Modern Era Rodeo
Duane Howard’s idol was Casey Tibbs and he grew up dreaming of becoming a rodeo cowboy. He learned fast and in 1952, at age 18, the son of Benson County ranchers Floyd and Stella Howard became the first North Dakotan to win a National High School Rodeo title when he became the National Reserve Champion Bareback Rider.
The pride of Minnewauken was a shy and unassuming kid who learned fast and after high school decided to try the pro-rodeo circuit. He began competing in saddle bronc, bareback and bull riding. Duane was a triple threat and placed in the money at the nation’s biggest rodeos at Cheyenne, Denver, Madison Square Garden and Pendleton. In 1956, he was the RCA’s world bull riding runner-up champion and repeated in 1957 and 1960. In 1957, he was named the RCA’s all-around runner-up champion.
Duane qualified in saddle bronc and bull riding at the first National Finals Rodeo in 1959 and again in 1960 and was the bull riding average winner both years. A massive head injury at the Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1961 found him learning to walk and talk again but, with true cowboy ‘try,’ Duane was soon riding bulls again.
After retiring from rough stock competition in the 1960s, Duane worked as a rodeo pick-up man and judge, judging at the National Finals in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1956, Duane married childhood sweetheart Orpha Hanson. They raised three daughters on their Minnewauken ranch. The rising waters of Devils Lake forced the couple to leave their ranch in 1997. They now call Sheyenne, North Dakota, home.