North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductee - 2010
Leaders of Ranching and Rodeo
Born on his parents homestead north of Sentinel Butte in 1928, Rex Cook personifies the quintessential “renaissance man”. He broke his first horse at age 12 and bought his first ranch land when he was just 14. After graduating from high school, he started teaching with an emergency teaching certificate at the Goldsberry Country School, 45 miles north of Medora.
Cook entered the calf roping and wild horse race contests in his first rodeo that same year—and also announced the rodeo! The course was set: he’d divide his time between rodeo arenas and corrals and schoolhouses.
Before making saddles, he learned leatherwork by making bridles and belts and doing leather carving. Over the years and to pay his way through college, he learned saddle making, studying with experienced saddle makers and reading books on saddle making. To date, Cook has created well over 100 saddles and was honored to demonstrate his craft on the State Capitol grounds during the 1989 centennial celebration. He has also received a Traditional Arts Apprenticeship from the North Dakota Council on the Arts to teach saddle making to several individuals and in college classes.
After a stint in the military, Cook returned to Dickinson and began a career in the Dickinson Public Schools and spent a stint as manager of the Dikota Clay Products Company. All the while, Cook maintained a steady interest in horsemanship and rodeos--riding, training and selling cutting horses and promoting team roping as a rodeo event. Along with Tex Appledoorn, he produced the 1958-‘59 North Dakota Team Roping Championship in Belfield. Merle Aus and Jim Jefferies were two of his team roping partners.
His knowledge and expertise were conveyed to scores of Dickinson State College students during the 20 years he taught horsemanship classes. Cook also traveled to the Iowa State Fair to co-teach horse-training clinics. He judged countless horse shows throughout the tri-state area and as far away as North Carolina.
Cook is a member of the North Dakota and National Cutting Horse associations and is a past member of the North Dakota Rodeo, American Quarter Horse, U.S. Team Roping and the Wrangler Roping associations. During the 2007 Dickinson Roughrider Days Rodeo, he was presented with the Rodeo-Rancher of the Year Award.
Cook was the first chairman of the NDCHF Trustees and serves on the boards of the North Dakota Council on the Arts and the Theodore Roosevelt Nature & History Association. He and his wife Ann, who is also an educator, have two children and reside in Dickinson.