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Published June 13, 2009, 12:00 AM

Keeping traditions alive

KILLDEER — At 78 years old, Thorris Sandvick stays busy. Between daily activities and chores on his ranch, helping with various area organizations and helping to run a campground and trail ride business, there really isn’t a dull moment.

KILLDEER — At 78 years old, Thorris Sandvick stays busy.

Between daily activities and chores on his ranch, helping with various area organizations and helping to run a campground and trail ride business, there really isn’t a dull moment.

His devotion to keeping “the western way of life” alive is what prompted the Roughrider Commission to name him Rodeo/Rancher of the Year for this year’s Roughrider Days fair and expo, scheduled from June 26 until July 5.

Sandvick will be honored each night of the rodeo, June 26, 27 and 28.

Born near Killdeer, Sandvick attended country school before moving on to Killdeer High School.

“That was at the time you stayed in dormitories during the year,” Sandvick said. “It wasn’t as modern as today.”

Sandvick said he always knew he wanted to get involved with farming and after high school he worked on farms and ranches.

Sandvick and his wife, Lynell, married in 1955 and had six children.

The Sandvicks took over Lynell’s family farm in 1956 after spending a year in Montana.

Starting with dairy cows, the family now raises beef cattle and horses, which are primarily used in a business they started in 1972 — Badlands Trail Rides.

“That beautiful Badlands down there, the aesthetic value is better than its production value,” Lynell said. “Whenever friends and relatives came to visit it always seemed like we took them for a ride for entertainment and the idea evolved into making a little money by sharing that beautiful country with people and it has certainly worked out that way.”

Starting with ranch horses, the Sandvicks added to the group by buying more horses for the trail rides. They also constructed five cabins in an area near Little Missouri State Park, and cleared areas for camping.

The business was turned over to the couple’s daughter, Twila and her husband Tom, but the two say they still like to help out when needed.

The family also puts in 600 acres of various crops each year.

Doing some bronc riding in his late teens and early 20s, Thorris found a love for rodeo.

“I had rodeo stock, and our kids were all rodeo-minded and all participated in one way or another,” Thorris said. “I was the director of the high school rodeo association for I don’t know how many years. I’m also a trustee for the Cowboy Hall of Fame.”

The Sandvicks also used to put on many rodeo schools.

“You don’t have to be raised on a ranch to be a bronc rider,” Thorris said. “It’s all athleticism. Rodeo teaches kids to be able to control themselves. They learned that their skills are their skills, they aren’t anyone else’s. It’s not like football or anything else.

“In rodeo, everyone’s a friend. You help each other out yet you compete against each other.”

Thorris’ participation and help in rodeo activities was one of the reasons he was chosen for the award.

“He’s really helped kids throughout the Killdeer area to grow in rodeo,” said Leon Kristianson, rodeo superintendent for the Roughrider Commission. “He is the western way of life.”

Thorris and Lynell say they might be one of the oldest members of the Killdeer Saddle Club. They also helped found the Dunn County Fair Association where Thorris is president.

The family has also been long-time supporters of the High Plains Cultural Center.

“It’s something we did to bring younger generations back to our counties and cities,” Thorris said. “It’s for the youth in years to come. This is my main objective is to build something for the youth. Our forefathers left us something; we should leave a legacy for them.”

Lynell has been a big influence in his life, he said.

“I married the right gal,” Thorris said. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am today. She’s the backbone of the ranch.

“A lot of people forget that the wives are just as important as the guy.”

Thorris said he wants continue doing what he loves.

“We’ll never retire,” he said jokingly. “I enjoy getting up in the morning and looking at the cattle. I think we’ll just keep going until we drop over.”

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