story by Kyle Eustice In the early 1950s, Ralph and Helen Rand used to frequent the Calico Rock Café in their hometown of Dolph, Arkansas, […]
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Bob Christophersen has jumped a steer in each of seven decades.The North Dakota man took his first jump off a horse in 1959 when he was nine years old, with the help of his dad, John Christophersen, a Rodeo Cowboys Association bulldogger, on the family place in Sioux City, Iowa. And he turfed his last steer at Rapid City’s summer rodeo in 2010. Between 1959 and 2010, he traveled the country, rodeoing from coast to coast and in Canada, making the National Finals Rodeo six times and winning numerous rodeos.
Christophersen grew up around rodeo, competing in Little Britches Rodeo and Iowa High School Rodeo. In addition to steer wrestling, he was a calf roper in youth rodeo, and tried the roughstock events, although “I had a short career in bareback and bull riding,” he jokes. Bob won the Iowa Little Britches All-Around and Steer Wrestling titles in 1963, and in high school rodeo, won the all-around and steer wrestling titles as a freshman and senior, and finished third as a sophomore. At the National High School Finals Rodeo, he won the steer wrestling championship three times and finished as reserve champion once.
After graduating from Bishop Heelan High School in Sioux City in 1969, Bob attended the National College of Business in Rapid City, S.D. He had already bought his RCA card at the age of 17, so he competed collegiately and professionally at the same time, winning the College National Finals Rodeo in 1970, and qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo from 1971 through 1975, and again in 1977. Bob’s steer wrestling was just as consistent professionally as when he was young; he won the average at the NFR in 1971 and 1975.
He graduated from college with a business degree and a minor in accounting, but his office was on the back of a horse in the timed event box. Bob continued to rodeo full time, making his home base in Glendive, Montana.
He often traveled with Walt Linderman, and often rode borrowed horses. Bob rode Linderman’s horse Scotty, who carried many steer wrestlers to average wins, including Linderman, Warren Wuthier, and John W. Jones, Sr. He also rode Roy Duvall’s horse Whiskey, and C.R. Jones’ horse, Peanut. In 1975, he rode his own horse, Coffee, who had been his sister’s barrel horse.
Bob left his name as champion at some of the biggest rodeos of his time: the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1973, Edmonton, Alberta; Ellensburg and Walla Walla, Washington. He never won Pendleton, but finished second there in 1977. He entered Puyallup only three times in his career and won it all three times: in 1975, 1976 and 1977. At that time Puyallup was five head: “it was a mini-NFR.”
In 1977, at Ak-Sar-Ben in Omaha, he blew out his knee. It wasn’t a career ending injury, but it slowed him down. “I still rodeoed for many years after that, but more in the circuit.”
With his focus switched to rodeos closer to home, he won the Montana Summer Circuit in 1977, and was reserve champion once in the Badlands Circuit. Bob hurt his shoulder in 1978, but still continued to compete. His last hot streak was in 1987. He traveled with Ivan Teigen that year, and the two of them did well, with Bob winning Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days. That year, he ended up in the top 25 in the world.
Bob had married during college, but in 1987 that marriage ended. He met a North Dakota ranch girl, and left Glendive in 1989 to move to Eunice’s ranch near Grassy Butte. They married, and since, have acquired another ranch. They run 275 head of cattle on their two places.
He marvels at how rodeo has changed. He competed in Oklahoma City, the original home of the National Finals Rodeo, and a first place go-round win was worth $486. He laughs when he compares it to what Tiegen won at the NFR in the 1990’s. “I remember I was teasing Ivan, he won more money in a go-round at the Finals than I ever did in six years of the Finals.”
When he decided to quit at 60 years old, it was on his own terms. His bulldogging “wasn’t up to my expectations,” he says, and he was competing against grandkids of the guys he first rodeoed with. “I told them, it’s probably time to quit,” he laughs. “I rodeoed against (Montana steer wrestler) John Gee, then his son, John, Jr., and John’s son Luke.”
Bob’s older son, Chad, lives in Billings, Mont. with his wife, daughter and son. He works for a refinery, and Bob and Eunice see him and his family several times a year. Bob’s younger son, Rusty, works with him on the ranch. Rusty’s knee injuries have forced him to quit bulldogging, but he continues to team rope. He also hunts mountain lions.
Bob looks back fondly on his rodeo career. “The best part was not having to get up for an eight to five job every morning,” he chuckles. Mainly, though, it is the people. “The best part is all the people you meet. I have friends in every state west of the Mississippi. I enjoyed it.”