MEDORA, N.D. — If you missed my column on Sunday (and you probably didn’t), my wife and I took the short jaunt out to Medora, N.D., on Thursday, to attend the induction ceremony at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Now, you might be asking yourself, ‘Self, why would they attend a North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame induction ceremony?’
It’s not because I was the one being inducted into the hall of fame.
I definitely don’t fit the description of being a cowboy. I don’t ranch. I don’t ride in the rodeo, and I certainly am not a western artist. I have no painting ability what-so-ever. I don’t have cowboy shoes (I mean boots) or a hat.
But I do know somebody who has all of that and more.
His name is Walter Piehl Jr.. Walter lives in Minot, N.D., and he taught art at Minot State University for quite some time.
Walter is Diana’s cousin, and his paintings are out of this world.
When Diana found out he was being inducted into the hall of fame, she was on the phone right away making reservations.
I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to go on that trip. Not because it had to do with a cowboy hall of fame, but I had no idea where Medora was even located in the state of North Dakota.
When I found out it was 4 ½ hours from Fargo, that curbed my enthusiasm even more.
Unfortunately for Diana, I’m not big on travel, and she likes to travel a lot. I like the comfort of home, and I don’t sleep well in hotels, but I didn’t want her driving out there by herself even though I know she’s capable of doing that, so I invited myself along.
At least we were going to see some relatives that we hadn’t seen in quite some time and unfortunately, we don’t keep in touch with them as often as we should.
Still, I wasn’t looking forward to the drive. It’s about four hours to Fargo, then another 500-some miles to the western edge of North Dakota.
We took off Thursday and got to Moorhead at 1 a.m. At least I slept well that night. We got up early and left on our trip west.
The farthest I had ever been in North Dakota was Jamestown. I traveled there when I was a student assistant for the men’s basketball team at Bemidji State University back in the late 1980s.
I was definitely beating that distance.
We got to Bismark, and took a break, but we still had 2 ½ hours to go. That’s the way it is in North Dakota. Nothing is close to anything out there.
We entered Mountain Daylight Time, gaining an hour, then we arrived in Medora, got settled into the hotel, then decided to go sightseeing.
Medora isn’t big. The population is around 150, but during the summer that swells with tourists, and it was busy last weekend with the cowboy hall of fame, and the Shriners were there for an event Saturday.
The first place we went was the Von Hoffman house. It just so happened that the artist in residency was Walter Jr., but we thought his paintings would be there and not him.
I walked to the back room, and there he was, working on one of his projects.
I told him who I was, but the name didn’t ring a bell. He was confused. I told him I was Diana Piehl’s husband, and his eyes lit up. At about that time, Diana had rounded the corner, then it hit home. He couldn’t believe we traveled all that way for him. He was humbled.
We couldn’t miss it. It’s a big honor in North Dakota.
At this particular induction ceremony, they enshrined Kaye Nelson, Legacy Award; Charles Franklin Martell, Pre-1940 Ranching; Gerald “Pat” Effertz; Modern-era Ranching; Gary Graham, Pre-1970 Rodeo; Bob J. Hanson, Modern-Era Rodeo; and Darrell Hermanson, Modern-Era Rodeo.
Walter was inducted for Western Arts and Entertainment.
When he was younger, he was involved with the rodeo as an announcer, and he rode horses. He did other things as well, but his painting separates him from the rest.
We attended a dinner on Friday night, then Walter took us through the hall of fame, It’s an interesting place. A lot of cowboy history resided in that building.
On Saturday, they held the induction ceremony, then we had a little gathering at one of the local establishments in town.
It was great seeing all of Diana’s relatives on such a joyous occasion.
According to the North Dakota Museum of Art, Walter singularly pioneered the contemporary cowboy art movement. His paintings deal with the rodeos, cowboys, bulls, cowgirls and native Americans.
Among his collections are two series called the Sweetheart of the Rodeo and the American Minotaur.
It was a great day for Walter, his family and his friends.
It was a great day for Diana and I. Now, we know somebody who has hall-of-fame cred.
Oh, and one other thing. I also found a golf course carved out in the Badlands called The Bully Pulpit.
I might have to take that nine-hour tip to Medora again, but not anytime soon.
Maybe next summer.
To Walter, if you read this, I don’t know much about art, but I’m impressed with your ability to put your thoughts on a canva,s. Congratulation on this honor and keep up the good work.