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Kenneth Churchill

2019 Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductee

January 1, 1937

Kenneth Churchill was born New Year’s morning, January 1, 1937 at Kilgore, Nebraska to Albert and Virginia Churchill.  His mother was taken by wagon 17 miles from Rosebud to Kilgore to a midwife, Mrs. Story, where he was born.

Kenneth and his siblings, Helen, and Leslie (both now deceased) were raised on the Rosebud Reservation where his father ranched and his mother taught school.  At only 6 year old and in the first grade he stayed in Mission, SD at a boarding school coming home on the weekends.  His first two years of high school he attended Chadron Prep School.  Kenneth graduated from Valentine High School in 1955.  He excelled in football and basketball.  

Starting in 1955, for 4 or 5 years, Kenneth competed in rodeos, winning the bareback riding at Merriman and Valentine.  He team roped with Stan Whipple as well as other ropers.  Over the years, Kenneth was actively competing at ranch rodeos with other several good sandhills cowboys.  One of his most memorable wins was placing deep at the Hills Stock Show at Rapid City, SD shortly before he retired from the arena only a few years ago.

August 1955, he was drafted into the army.  He trained at Tacoma, Washington and was stationed at Fairbanks, Alaska as a security guard.

After his release from the service he worked for Harry and Dick Minor, south of Merriman, NE for 18 months.  Anything required for ranching, Kenneth could do.  In winter, Kenneth fed ay with 6 head of work horses and a wheel sled.  He fed 942 cows and 50 bred heifers every day.

Kenneth waived drawing wages so he could get a start with cattle and Tribal Leases.  He then returned to near St. Francis, SD to begin his own ranching career.  Accommodations were rough.  Living in a chicken brooder house, he had no electricity and only had a propane stove.  He had to shake the snow off the bed covers when it stormed.

For 15 ½ years, he took care of 550 cows year round for Kenneth and Don Simmons.  Through the winter he hitched a 2-horse team to a wagon with cake and an extra saddle horse every day for a 7-mile trip one way.  Gradually, Kenneth increased his own cattle herd.

In 1967, Kenneth and Lila moved to the original Drybread Ranch.  They have two sons, Brad and his wife Shirley, and Linn and his wife Trula.

For over 40 years, Kenneth contracted hay from Wood Lake to the western border of Cherry County.  Until the last two years hay was stacked into 8-ton stacks.  That required a hay crew of 12 to 15 people.  The last two years they went to baling hay.  Kenneth has a mechanical mind.  “He could fix anything with baling wire and spit.”  That was until tractors and equipment became computerized.

For several years Kenneth contributed on the Cherry County Fair Board.  It would take about all the hay crew a week to prepare the grounds for the fair. 

Times were tough.  Kenneth traded horses since he was 13 years old to help make a living.  He could see when a young hose had potential to be a good one.  He kept his sons, Brad and Linn, well mounted as they competed in Little Britches, High School and College Rodeos.

One of his horses, known as “Tattoo” was super.  He knew the difference between calf roping, steer wrestling, flag race and breakaway roping.  Tattoo’s son “Chappy” traveled for years as a lining horse for Steer Wrestling.  Another horse called “Son” took Linn to National High School Rodeo in Steer Wrestling with his incredible speed.

Kenneth’s insight for a good horse comes from within.  He himself has a strong drive and will work well beyond what’s asked of him.  His heart is huge.  When you shake his hand, you will feel his sincere love of life and when he talks with you, you’ll notice he too has a kind eye.  He’s satisfied knowing a job is well done to his very best ability.

For years Churchills, along with Buz and Shirley Kime, have made the trip to Las Vegas to the NFR not only supporting their own family but to support the cowboy way of life and the sport of rodeo  When Buz’s health declined, Kenneth rented a van.  He and Lila loaded up Bus and Shirley and made the road trip once again to the NFR.  They’re not more loyal friends than Kenneth and Lila.

Kenneth is most happy observing young people succeed in their endeavors with rodeo and horsemanship. He and Lila sponsored many of their past employees with monetary help furthering their college education.  “What a satisfaction.”

Kenneth knows no other way of life than being a cowboy.  He and Lila both are what make these Sandhills what they are.  He was born a cowboy to a ranching family, raised on a ranch, worked for several outfits while he built a herd of his own.   He and Lila have been working their Drybread Ranch in Cherry County for over 50 years.  Together they have raised two sons, a strong herd of cattle, and many good horses.  Kenny is a horseman, a cattleman but above all a cowboy and friend to all.  

Kenny’s not one to pat himself on the back but he has talked about winning the money in the bareback riding in his younger days at rodeos around the Sandhills and South Dakota.  Until just within the past few years, Kenny and a team of cowboys competed around the region in ranch rodeos.  His team won a 2nd at the Rapid City Stock Show not long before he quit the rodeo trail.  Kenny was an outstanding football and basketball player while in high school.

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