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Fred and Norma Dorenkamp.

Happy Trails With Dawni O'Bryan: The Empty Saddle of Fred Dorenkamp

By Dawni O'Bryan

April 27, 2022

Fred and Norma Dorenkamp have lived their lives largely from the view of the rodeo trail with their home camp being the Holly/Granada area. They raised their children to love and appreciate the people, the animals, and the competition that the rodeo lifestyle has to offer. Fred passed away on Easter Sunday, April 17th at the age of 90 years old. He stayed connected to the rodeo world longer than anyone I have ever witnessed.

He and Norma would bring their big motor home and park it along the arena fence to watch the young people compete in the Colorado Junior Rodeo Association rodeos and Colorado High School Rodeo Association rodeos that were held in Lamar just in the last few years. They would watch for hours without having any children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren involved. It was just because they loved rodeo.

Fred ran the Dorenkamp Rodeo Company for 40 years. He was a stock contractor that provided quality bucking horses and bulls for rodeos all over the country. It was a family operation and everyone pitched in to help produce a quality rodeo. Fred and Norma received the Donita Barnes Contract Personnel Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. This award was named after the long-time PRCA secretary, Donita Barnes, in 2011. It is awarded to those that have been members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for over 15 years and have dedicated their lives to the rodeo industry, yet often receive little recognition for their commitment and contributions.

Fred and Norma’s son, Scott Dorenkamp, that now works for the PRCA as the Livestock Program and Government Relations Manager, said of his dad, “He rode saddle broncs, barebacks, and bulls, and steer wrestled. He was probably best at bareback riding.” Even though he didn’t grow up around rodeos, he had a passion to learn about it and make a living producing quality events. Scott summed it up, “He loved the rodeo life.”

Fred was still riding a horse into his 80’s and would make an annual appearance at the Sand and Sage Fair and Rodeo. He always wore a neckerchief to dress up his cowboy outfit during the performances, as shown in this Greg Westfall photo. Norma was usually up in the crow’s nest with her stopwatch the events. They built the “End of the Line Arena” west of Granada, near Camp Amache. Several rodeo related events were held there, such as gymkhanas, barrel races, sortings, and ranch bronc ridings.

Fred Dorenkamp was very influential in bringing interest, maintaining events, promoting the rodeo lifestyle, and bringing notoriety to southeast Colorado through the Dorenkamp Rodeo Company.

Like so many rodeos that start with the “Cowboy Prayer,” I feel it is fitting to include in this article the last paragraph of it. “We do ask Lord, that you help us live our lives here on earth as cowboys in such a manner, that when we make that last inevitable ride to the country up there, where the grass grows lush, green, and stirrup high, and the water runs cool, clear, and deep, that you’ll take us by the hand and say, “Welcome to Heaven Cowboy, your entry fees are paid.””

Happy Trails.

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