Tex Appledoorn is named the Rodeo Rancher of the Year

Tex Appledoorn is this year's recipient of the Rodeo Rancher of the Year for Roughrider Days voted upon by the sub-committee of the Dickinson Roughrider Commission.

Tex Appledoorn is this year's recipient of the Rodeo Rancher of the Year for Roughrider Days voted upon by the sub-committee of the Dickinson Roughrider Commission.

As the 22nd recipient, Appledoorn joins the ranks of southwestern regional ranchers and rodeo veterans such as Rex Cook and Alvin Nelson.

He receives the award today at a presentation ceremony at the Dickinson State University's rodeo arena during the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo. Appledoorn also is a part of the Roughrider Days parade.

The award

Arnie Binstock started the sub-committee for the award 22 years ago as a way to recognize those who symbolize the Western way of life.


The committee consists of five people from the ranching and rodeo community. The Roughrider Commission approves who the committee chooses.

"The recipients rodeo on their ranch," Binstock said. "There are a lot of rancher-rodeo guys in the country who aren't full fledge rodeo people. They use horses on their ranch to work cattle and on the side do a little rodeo using the skills they learned growing up on the ranch."

There are plenty of people in the country who support rodeo and are teaching young people how to do it and raise horses, he added. The main criterion for a recipient is to have participated in rodeo and ranched most of his/her life.

"We've basically covered all of southwestern North Dakota with people who have gotten the award," Binstock said. "We find a name and see if the fit the criteria."

"Tex is a rancher and still ranches," Binstock added. "Tex has rodeoed a good part of his life, just look at his history."

Rodeo and ranch history

Franklin "Tex" Appledoorn was born in 1933 in the small town of Zenith, which once existed between South Heart and Belfield. When he was 5 years old his parents moved to Dickinson and Appledoorn graduated from Dickinson High School in 1951.

Appledoorn grew up with a rope in his hand, he said.


"I roped whatever I could, even other kids around the neck," Appledoorn added. "My father, William, bought me a horse after graduating. Then I went to work on the Connolly ranch north of Dunn Center for that summer and fall. I got started with rodeo at the Schnell's arena in Dickinson."

Appledoorn started participating in rodeo events in 1952 while attending DSU. He also played football and basketball in school. His favorite events were calf roping and steer wrestling.

"I started rodeo as a hobby," Appledoorn said. "My goal was always to ranch. I couldn't travel for it too much because I had to take care of the ranch."

Before his rodeo career took off, Appledoorn served in the United States Army from 1954-1955. He was mainly stationed in Alaska and never went abroad. He also served in the special services sport's program.

Upon his return in 1956, he competed on DSU's first rodeo team in calf roping, steer wrestling and ribbon roping. His was part of the first team that won the Rocky Mountain Region the first year of competition. This event was a great accomplishment for Appledoorn, he said.

Appledoorn married Pauline Kuntz in 1958. The two moved to her family's land, Rocky Spring ranch, near Knife River and live there today.

"Ranching has its ups and downs," Appledoorn said. "The weather is the biggest factor and you depend on the grass and hay too. You have no control over it, but you just have to take the good with the bad."

Pauline's family's ranch is located where the old town of Rocky Springs once stood. They still have a working well and two original town buildings.


The couple has two children who still live in state. Son Bernel lives with his wife Elayne and two children, Chance and Kailey Rae, on the family's land nearby. Daughter Janel Lee and husband Shawn live on a ranch near Grassy Butte. Janel works at the McKenzie Bank in Watford City and Shawn works in construction.

Appledoorn mostly participated in rodeo throughout the Dakotas, Montana and Canada. He won the Dickinson Match of Champion's calf roping event in 1956. He won titles in the non-Rodeo Cowboy Association calf roping in 1956-1958 and state Rodeo Cowboy Association titles in 1960-1968.

Appledoorn won the state non-RCA steer wrestling title in 1959 and RCA titles in 1960, 1964 and 1967. He was named "All-Around Cowboy RCA Champion" in 1965, 1967 and 1968.

"You meet a lot of great people doing rodeo," Appledoorn said. "Everywhere I went people treated me well. Most of the time when I entered rodeo I had time to mingle with people a little."

Appledoorn was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2003 in the pro-rodeo division. In total, he has won 13 North Dakota calf roping titles, four state steer wrestling crowns and three state all-around cowboy championships. Rodeo was a challenge Appledoorn worked hard on all his life.

"With rodeo, if you want to beat someone you have to practice," he said. "I made a point of practicing as much as I could. It depended on how busy I was with the ranch, but I would practice anywhere from an hour for two to three times a week."

Appledoorn has served as the Killdeer Mountain Round-up Rodeo chairman for 31 years while being a lifetime member of the Killdeer Saddle Club. He served on the North Dakota High School Rodeo Association board for 10 years and was a Dunn County commissioner for 12 years.

Appledoorn even built an indoor and outdoor arena on his ranch which is still used today.


"I built them when I was done rodeoing, but I did it for the kids," he said. "I've never charged people to use it. I liked to see them come here. People have helped me, so in return I wanted to help them."

A favorite mount of Appledoorn's was a big gelding named Wyoming Baldy that he trained and used for calf roping, hazing and team roping.

"He was a horse I could use for all three events I entered in," Appledoorn said. "Farmers used to have a lot of horses and I would buy and keep them to help with ranching. It helped me get going. I like horses with color."

Appledoorn broke a lot of horses and bought and sold many horses. He's been raising commercial cattle for 50 years and continues to do so.

"It is hard to get it out of your blood," he said.

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