Growing up I had some very good cowboys teach me about horses. My real mentor in "everything horse" was our next door neighbor, Martin Geiser. Martin was a horse man. Wasn't a thing he didn't know or couldn't do or couldn't answer when asked. Martin Geiser was pure horseman.
Others along the way were his sons, Gale, now deceased and older son Eugene. Both good on a horse. Martins wife, Sybil even babysat bronc-rider Larry Sandvick so something must have rubbed off him too! Larry only made it to the National Finals 12 times!!
Living behind us was Mervel Hall. My pal, M.J. Hall was his son. I saw Mervel ride some of the rankest saddle horses on earth. Horses so dam wild and strong-headed I wouldn't have gotten on them for anything. Mervel rode them like he owned them. He had plenty of saddles he had won bronc riding and he was put into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. I still owe Mervel a catch rope, (that is a story in itself) well M.J. probably does but son, M.J. went on ahead of his own making.
Mervel Raymond Hall was born on the family ranch near Elbowoods in 1928 and grew up on horseback. He served overseas in the U.S. Navy and has ranched and farmed near Mandaree since 1948. Ed Hall Sr. was his grandfather. He reared a family of six children.
The NDRA named him champion bareback and saddle bronc rider in 1958 and 1964 and all around Cowboy in 1964. Hall participated in saddle bronc, bareback and bull riding in rodeos from Fort Worth to Denver to Tucson. In 1961, he won the world famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale bareback event.
Hall also participated in dozens of rodeos around North Dakota, including Garrison, Fort Yates, New Salem, New Town, White Earth and Killdeer, earning championships in saddle bronc and bareback many times during 1951 1966. In 1976, Hall was the bareback winner at the North Dakota Cowboys Reunion rodeo.
He was known by many as having one of the strongest arms in the bare-back riding event. He liked to win saddles at rodeos around home, but also found time for the All American Indian Activities Association (now the Great Plains Indian Rodeo Association) events, where he was the saddle bronc champion in 1967 and the bareback champion in 1969.
Hall is a humble man and when once asked about his rodeo achievements, he commented, “Well, I went to quite a few of them.” Not one to brag about himself, his nomination packet shows that he is entitled to toot his own horn. Events from Amidon to Wing and from Fort Worth to Tucson over 16 years outline his long and illustrious rodeo career. Merval Hall died in November 2015.
I worked for J.C. "John" Stevenson once and was forever grateful for that opportunity. J.C. is also in the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. J.C. was a true cowboy --- a rancher, livestock marketer, cattle buyer, rodeo producer and stock contractor. He was a generous man and paid me well for my work.
In my youth, going to grade school and junior high in Mandaree, N.D. on the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation I had a band teacher by the name of Bob Rindt. I played the valve trombone for Bob Rindt in his band but am forever grateful for the cowboy he instilled in me growing up. Here is a piece on Bob Rindt. He was a hell of a guy and I am better for having had him as a teacher and band instructor.
Robert Rindt was well known in North Dakota for his more than 40 years of teaching; performing rope, whip, trick shooting and tumbling acts; and producing rodeos and other entertainment shows. His wife, Doris, was his partner in many of those acts, and they were once featured in Life Magazine for a Minot State University performance.
Rindt was so good with a whip that he could cut a small piece of paper out of Doris’ mouth at 15 feet. His riding tricks included hanging from the side of a horse by only one stirrup. Not limited to trick acts, he also rode saddle broncs and Brahma bulls and bull-dogged steers.
Living near Drake, in McHenry County, Rindt was 17 years old when he began participating in rodeos. He rode his horse 40 miles to Towner to enter a rodeo—and rode back home with the $15 he won in the saddle-bronc riding event. For the next 50 years, he worked between 10 and 15 rodeos each year. He and Doris once performed a specialty act for President Truman at a Missouri rodeo.
Both he and Doris taught school in a number of locales from 1945-‘66. Although his classroom was 6th grade, he and Doris also taught band and music. Doris was hired to teach physical education and dancing, and Rindt taught leather craft before and after school.
While teaching at Fort Totten, he was affectionately called ‘Uncle Bob’. He was 66 years old and still roping, riding and cracking the whip. Duane Howard recalled meeting him at a late-1940s Indian Fall Fair in Fort Totten. Howard says Rindt had a trailer load of the best tack he had ever seen. Rindt hosted play days and ‘mount money rodeos’ where Howard, among others, learned the basics of bronc riding and steer wrestling. His influence and magnanimity were lifelong gifts to countless kids.
After his formal retirement from teaching, Rindt spent most of his time raising horses and Brahma cattle on his B.R. Ranch west of Sawyer. He produced his own ‘Wild West Shows’ there for several years, one to two per year from the 1970s through the early ‘90s. He also enjoyed sharing his expertise with 4-H members and Boy Scouts and loved entertaining and teaching.
Rindt was a teacher, rodeo cowboy and throwback to the wild and wooly days when “cowboys were cowboys”. He is fondly remembered by many for his contributions to North Dakota’s sport of rodeo showmanship. ‘Cowboy Bob’ died in 1997.
