Denny Wall, a pro bull rider with Miles City ties, dies in Arizona

Even if you’ve placed at the Bucking Horse Sale, the Wolf Point Stampede, and various other rodeos around the circuit, nothing quite compares to bringing home the big bull riding pot at Cheyenne Frontier Days, and that’s just what Dennis “Denny” Wall did in the summer of 1966, three short years after graduating from Custer County District High School.

Wall also qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 1965–68, riding the best bulls in the bucking business. 

Wall passed away Nov. 14 in Payson, Arizona.

Miles Community College Rodeo Coach Wally Badgett — an NFR bull rider himself — said that Wall was in a class by himself. 

Badgett shared his story of knowing and idolizing Wall.

“You know, kids pretend to be someone, and I pretended to be Denny Wall,” Badgett said. “He was a cut above.”

When he was just a boy of seven or so, Wally would watch his older brother George, along with Wall and his brother Doug, as they practiced rodeo out at the Badgett place. 

“It’s from my childhood that I remember him the most,” said Badgett. “He’d do anything to help a young person out. He was just really nice to kids.”

The young Badgett watched the three high school-aged cowboys practice, and it spurred his own interest in rough stock riding. 

“He could have been a world champion. He could stay on for eight [seconds] and look good doing it. He was catty; he’d land on his feet,” Badgett said as he gently waved his hands to describe the fluid motion of Wall’s dismount from a bull. Badgett holds a signed picture of Wall riding at Cheyenne in 1966 as one of his treasured possessions. 

“There were a lot of really talented guys from this area at that time,” remembered Badgett. “Lynn Taylor, Johnny Ley, Denny Looman, the Wall guys. I really looked up to that clan.” 

Perhaps it was wrestling that influenced Wall’s smooth riding as he grappled at CCDHS in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the Cowboys won four consecutive state championships.

But it was the rough stock that turned him into more than a local cowboy. 

Wall was the National High School Rodeo All-Around champ in 1960. He also was the NHSRA bull riding and bareback champion that year, as well as a member of the Montana Team Champions in 1960-62, and the student officer president in 1961-62. He graduated from CCDHS in 1963 and continued to build his rodeo presence at Casper College before turning pro and hitting the big one at Cheyenne. 

“He was a tremendous athlete and just a humble guy,” Badgett said, lamenting that  by the time he’d come up through the rodeo ranks, Wall had retired. 

“I would have liked to spend more time with him as an adult,” said Badgett. “He was one of my heroes.”