Dakota Datebook

Rodeo Champ Duane Howard

Friday, July 14, 2017

 

Duane Howard was born in Devils Lake on this date in 1933. He married his childhood sweetheart, Orpha Hanson in 1956. They made their home on the Howard Ranch in Minnewaukan until the rising waters of Devils Lake forced the couple to relocate to Sheyenne, North Dakota.

Howard was an all-around cowboy, competing at the highest level of pro rodeo. In her book, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, North Dakota author Fran Armstrong talks about rodeo stars from the upper Great Plains. Of Howard, 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!”

One story Howard shared involved a rodeo trip to New York and fellow North Dakotan Tom Tescher.   As Howard told it, “Tom 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.”

Duane had a stellar career. He placed at most of the bigger rodeos and won several big ones, including the National Final Rodeo in Dallas in 1961. One year, he was runner-up of the world, and another time he was third. “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 he served on the board of the Professional Cowboys Rodeo Association.  In 1998, Duane was inducted along with his friend Jim Tescher into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. And in 2008 he was selected for the national Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Duane Howard passed away in Sheyenne at the age of 82 in 2015.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

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

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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