Rodeo legend Harry ‘Duke of the Chutes’ Vold remembered
It was easy to spot Harry Vold during a rodeo.
He’d be riding his black horse in the arena. The horse was always black.
His horse was Scott, who was a quiet, gentle horse that handled Vold well, according to Vold’s youngest daughter, Kirsten Vold.
In September of 2015, Scott was injured and had to be euthanized. Vold wasn’t going to ride any other horse in the rodeo arena.
Vold passed away in his sleep on March 13.
The best way for a cowboy to go, Kirsten said.
But the stock contractor’s 60-plus year career was one of legend. He came to the U.S. for the sport. Born on Jan. 29, 1924, and raised in Ponoka, Alberta, Canada, Vold moved to the states for a career in the sport he loved.
It didn’t take long before the “Duke of the Chutes” built his business, the Harry Vold Rodeo Co.
FOR THE LOVE OF RODEO
To say Vold enjoyed rodeo would be an understatement. He had a passion that lasted a lifetime and he built his, and now his family’s, life’s work around it.
“There wasn’t a part of rodeo he didn’t love,” Kirsten said.
The connection started when Vold was young. He used to ride bareback — the thought of this made Kirsten chuckle.
“He wasn’t the best,” she said.
But he still loved the rodeo and started his career as a stock contractor.
He would go to rodeos around the country for work. One of the top rodeos he worked for was the National Finals Rodeo.
When the NFR began in 1959, Vold was right there working as the stock contractor.
Vold was one of two people whose animals were used at every NFR since its inception.
His work led to a number of awards, including many from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for his animals.
“He was on the NFR committee for many years” Kirsten said. “He’s played a role in just about every position in rodeo.”
Vold’s animals weren’t the only award winners.
Not by a long shot.
He earned many awards — too many to know a final count — but that didn’t mean any award meant less to him.
“My oldest brother, Wayne, probably said it best, ‘I’ve never seen a man get as many awards as he has who loves getting them, every single one of them, to this day,’” Kirsten said. “And he did. He loved every single one he got. He was excited for each and every one of them, as joyous as if each were his first.”
In 1994, he was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. By that time he already was named a PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year, an award he won 11 times in his life.
In 2009, he was named a Legend of Pro Rodeo.
The awards Vold earned were a symbol of what he meant to the rodeo family.
He was the type of person who knew everyone, and everyone knew him.
“He loved being right in the middle of things, Kirsten said. “People were drawn to him. He has a way of making people feel at ease.”
Sometimes it was as simple as saying “good ride” or teasing someone with flashy gear. Even these small interactions coming from such a rodeo connection made a lasting impact.
A lot of these people have been reaching out to the family. Letting them know about what they remember about Vold.
“Whatever little comment, they’ve never forgotten all these years later,” Kirsten said.
His passion for rodeo was passed on and shared by everyone in his immediate family.
Vold actually met his wife, Karen Womack Vold, through rodeo. She is a member of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
His children Wayne, Vona, Doug and Darce have their own rodeo companies. Kirsten is general manager of Harry Vold Rodeo Co.
Vold had another daughter, Nancy, who is deceased.
Kirsten and her mom will now work together to run the company in Vold’s absence.
The business isn’t the same as it used to be when Vold began. He was one who preferred to close a deal with a handshake — not a signature on a dotted line.
There are a couple places where Kirsten still conducts business like that.
“He was a great role model, of course,” Kirsten said. “He was a teacher you learned from by example. He was a big believer in actions speak more than words. People respected him for always being truthful and honest. Those are things I want to carry on and do myself.” ❖
— Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (970) 392-4410 or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm
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