May 26: 55+ Years in the Saddle for Cowboy Club
Ranching has been a part of the landscape and economy of western North Dakota since territorial days. Today, family ranching operations still carry on a cowboy culture that traces back to the woolly wild West. One club that is still strong in its fifty-sixth year is the “50 Years in the Saddle” club, formed on this date in 1957.
On that May afternoon in New Town, twenty-two ranchers, who had worked with cattle since at least 1907, gathered to form a club to meet annually to preserve the traditions and memories of their ranching life. According to the May 30th, 1957 issue of the New Town News and Sanish Sentinel, the men gathered in the M and M Café, with Angus Kennedy and Fred LaRocque hosting the gathering. LaRocque was elected president of the club and Kennedy vice president.
The average age of the attendees was 65 with the oldest member 89. They were from Dickinson, New Town, Watford City, Tioga, Minot, Keene, and Charlson in North Dakota; and Chinook in Montana. The members expressed the desire to attend the North Dakota Stockmen’s convention that June, since six of those present were among the founding members of the Stockmen’s Association.
In 1958, the members of “50 years in the Saddle” voted to induct 17 old timers as honorary members, including Usher Burdick. In 1961, Watford City became the club’s headquarters, where they still meet.
From its humble beginnings in a local café, the club has grown. In 1980, women were included as members. A person had to be at least 55 years old and had to work with livestock for their livelihoods. From the original twenty-two members, the club has grown to over 500. The club was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame under the Special Achievement category in 2009, and several of its members are also inductees into the Hall.
The club published four volumes on western North Dakota history. It has also erected benches, plaques, and historical markers to chronicle the history of the region. They actively support 4-H by providing trophies.
With ranching still part of the agricultural sector of North Dakota, the future of the “50 Years in the Saddle” club shouldn’t be riding off into the sunset anytime soon.
Dakota Datebook by Daniel Sauerwein
- “50 Years in the Saddle - North Dakota Cowboy.” North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame - The Center of Western Heritage & Culture. Last modified April 1, 2022. Accessed April 17, 2023. https://northdakotacowboy.org/50-years-in-the-saddle/.
- “LaRocque Named Chief of Saddle Clube Formed Here.” New Town News and Sanish Sentinel. New Town, ND, May 30, 1957.
- “Pioneer Cowboys Form Club At New Town Sunday.” The Dickinson Press. Dickinson, ND, May 28, 1957.