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Walt and Evelyn Neuens


Walt Neuens was born in Medora on this date in 1911, and grew up in the North Dakota Badlands. Along with his brother and a friend, he began working for a Wild West show when he was just 14.

“When I was a young buck,” he said, “the tourists went by excursion trains that’d stop at different places and show them things. Medora was one of those places. Every time a train stopped we’d have a Wild West show for them. We rode broncs for two dollars and a half a head, and they were wild broncs – they weren’t used to being in a pen or nothing. One day my bronc fell over the fence on top of a new Chevrolet car.”

And, that’s how Neuens met Evelyn Connell – it was her father’s car. They got to know each other and got married in 1931. According to one story, Walt thought being married was greatly preferable to driving the 55 miles it took to see her where she was teaching.

The Neuens settled on the home place, and Walt made extra money competing in rodeos – saddle bronc riding, bareback riding and roping. Bonnie Wilson, a long-time friend, said, “Walt and Evelyn became the driving force behind every horse-oriented organization in the state.”

In 1947, the Little Missouri River flooded them out, taking half their horses and most of their cattle. They rebuilt, sold the ranch, and moved to the Bismarck area. Walt worked as a building contractor, a brand inspector and as a barn manager for the Bismarck Horse Club barn manager.

Eventually, Walt and Evelyn opened Neuens’ Western Shop in Bismarck. In 1986, Wilson told the Bismarck Greeter, “Their store isn’t only a business; it’s an extension of their living room, with friends stopping to chat.”

Walt, however, still found time to do what he loved best: ride horses on the range and down along the Missouri River.

Orlin Lyngmet met Walt in the ‘60s when Neuen gave a horse tack demonstration to the Linton 4-H Horse Club. Later, when Lyng moved to Bismarck, they continued their friendship through the store and as a member of the Bismarck Mounted Police.

Lyng said Walt couldn’t handle seeing a gap between a horse’s stomach and the saddle’s rear cinch. “If he saw daylight,” Lyng said, “he’d take out his jack knife and say, ‘If you aren’t going to use that cinch properly we might as well cut it off!’ I never saw him cut one off, but he came close a couple of times.”

Neuens also objected to rewarding a horse with a pat on the neck while mounted. “Never reward your horse when you are on their back,” he’d say. “Get off and then give him a pat on the neck.” Lyng says, “Now when I tell someone to tighten up their cinch or not to reward their horse while on the horse’s back, they ask, ‘Who says that?’ I say, ‘My old friend Walt Neuens.’”

Walt Neuens was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame last year. He died in 1990, but Evelyn continued promoting what was close to their hearts. This year, she, too, is being inducted, but under a brand new category: the Legacy Award. She is being recognized as a driving force behind the development of the Hall of Fame, itself.

Source: The Cowboy Chronicle Extra. 25 July 2004: 4-5

“Neuens receives first Legacy Award.” The Cowboy Chronicle. Summer 2005: 4.