Legendary Rex Cook still tacking up horses and coaching rodeo

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Rex Cook was born in Sentinel Butte in 1928 on a horse ranch. He fell in love with horses at a young age.

“My family always had a lot of horses, they raised horses. They were horse ranchers mainly. So I’ve been around horses as long as I can remember,” said Cook.

Many folks from North Dakota and Montana know Rex as a rodeo cowboy, but it wasn’t always that way.
His life took many different paths, including going to Dickinson State University to become a school teacher in the Hettinger area.

He also spent some time in the military.

He said, “I’d been in the Marine Corps officer training while in college, and when I graduated, I took a discharge from that. And then the Korean War broke out and I joined the National Guard in Hettinger. And the guard was called up, and so then I went in the Korean War and I was gone for about two years.”

Wearing many different hats is no easy task for anyone, but Rex was always up to the task, especially when it came to wearing the cowboy hat.

Rex’s first rodeo was in 1941 when he went with some other ranchers to Medora, about 25 miles from where he was living at the time.

Back when Rex started on the circuit, buckles weren’t awarded.

“A lot of the ranchers, they didn’t think too much of guys that rodeoed because it was kind of like being a carnival worker,” said Cook.

That changed when he received his first buckle in 1958, following an amazing team roping performance.

After giving away more buckles than some cowboys have won, Rex began coaching future cowboys and cowgirls, starting with his own son and daughter, with quite a bit of success.

He said, “My son had qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in calf roping.”

To this day, he still coaches those itching to get on the circuit, and his basic rule when riding a cutting horse?

“The basic secret to cutting is to have a good horse because it’s all pretty much the horse,” said Cook.

As if riding and coaching doesn’t keep him busy enough, he also has a hobby of working with leather, making everything from belts to wallets to saddlebags.

Rex still tacks up his horse from time to time and loves a good ride.

He was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2010.

Cook was asked if he thinks he’ll ever hang up his cowboy boots. He said, “not if I don’t have to.”

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