BROWNING - The horse holds an important place in Blackfeet culture.
And horses are front and center in the life of Browning bronc rider Dougie Hall, whose Blackfeet name translates to “Crazy After Horses.”
Whether he's riding horses or raising horses, Hall finds peace in the animals.
"I've been around horses my whole life. Growing up when I was small, my dad and uncle had an Indian relay team and so I was a Indian relay brat growing up," said the 26-year old. "We traveled to every fair in Montana and I would live off of funnel cakes. My life was sugar and fast horses."
And Hall has turned spending time with horses into a labor of love. He started bronc riding in high school, qualified for the College National Finals at Montana-Western and has since become one of the most popular cowboys on the Montana circuit.
Hall is hard to miss. His distinctive braid whips around the arena as the horse bucks underneath him. And when the eight seconds are up, the cowboy has earned the nickname "Dancin" Dougie Hall.
After every successful ride, he lets out a war whoop and does his signature "Indian Dance" to the delight of crowds around Montana.
"Some people probably think I'm doing it to show off, but I'm just having fun. That's why I started doing it in the first place," Hall said. "Bronc riding didn't click with me at first so when I first figured out how to ride broncs, I'd jump off and I'd be so happy. I just couldn't stop my feet from moving."
His eyes lit up.
"And you make people smile and laugh and that's a good medicine. Probably the best medicine there is.”
Dougie rides with joy in his heart. But he has experienced his share of pain. And he doesn’t shy away from telling his story.
"See, in my family there's there's a lot of problems with addiction, alcoholism," Hall said. "When I was a little kid, I saw the effects of alcoholism and I never saw anything good come from it."
Tears begin to well in his eyes.
"I've had a lot of family killed alcohol related. Too many people. And so growing up my mom (Susan Hall) was a registered nurse and she didn't drink. And when I was a little kid, I remember she made me promise her that I would never touch a drop alcohol in my life. And I promised her I wouldn't."
Even though the Hall family abstained from alcohol, the effects of alcohol found them on June 5th, 2007.
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