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Duane Howard, Bull Rider


In her book, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, North Dakota author Fran Armstrong talks about rodeo stars from the upper Great Plains. One of them is Duane Howard, who was a bronc and champion bull rider during the 1960s. She writes, “As I listened to Duane talking about rodeo, I began to get a picture of who this man is. Not because he talks about himself. That’s just about the last thing I could get out of him. He was always talking about other rodeo greats!”

Duane recalled some of those stories, starting with, “The first rodeo I went to was at Medora, North Dakota... They had put together a nice rodeo outfit – lots of color, good pickup and saddle horses and a really rank set of horses and bulls. I remember Jim Tescher having Spur Dodger. Boy! How he did buck!.. I really got ‘big eyes’ when I saw those dudes!”

The next weekend, Duane hitchhiked to Hettinger, where he learned he’d never become a bareback rider. “George Mills and Jimmy Schumacher were the clowns,” he said. “They took the city cop’s motorcycle and started driving, heading towards the chutes under a pretty good head of steam, lost control and ran into a chute gate! It sure scuffed that ‘crotch-rocket’ up and cost the two funny men some bucks. Those two guys were two of the greatest that rodeo has ever seen...

“In 1954, I made my first big road trip (to New York)... Colonel Jim paid off in cash. I didn't think I'd ever see another poor day. Believe I won somewhere over $1,000.00.

“...I remember in New York. Tom Tescher was making (pancakes) for all of us... Lyle (Smith) came on over, and (Tom) invited Lyle to sit down and have some. Meanwhile, Tom put the sink stopper, which was just the right size, inside a pancake and gave it to Lyle. Lyle proceeded to butter it, put on the maple syrup and then cut it with a fork. Well, he sawed away with the fork, and then got the table knife out and really went to work! Tom and the rest of us were nearly choking with laughter... He gave Tom and the rest of us a few new names.

“I (also) got a story about Marvin (Brookman) and Bill Pauley. Bill was an outstanding young bronc rider who had his life cut short by cancer. Bill and Marvin were great friends, and at a rodeo, Bill had a horse branded #22. Bill searched through the horses but to no avail... so he hunts Marvin up and tells him there is no such number in the bronc pen he’s looked through, except for a bay horse with no number. Marvin dryly says, ‘Well, that’s him.’ Bill says, ‘But Marv, he ain’t got no number!’ Marvin says, ‘Well, sir, that’s him. He bucked so hard the last time I had him out, he bucked the number off!’”

Duane had a good career. He placed at most of the bigger rodeos and won several big ones, including the NFR finals in Dallas in 1961. One year, he was the runner-up of the world, and another time he was third in the world. “Guess the ones I enjoyed winning the most,” he said, “were the old Madison Square Garden, where I won the Bull Riding in 1955, and winning the Bronc Riding at the Boston Garden in 1957.”

In July 1961, Duane’s horse fell with him at Cheyenne, Wyoming. He went into a coma and received his last rites... and then miraculously recovered. But his timing never returned, and his rodeo riding was pretty much over. He got into judging, and in 1998, Duane Howard was inducted into the ND Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

(Source: My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, by Fran Armstrong, 2001)