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Holten: Herman is more than a North Dakota hero

You’ve got someone great representing you to the world, North Dakota. His name is Wayne Herman.

He was inducted into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo., this past weekend, and do you know what? He never said the word “I” during his entire acceptance speech.

Perhaps you know him and perhaps you don’t. But if you don’t, you should. He won the world championship in rodeo in 1992 by riding bareback bucking horses, which is an amazing feat in itself. But even more amazing is that he went to the National Finals Rodeo, the Super Bowl of rodeo, 11 times and competed against maybe the best group of bareback riders ever assembled in a decade.

Ten of the 15 bareback bronc riders who he competed against at the NFR in one year either had already won or went on to win a world championship. Now that’s real competition and Wayne just might have been the best of them all.

This year he was elected to the Hall of Fame and, as it turns out, his contemporaries tell us that he was the most fundamentally sound and consistent bareback bronc rider of the group, and yet, when he was asked to give his acceptance speech, he forgot to talk about himself.

He talked about his parents and his wife, Connie, and so many other others that helped and encouraged him along the way. And he talked about how important rodeo is to families and the fabric of America and how the PRCA Hall of Fame preserves that history and the cowboy way of life forever. But he forgot to mention the most important person in his career: himself.

Of course, you would have had to been there, but after an hour or more of listening to other awardees talk about themselves, it was immeasurably refreshing to have maybe the best of them all talk about everything but himself.

Now for those of you who’ve never ridden a bucking horse, you have no clue how hard it is to do what he did. Rodeo is not a sport. It is an addiction, and it wraps you around its little finger and thrusts you toward the highest highs and then dumps you into the lowest lows whenever it wants.

Then there are those other things that it creates, like concussions and cuts, and blows and breaks. The moments when you land on the ground and you realize that the bottom part of your leg is pointed in the wrong direction. Wayne Herman knows all about that too.

But most importantly, you’ve got to remember that just because you’re a rodeo star, that doesn’t mean that you’re immune from all of the other things that life throws at you, like sickness and finances, loneliness and death, and unfortunately Wayne Herman knows all about that too.

He had the largest group of fans and followers at the awards ceremony. Some came as far as anyone and that says something too, doesn’t it? And when he asked us all to stand up and be recognized, he shared a little bit of his glory with us and we couldn’t have been more proud.

Christopher Reeve, the actor who was paralyzed and eventually died as a result of his injuries from a fall from a horse once said, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

Bob Riley, the former governor of Alabama, once said, “Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the ‘hero’ within us is revealed.”

Perseverance and courage is what separates champions from the rest of us and Wayne Herman has shown that he has plenty of both.

He’s not only a champion and your hero, North Dakota, he’s a class act and an amazing representative of your state.

Thank you Wayne.

Holten is the editor of The Drill and the executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. Email him at