Boy’s connection to a stranger forged in ranching lifestyle

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Farm Forum

Dawson Phillips never met Lloyd Rypkema.

And yet Dawson, a 13-year-old boy from Winner, has read about Rypkema and is convinced the pair have a connection: that they are both “true cowboys at heart.”

Dawson wrote an essay this month in which he spoke of his own youthful but already deep love for animals, ranching and rodeo riding.

The seventh-grader at Winner Middle School who looks sharp in a cowboy hat wrote of working with 4-H programs, riding and caring for his horse, and tending to goats, cattle and sheep at the ranch owned by his parents, Marty and Roni Phillips.

He wrote about participating in rodeo events like team-roping and the flag race. He told about helping around his family’s farm by doing chores, and working with neighbors when they need a hand.

And finally, he wrote about Rypkema, who lived and breathed the cowboy lifestyle and was active in public service for decades before he died in 2010.

“Not knowing Lloyd and only having the chance to read about him, he seems like a true cowboy at heart,” Dawson wrote in his essay. “His active involvement in his community, the generosity in giving to individuals and his community a helping hand, proves he was a very kind and giving man.”

The touching words in Dawson’s essay won over the heart of Marv Rypkema, Lloyd’s son, who each year honors one young South Dakota rancher a free pony in memory of his father. This year, Dawson was selected as the winner of the fourth annual Lloyd W. Rypkema Memorial Quarter Horse Award.

“This is probably one of the best applications we have seen in four years,” Marv Rypkema said in an email last week.

Since 2012, one youth has been awarded a colt that carries the bloodlines of Lloyd’s favorite quarter horse stallion, named Black Cat Dancer, at the Black Hills Stock Show.

The winner is selected based on the child’s involvement in agriculture and ranching, overall horsemanship experience, and ability to take care of the registered quarter horse colt, Marv Rypkema said.

“They will get the colt green,” Rypkema said. “They will have to break it, train it and cowboy up.”

A registered quarter horse colt means that the animal’s bloodline can be traced back for decades.

Rypkema said he has kept in touch with all of the past colt winners. All of the colts are doing well and are working in various programs or rodeos, he said.

The award is named after his father, who was a lifetime member of the American Quarter Horse Association. He also served two terms on the Rapid City school board, served three terms as Pennington County commissioner and spent more than 12 years on the Pennington County Fair Board.

But the award also pays tribute to two other families, Rypkema said. The Lopez family, specifically Albert Lopez who took Lloyd under his wing and taught him the basics of ranching, and the Hunt family, which has been lifelong family friends with the Rypkena family. Marv said the Hunts have been caring for the horses his father left behind on their ranch in Faith.

Dawson and his family were present for the award ceremony at the start of the EXISS/SOONER Horse Sale at Rushmore Hall in the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.