Rancher of the Year: Roughrider Commission honors Brad Gjermundson
MARSHALL, N.D. - Brad Gjermundson, a four-times saddle bronc world champion, grew up riding horses on his parents' ranch near Marshall, N.D. Today, he has his own ranch and continues to steer rope on the rodeo circuit. In recognition of his contr...
MARSHALL, N.D. - Brad Gjermundson, a four-times saddle bronc world champion, grew up riding horses on his parents’ ranch near Marshall, N.D. Today, he has his own ranch and continues to steer rope on the rodeo circuit. In recognition of his contributions to the western way of life, Gjermundson was named Roughrider Commission Rancher of the Year.
“It’s to honor a cowboy that ranches and helps out in the rodeo world,” said Leon Christensen, Roughrider Days rodeo superintendent. “I’ve known him since college, I guess. He has a love of family, ranching and rodeo, and just being around to help kids out. It’s an honor to recognize him this year.”
And as a special footnote, Brad’s dad, Stanley Gjermundson received the Roughrider Commission Rodeo/Rancher of the Year Award in 2008. Brad will be recognized during each of the Roughrider Days PRCA Rodeos -- Thursday through Saturday, June 28, 29 and 30. Grand entry is at 6:45 p.m., and competition begins at 7 p.m. at the Stark County Fairgrounds in Dickinson, N.D.
“It’s a big honor and I was surprised by getting the award,” he said.
Gjermundson, age 59, talked about his ranching career while sorting black Angus cow-calf pairs to move into summer pastures. Of course, the work was being done by horseback.
He grew up on a ranch 3½ miles west of Marshall, the son of Stanley and Sharon, who was Marshall’s postmaster. His siblings, Tammy, Lyle, Casey and Connie, also helped on the ranch.
“When we were kids we spent summers riding horseback -- helping neighbors and helping dad,” he said.
He began renting land and building his cattle herd back in the early 1980s.
“Then in 1987, Jackie and I bought this ranch and we’ve been here ever since. It’s been a good life, but I’ll probably never get all my ranch work done,” he said.
Stanley was credited for helping out while Brad was on the rodeo circuit.
“While I was rodeoing, my dad put up the hay and fed the cows. Basically, he looked after what I was pulling together.”
Today, Brad’s son, Kane, helps with the ranch while his wife, Justene is a speech pathologist for West River Student Services.
Brad’s daughters, Hali, is a radiology tech at the CHI St. Alexius Health in Dickinson, while Jori uses her business degree at Coyote Creek Mine. They help out when they come home.
The Gjermundsons also have seasonal help to ease their workload in the summer, especially now that the haying season is about to begin.
“We didn't get a lot of hay last year, but this year it’s better,” he said. “Right now, our water source is OK, but you never know -- it could be 100 degrees in July. Most of the time, people can survive one dry year, but we’re two years in. We need more rain right now, but it’s not as critical as last year.” His rodeo career
“Dad rodeoed and took all us kids to rodeos - you worked hard all week to be gone Saturday and Sunday. It wasn’t every weekend, but we’d get in a couple of rodeos every month. It was really fun and we looked forward to it,” he said.
Gjermundson competed in showdo’s as a little kid, then went on to high school, college and NDRA rodeos.
“You worked your way up - when you felt big enough and good enough, you spent more money traveling,” he said.
He met Jackie while attending Dickinson State University, and they were married in 1984. They were both members of the DSU Rodeo Club. During his freshman year, he was named Rookie of the Year by N.D. Rodeo Association
Turning pro in 1980, he was named Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) saddle bronc riding Rookie of the Year. The next year at age 22, he won the saddle bronc world championship and never looked back. He was runner-up in 1982, and won three straight saddle bronc world championships in 1983, 1984 and 1985. He was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1995, and North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2009.
When Gjermundson went pro, there was no limit to rodeo entries.
“In 1982, I entered 210 rodeos and went to 155 - sometimes the horse draw wasn’t worth the time and money spent, but mostly you doubled up. One Fourth of July, I entered five rodeos and made four of them.”
After 20 years of competing, Gjermundson retired in 1999.
“The family was getting bigger and bigger and the spread too - I wasn’t doing a good job at any of them,” he said.
The family is still competitive in rodeo and Gjermundson likes steer roping.
“I didn’t rope much when I was rodeoing hard and chasing world championships. I didn’t have the time to practice.”
Gjermundson is committed to the Home on the Range Champions Ride Rodeo, serving on the rodeo committee and board of directors.
“The rodeo is their biggest fundraiser of the year,” he said. “Being part of that keeps me in touch with the riders a little bit, it keeps me in touch with the contractors, plus the main thing it’s for a cause well worth my time and effort.”
Today, Gjermundson is mostly a rodeo spectator - supporting his nieces or family when they enter an event.
Throughout his career, he’s had his share of ups and downs.
“Everybody has hot streaks and cold streaks, and of course winning is the best thing ever to help with your attitude, but nobody wins all the time. If you don’t do well, leave it behind. I always felt if I didn’t do good, but tried all I could and couldn’t do no more, it didn’t matter - leave it behind. Go to the next one - there’s always more rodeos.”
Gjermundson fulfilled his childhood dream of qualifying for the National Finals - 9 times, but competed in 8 after he broke a leg. Then he went on to win the four world championships.
“It takes a lot of work and I did it professionally for 20 years,” he said.
Today, his focus is on the ranch, and he hopes the next generation will be able to follow in his footsteps.
“That’s my and Jackie’s goal - to make it easier for our kids and grandkids down the line to ranch if they want to,” he said.