Born into the ranching life in Miles City, Mont., on December 4, 1908, Melvin Griffin started helping trail cattle into Miles City with his dad when he was only 10 years old. He finished eighth grade and got the rest of his education in the ‘School of Hard Knocks’.
After trailing some cattle into North Dakota, he began breaking horses for Alex LaSotta on the Triple V Ranch. He soon began riding saddle bronc, roping calves and rodeoing around the country. He also served as a pick up man and rodeo judge.
Louie Pelissier once said, “While Melvin worked for Alex, he bucked a horse over every sage bush on the river bottom. Melvin could ride anything.”
When the train stopped in Medora, Griffin was among the locals who put on one hour rodeos for the bemusement of the train passengers. This was how he once had occasion to ride a bucking mule for the Queen Marie of Romania.
Griffin actively participated in rodeo for about 20 years–in the 1920s and 1930s, participating at Sanish, Dickinson, Killdeer, Rhame, Marmarth, Medora, the HT Ranch in ND and at Baker and Wibaux, Montana.
Les Tisor of Medora says, “I saw Melvin ride bucking horses and, while they were clowning around, he could ride them backwards or any direction and never get bucked off.”
Griffin was a pick up man at the last Sanish rodeo performance, before the arena was flooded after the Garrison Dam closing. He ranched at various locations, raising horses and Herefords that were branded with a Bar U Bar on the left thigh.
After he married Margaret Gunkel and became a family man (three children), Griffin felt strongly about being at home. He started building a cattle herd in the 1920s and in 1949 trailed his cattle to the John Trotter ranch north of Medora and later to the Hazel Gorrel Ranch at Trotters.
By 1957, the family moved to the Gunkel Ranch south of Medora, which was Margaret’s original home. They finally owned two ranches south of Medora and one north of Medora.
Griffin was known for his honesty, work ethic and willingness to help others. He died Aug. 25, 1998, in Dickinson and is buried in Medora.
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