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Cowboy moments: Hall of Fame in Medora opens with new exhibits, video premiere

Photo by Jason Hallmark / Special to The Press “Gunsmoke” star Buck Taylor, left, chats with Medora Mayor Doug Ellison Saturday at the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Taylor signed Ellison’s transcript copy of the “Gunsmoke” episode “The Hanging of Newly O’Brien,” in which Taylor played O’Brien, while at the Medora-based museum, which opened this weekend with new exhibits and a video premiere.1 / 2
Photo by Jason Hallmark / Special to The Press Roger and Paula Clemens of Medora look at artwork Saturday at the Cowboy Hall of Fame. The Medora-based museum opened this weekend with new exhibits and a video premiere. 2 / 2

MEDORA — The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame became so crowded on Saturday night that its executive director, Kevin Holten, had to find a way to appease a line leading out the door.

“Be patient,” Holten said. “There’s champagne and Pendleton (whiskey) just around the corner.”

Droves of people — a few hundred, in all — came to the reopened hall of fame to see the premiere of the museum’s video and new exhibits.

New exhibits included donated collections from four-time professional world champion saddle bronc rider Brad Gjermundson and fellow world champion Alvin Nelson, both hall inductees.

Gjermundson was on hand, talking to people who admired him during his storied career.

“It’s great to be here,” he said. “We’re just looking at a variety of stuff from when I was a kid and did rodeos in the ‘90s. A few pairs of boots and hats.”

The film, dubbed “Another Cowboy Moment,” consisted of interviews with notable cowboys, discussing cherished times in their lives.

Buck Taylor, who starred as Newly O’Brien on “Gunsmoke,” signed autographs for guests and recalled on-set stories. Taylor said he made the trip from his ranch in Fort Worth, Texas, because of an abiding love for “our western heritage and the cowboy way of life.”

“I fought alongside Theodore Roosevelt in the Battle of San Juan Hill,” Taylor said of his 1997 movie “Rough Riders,” which documented President Theodore Roosevelt’s life.

The museum is a testament to the resilience of Native Americans, as well as cowboys, ensnared in a tenuous relationship throughout the history of the West. Exhibits also paid tribute to subjects ranging from frontier transportation to Miss Rodeo America.

A recreation of a settler’s shack, or bedroom for turn-of-the-century ranchers, featured total authenticity, complete with guns, cowhide carpet and a bottle of scotch.

Hall of Fame board member Dick Nelson said that he hopes the turnout from opening night continues as the year goes on.

“If you’re in Medora, you’ll see some real heroes if you come here,” Nelson said.

Carol Christianson of Bismarck said she came to see the Gjermundson and Nelson exhibits.

“The museum is just getting better all the time,” Christianson said.