Leaders of Ranching and Rodeo
Earl Northrop was born to Theo and Mabel Northrop on June 12, 1921, in Monango. He was raised on a ranch near Merricourt and at an early age, began trailing horses with his father from Mobridge, South Dakota, to Merricourt.
During this time, Earl acquired his lifelong love of horses, storytelling, laughter and respect for Native American ways. He attended the Whitestone Battlefield Grade Schools, graduated from high school in Fargo and attended the North Dakota Agricultural College.
Earl served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and, after discharge, returned home working for several commission firms at the Union Stockyards in West Fargo and broke horses for Pennsylvania’s police departments.
He married Lois Ellenson on April 20, 1953, and they had four children. They owned a cow/calf and feeder cattle operation near McLeod from 1958 to 1962. During this time, he rode bareback and three-gaited horses, roped at amateur rodeos and raised cutting horses.
Perhaps Earl’s most fulfilling life activity was his 35-year involvement with high school rodeo, beginning in 1962. He served the National High School Rodeo Association for 33 years as state director, state president and cutting horse arena director. He took pride in teaching horsemanship and sportsmanship and was a founder and chairman of the NHSRA Scholarship Foundation.
Among the awards Earl received were the NDCHA’s Jim Reno Trophy four times; awards for bareback riding, roping and cutting; and numerous NHSRA awards, including 1977 Man of the Year, 1991 Award for Dedicated Service and the 1995 Achievement Award for his dedication to rodeo youth.
After a short fight with leukemia, Earl died with his boots on, June 24, 1998.