Another North Dakota cowboy I knew was Paige Baker Sr., another inductee into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. In fact in helping the Baker family put up prairie hay I remember some of the wildest rides of my life were on the dump-rake being pulled by a pickup! How I stayed alive and hung on to that seat was a miracle. Today, Paige's youngest son, Gerard lives on a ranch about 10 miles , as the crow flies from my Ghost Ranch in Montana. Gerard and I were alter boys at St. Anthony's Church in Mandaree, were confirmed together and started high school together as bunk mates in the dorm at St. Mary's High School in New England, N.D.
My father, Douglas Parisian had the greatest respect for Paige. Here is a piece on Mr. Paige Baker, Sr.:
Paige James Baker Sr., also known by his Hidatsa name as Sacred Horse, was born in Independence, North Dakota, on January 1, 1913. Born to James and Ethel (Tail) Baker, he attended school in his hometown, the Santee Indian School in Nebraska and the Chemawa Indian School in Oregon.
Paige came back to North Dakota during the depression and got jobs with different ranches and rode saddle broncs in rodeos. On February 11, 1938, he married Cora Young Bird at Manning. They had five children–Fred, Paige Jr., Mary and Gerard.
Eventually, they began to raise their own livestock. In 1945, with the help of relatives, they chopped logs and put up a log house in the Heart Butte area. They ranched there for five years, while Cora and Fred spent the winters in Independence so Fred could attend school.
In 1952, the family moved to McKenzie County on the western edge of the Fort Berthold Reservation. They built a four-room log house and a barn there. In addition to operating his ranch, Paige worked for a number of the larger ranchers who had cattle both off and on the reservation. He was on the last, big cattle drive to the Dunn Center train depot.
He loved a good horse and always had one he could trust to rope from. He enjoyed rodeos and roping and was a well-known rodeo announcer on the reservation. Paige spent many hours riding, moving cattle and preparing hay for winter feed, and he cut hay with a team of horses even in his later years.
Paige was a great believer in modern education and, along with his wife, saw to it that all of their children went on to college and earned degrees. He was active in many organizations, including a member of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Mandaree; on the Board of Trustees of St. Anthony’s Catholic Mission, Mandaree; the North Dakota Social Service Board; the North Dakota Vocational Rehabilitation Board, North Dakota Vocational Educational Board; the Mountain Plains Education and Economic Development Program; and the Mandaree School Board for 12 years, on which he served as president.
He was also involved on the tribal council, as a tribal judge for eight years and as a court magistrate for the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Paige died of cancer on January 8, 1982, at the age of 69.
In Mandaree, North Dakota on the Ft. Berthold Reservation across the street lived the Chase Family. Great family, great kids. Emerson Chase ran the show and is also in the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. In retrospect I lived in the middle of Emerson Chase, Mervel Hall and Bob Rindt. I lived within a throw of 3 guys now enshrined in the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.
After my family moved to Pine Ridge, South Dakota I was able to ride a bit with renowned saddle maker Dave Dahl down in Pine Ridge, S.D. when in high school. We had moved my horse GINGER down to South Dakota and I rode fairly often on weekends. I was a three-sport letterman in football, basketball and track so there just wasn't much time during the week to ride. Dave knew his stuff and had just been a saddle bronc rider before he began his lifelong journey of saddle making. Here is a bit on my friend, Dave Dahl. Dave was honored to be put into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2018. He left an impression on me. He did what he said he was going to do. One way or another.
David (Dave) Dahl, internationally-known bronc saddle maker, was born on December 12,1945 to John and Mildred Dahl at Keene, North Dakota. The third child born in a family of eleven children, he grew up on the family farm. He attended grade school at both the Keogh School and Reservation Schools near his home. In 1962, Dave graduated from the New Town, North Dakota High School.
Dave worked on the Keogh Ranch, the Nelson Ranch, and the Figure Four Ranch and rode saddle bronc at various rodeos throughout North Dakota during his high school years. In college, he was very active on the rodeo team. He was the team captain in 1967 and won the National Intercol-legiate Rodeo Saddle Bronc Championship. In 1968, he won the South Dakota Rodeo Association Saddle Bronc Championship. Dave joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, winning rodeos at Wahoo and Chambers, Nebraska as well as Hudson, Wisconsin and various others. Dave graduated from Black Hills state college (now Black Hills State University) in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science Degree and a major in education, and taught for three years.
Dave’s saddle making career began when he ran into rodeo buddy, Dick Jones near Ft. Pierre, SD. Jones was making saddles, and Dave wanted to make one for his younger brother. An experienced saddle bronc rider himself, Dave took to making bronc riding saddles with ease. His hard work and self-motivation, as well as his love of rodeo, has led him to become one of the top bronc saddle makers in the nation. World Champion customers include Tom Reeves, Glen O’Neill, Jeff Willert, Taos Muncy, and Zeke Thurson, just to name a few. In 2016, six cowboys at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo rode on Dahl saddles. In 2017, eleven of the top twelve Canadian finalists rode Dahl saddles as well as ten of the top fifteen at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Dave currently makes 54 saddles per year and has no plans to retire anytime soon. Dave is the proud father of two daughters and one son (deceased).
The greatest cowboy I have yet to meet is J.R. Vezain.
J.R. is probably the toughest cowboy in America. I admire him and some day hope to meet him. What an inspiration and human being. All credit he gives to his Creator, and his family It is his attitude and faith that are all "COWBOY". J.R. Vezain. American. Christian. Cowboy.
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