth. “He was always there to help. He’d pull in last summer and have three or four days before going onto the next one. He’d be out haying at 4 in the morning. He’d love to go do it on his own.”
“He always wanted to have a job. He enjoyed it. He couldn’t be idle. There’s not a lot of 16 year old kids that are night calving out of a little camper trailer in the middle of February, but he would,” said Dax.“He really enjoyed that work. It’s what he knew he was going to end up doing–having a ranch of his own. He’d go out and saddle his horse to check heifers, even over Easter when it was miserably cold. You never had to ask him. He didn’t want somebody else to have to go do it, so he went first.”
Dax describes his son as fiercely loyal, steady, and dependable. “You never had to wonder. He might be late, he was slow at everything. But I think he was slow because he was so thorough and thoughtful about things,” he said.
Orin was, in many ways, wise beyond his years. “He was usually the responsible one in his group. Even guys that are four or five years older than him. He could sit down and have a conversation with an adult, just like he was talking to one of his best friends. I don’t know if he was an old soul or what, but he could sit down and have coffee with someone that was 30 years older than him,” Dax said.
Last summer was the first season Orin hit the amateur rodeo trail hard. He would place regularly, but his modesty prevented him from sharing his placings with his family. Beth said, “He’d say, ‘Yeah, I did okay.’ And then you’d see a check show up in the mail for him. He never called and said ‘I won.’”
“He didn’t care about any fame or fortune from it, he just flat wanted to be good. He loved it, he really did love it,” Dax said. Orin’s great great grandfather, Bob Askin, was a two-time world champion bronc rider. Orin had the same desire.
“He always said, ‘I’m going to go to the Finals. I’ll see you at the Finals.’ He was going to win the world. It wasn’t cocky, it wasn’t a dream, it was just a fact. That’s what he was going to do,” said Beth. “He never really liked being in the limelight. Everything he did, he strove to do his best. He loved bronc riding. He loved the people that he got to be around. I don’t know if there was anything about it he did not like.”
Orin wrestled as an eighth grader, sophomore, and junior because he believed it would improve his bronc riding. When asked if he liked wrestling he responded, “No one likes wrestling.” But he loved the competition. Dax recounts a story that illustrates Orin’s determination. After wrestling started, Orin still got on practice horses. Orin went to conditioning at 6 am before, school, practice after school, then went to get on bucking horses. On one particular day, “He started puking before he got in the building, he was so exhausted. He got on four or five head that evening.”
“He had a drive and a desire that was rare,” says Beth.
Orin planned to attend college after high school graduation, but would only go to a school where he could improve his bronc riding. He would rodeo on his permit before eventually getting his PRCA card.
Dax says, “He loved getting to see guys that were gone to college. He wanted older kids to be there with him.” Orin told his dad, “I ride so much better when they are there.” Just a few days before his passing, Orin went with several area bronc riders to get on Forbes’ broncs in Kaycee, Wyoming. Those who were with him said, “It was the best he’s ever ridden.”
Orin’s funeral was nearly as memorable as he. Grandstands at the Miles City Fairgrounds were packed, and several of his dearest mentors spoke over him. A bucking horse with Orin’s empty saddle was turned out for his last, spectacular ride. Orin’s best friend, Liam Pauley, headed his horse out and Orin’s favorite announcer, Paul Pauley, announced his final out. The paint horse will forever bear his name, Orin’s Crossroad. The funeral procession, consisting of dozens of riders which followed a horse-drawn hearse, walked quietly to the cemetery. It was said that the cemetery had never seen such a procession in its history.
Dax and Beth say, “The support we’ve received from the community and from family and people we didn’t even know that Orin touched, it’s been unbelievable. The outpouring from the community, the rodeo family, everybody, has been a blessing from God. we definitely wouldn’t have been able to do this without the love and prayers from everybody. We are so extremely thankful for everyone and so proud of the man Orin became and how much he has blessed other people. It means a lot.”
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News