South Dakota native Frank Thompson is a four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo bulldogger who won the 2000 world steer wrestling title. Thompson now makes his home in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he and wife Dawn have raised two kids—son Zane, who’s 20 and rodeoing at Western Oklahoma State College in Altus, and their basketball-playing, track-running sports-star daughter, Madison, 15. Thompson, who turned 51 on November 8 and team ropes every chance he gets, currently serves as the arena director at the “Daddy of ’em All” in their hometown.
Q: What does a typical day in the life of Frank Thompson look like these days?
A: I have a job in the oil field out near Grover, Colorado. I work seven days off and seven days on. I’m also partners in the Full House Horse Sale in Newcastle, Wyoming, which is held the third Saturday each June.
Q: How’s life in the Cowboy State compared to your native Mount Rushmore State?
A: South Dakota will always be home. I’m very proud to be from Buffalo, South Dakota, and Harding County. Buffalo may arguably be the bulldogging capital of the world. There are no transplants in Buffalo. Nobody would move there, so you have to be from there. A lot of bulldoggers have come out of that country, including Ivan Teigen, Birch Negaard, (brothers) Pine, Denver, Matt, and Lloyd Gilbert, and all-around cowboy Jesse Bail. A couple current steer wrestlers from there are Chason Floyd and Taz Olson. Taz’s dad and uncle, Thad and Casey Olson, bulldogged as good as anyone.
Q: You and Dawn both work for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. Tell us about what it is you two do at The Daddy.
A: Dawn’s the malt beverage coordinator. She sells all the beer and whiskey on the park. She’s worked there for 30 years. I’m the arena director, but that’s only 10 days a year.
Q: Just how pressure-packed and big a gig is being the arena director at The Daddy?
A: I always compare things to my rodeoing and bulldogging. Being the arena director at Cheyenne is no different than being a hazer at the biggest rodeo. If you go unnoticed and there are no major problems, you’ve done a good job. If no one notices what I do out there in that arena, it’s a good day. It really helps to have Zane as my right-hand man.
Q: How much have you team roped in your life?
A: Team roping has always been second to steer wrestling. When I was a kid, (ProRodeo Hall of Famer) Paul Tierney (who’s dad to Zane’s rodeo coach at Altus, Jess Tierney) and I went to some Canadian rodeos. It was in the late ’80s, and team roping was pretty new up there at that time. I roped up there with Paul—I headed for him—and we placed at the Ponoka Stampede. I’ve always team roped. When I was going to Central Wyoming College in Riverton, I won second in the average at the College Finals with Frank Mattarocci, who’s from Pueblo, Colorado, in 1988. I’ve always headed (and he’s currently a #5).
Q: Do you have any other memorable team roping moments?
A: It probably would have been in the early 2000s, and (2002 World Champion Steer Wrestler) Sid Steiner and I—who were traveling together at the time—entered the team roping at the rodeo in Heppner, Oregon. We were both trying to possibly win the all-around by default, because they gave a beautiful saddle in memory of Mike Currin. I was going to heel for Sid, and I’ve always been the guy who would start at the top and work my way down. Speed (Williams) and Rich (Skelton) were up, so I just went over and asked Richie if I could ride Roany. He said, “Sure.” When we left the box, I felt like I was on a little red Ferrari. Sid turned the steer at the back end, Roany rolled around there, and I roped the steer up high around the hips. Of course I went to the wood too soon, and when it slipped off his hips, I lost both feet. But I did get to ride Roany one time, and it was an awesome experience.
Q: How much do you get to rope these days, and who do you rope with?
A: I rope quite a bit. We rope a lot at home when Zane’s here. We rope a lot on our sale horses, so we always have a lot of young team roping horses around. I enjoy bringing along younger head horses for Zane. I’ll start them at home, take them to some jackpots, then give them to him to go on with, and jackpot and rodeo on. Zane ropes calves, bulldogs, and team ropes, but heading steers is his passion.
Q: Do you get to go to many ropings?
A: I don’t have time to go to a lot of ropings. I got to go to Ty Yost’s Last Frontier Roping here at Cheyenne over Labor Day. He made two arenas inside our big arena. I also try to go to Arizona in the wintertime, and rope for a couple weeks down there. One of my biggest accomplishments was winning a regional, round-robin roping down in New Raymer, Colorado, they call the Frye Dawg Invitational in October. That was quite the feat for me.
Q: Who do you like for this year’s world title in the bulldogging?
A: (Canadian) Curt Cassidy is one of the last guys left that I really rodeoed with, so my money’s on him this year. Curt’s a winner. I really like the Waguespack kid (Tyler), too. I think he’s a very talented young man. It’s a little hard to get used to meeting these guys and having them call me “Mr. Thompson.” But I guess I’m getting more accustomed to it, as I get older.
Q: Would you be willing to go out on a limb, and give us your team roping pick?
A: Absolutely. I like Derrick Begay and Cory Petska. I had a good visit with Derrick when they were in Cheyenne this summer. He was out there trying to help Cory make the Finals. Next thing I know he’s eighth in the world, and I don’t think anything’s going to stop him. I pick Cory to go back-to-back in the heeling, and Derrick to win his first gold buckle.