From The Westerner Blog
For more than a half-century, Harry Vold supplied bucking broncos and fearsome bulls whose rip-snorting dispositions intimidated cowboys while entertaining rodeo audiences.
The Canadian-born stock contractor, who has died in Colorado at 93, became a legend on both sides of the border for his John Wayne demeanour and, especially, for the orneriness of his animals. Mr. Vold brought two bucking broncos and seven bulls to the inaugural National Finals Rodeo in 1959 at Dallas. The Vold family has had animals at the rodeo, regarded as the cowboy Super Bowl, every year since. He was known as the Duke of the Chutes, rodeo royalty in a sport he saw grow over the decades from dusty outdoor contests with $6 paydays to grand arena competitions in which a top rider can win more than $40,000 (U.S.).
Harry Alexander Vold was born on Jan. 29, 1924, to Kirsten and Nansen Vold, a farmer, auctioneer and horse trader. The family had left North Dakota to homestead in Alberta in 1896. The patriarch, Andrew Vold, died seven years later when struck by a branch while felling a tree. He was the first person buried in what became the Asker Cemetery. Harry was raised with three brothers on a 3,000-acre spread about 24 kilometres east of Ponoka. Older brothers Clifford and Norman both grew up to be ranchers, while younger brother Ralph, a burly 6-foot-2, 190-pounds, played senior amateur hockey as a defenceman and pursued a professional baseball career as a right-handed pitcher in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. He returned to Alberta and became a prominent figure in rodeo and ranching circles.
At the age of 15, Harry handled his first livestock auction. He was self-taught, as had been his father. In the depths of the Depression, the youth called on a genial personality, as well as training in etiquette that he received at high school, to charm bidders into spending hard-earned dollars. He handled auctions at the Edmonton Stockyards for a year before moving to Calgary, where his fast-talking patter sold cattle for seven years. During the war, Mr. Vold and his brothers built a stampede grounds in Asker, holding a modest rodeo. In 1947, he joined the fledgling Cliff Claggett Stampedes, a barnstorming Wild West show featuring some of the prairie’s finest cowboys. Mr. Vold rode broncos, but quickly decided he preferred buying and selling horses to being thrown off them.
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