Alvin Nelson, born in 1934, is the son of Mobridge, South Dakota, ranchers Tobias and Agnes Nelson. In 1950, at age 16, he walked away from the ranch and rode in his first rodeo. The slight-built, skinny kid won the cow riding and $17.00 and a career was born.
Just two years after his first ride on a cow, Alvin won the National High School saddle bronc riding title.
In 1953, he moved to western North Dakota and began rodeoing with Jim and Tom Tescher. His specialty was saddle bronc but Alvin also rode bareback and bulls and was known for his furious spurring style.
Alvin bought a ranch along the Little Missouri near Grassy Butte, North Dakota, in 1956 and continued his outstanding rodeo career. In 1957, he became the first North Dakotan to win the World Champion Saddle Bronc buckle. He also won the saddle bronc competition at the first-ever Champions Ride at Home on the Range. In 1958, Alvin was drafted and married former Miss Rodeo North Dakota Kaye Van Dyke.
In 1960, he nearly won the world title again and qualified for the National Finals in 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964 and 1966. He won the NFR saddle bronc riding average in 1961 and 1962 and won the NFR all-around title in 1961. Alvin rode professionally until the mid-1960s, winning and placing in the country’s biggest rodeos.
Alvin passed away in 2014. His wife Kaye and their son, Louis, remain on the ranch 25 miles west of Grassy Butte in the North Dakota Badlands.