Long ride to Cowboy Hall of Fame
I've known Darrell Dorgan for 30 years. He's a member of a shrinking cadre of journalists and former journalists who got started in this business in North Dakota at about the same time. Most of them still are at it. Dorgan (a former journalist) i...
I've known Darrell Dorgan for 30 years. He's a member of a shrinking cadre of journalists and former journalists who got started in this business in North Dakota at about the same time. Most of them still are at it. Dorgan (a former journalist) is a contemporary of Grand Forks Herald editor/publisher Mike Jacobs, Bismarck Tribune managing editor Ken Rogers, North Dakota Public Radio news director Dave Thompson, and me.
These days Dorgan is executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. A few years ago he wrapped up a career in broadcast journalism during which he established himself as one of the most knowledgeable, dogged reporters in the Bismarck press corps. His work for Prairie Public Broadcasting was some of the best ever done for public television. For his efforts he won nearly every award a broadcaster can win.
But history was calling - specifically the history, legend and lore of western North Dakota. A bona fide expert on the exploits and foibles of Gen. George A. Custer, Dorgan eventually found a way to fold his love for the state's history into a craft and a living: filmmaking. His videos on such topics as Lewis & Clark in North Dakota, Fort Abraham Lincoln and Custer's 7th, and Sheheke, Ambassador of the Mandan have won praise and plaudits across the nation and in Europe.
It wasn't a big leap when Dorgan took on the task of raising funds to establish a North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in historic Medora in the Badlands. As executive director, he worked tirelessly for several years to raise public and private money to fund the $4 million western heritage and cultural center. His efforts have paid off: The hall of fame has a sneak preview scheduled May 28 during the Cowboy Poetry and Art Show. The center will open officially in mid-June. A dedication celebration, complete with induction of hall of fame candidates, will come in early August, at about the time of the Champions Ride rodeo near Sentinel Butte, one of the state's premier bronc riding and roping events.
Dorgan would be the first to say he didn't do it alone. And of course, a lot of people deserve a measure of credit for the success of the project. But without his vision and focus on the task, the hall would still be a wish. It takes a point man to raise that much money. It takes perserverance.
I know there were times when Dorgan was discouraged. But he knew North Dakotans would respond to a center where cowboy and ranch life could be enshrined. He understood how deep western roots are planted in the state's history and heritage. He realized that the unique saga of North Dakota's cowboys, ranches and rodeos needed to be gathered in one western place and told through the eyes and by the voices of the men and women who lived the stories.
It was an ambitious vision from the start. It's been a long ride on a sometimes skittish horse. But Dorgan stuck with it, and this summer the hall of fame will open.
Not bad for a former newsman - and a broadcast journalist at that...
Zaleski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 241-5521.