George Gardner was born March 28, 1878, at Hopkins, Missouri. His family moved to a ranch near Dillon, Montana, there he met and married Ina Baker.
George’s cowboy interests and spirit of adventure led the couple to cast its lot with Col. William ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody, traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show from the spring of 1899-1906. George performed as a rodeo contestant, American cowboy and peace officer, earning about $55 a month, while Ina posed as a cowgirl.
In 1906, they retired from the show and filed on a homestead near Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch. He engaged in the cattle business for many years, continuing to be involved with horses, rodeos and roping by competing in rodeo events in the area, supplying rodeo stock and winning many saddle bronc riding and steer roping events. George won ‘World’s Champion Best All-Around Cowboy’ honors at the Glendive (Montana) Round Up in 1919.
He and Ina divorced around 1919, George continued to live in the Medora area and bought land from the Elkhorn Ranch. He married Freda (Fingal) Hubbell on May 9, 1923, in Glendive.
In the 1920s, George abandoned ranching, gathered a band of wild horses and established the Elkhorn Ranch Wild West Show with friends ‘Badlands Bill’ McCarty, Bob McLeod, Ed Harding and Arnold Stiles. Staging shows throughout the Midwest, he served as manager and performed as a trick and fancy roper returning to the Elkhorn Ranch during the winter.
George’s rodeo abilities and genial manners earned him fame, respect and friendships. No man in western North Dakota was more widely known. His championship rodeo belt and the pistol and money belt he wore in the shows are on display at Gene Autry’s Western Heritage Museum in Los Angeles.
He died May 11, 1927, and is buried in Dickinson.