Herb Ulmer was both the quintessential cowboy and a dapper gentleman. Born in 1915 along the rolling hills of the Missouri River valley in South Dakota, he moved with his family to the middle of the state at a very early age. His parents, Christian and Katherina Ulmer, settled in Ree Heights, among the gently rolling hills, where they farmed. Herb was ninth in a family of ten children. His father died when Herb was just six, and three years later, his mother married Christian Rosenau.
Herb earned his high school diploma in 1932 at Ree Heights and married Jessie Ball seven years later. In the following years he owned a dance hall at St. Peter, Minnesota, and after coming back to Ree Heights, owned a billiards establishment. But horses were his passion.
Herb traveled the rodeo circuit throughout the United States, riding in roping events, bringing home numerous trophies and buckles. In 1964, he won the South Dakota State Barrel Racing Championship with “Rusty Habit”, pictured at right with Herb’s wife Jessie. After retiring from the rodeo circuit, he started a horse breeding operation at Ree Heights, and raced his horses throughout the midwest. He continued the remainder of his career as a winner, both at the horse races and as a breeder, turning out many future champions.
His wife Jessie was killed in a car accident in 1971, and Herb continued alone at their ranch for the next two years, until he married my widowed mother-in-law, Louise, and became a vital part of the family. While he had no biological children, he took on the role of father, and eventually grandfather, with a tremendous amount of patience and enthusiasm. Everyone loved him, and with good reason. Herb passed away in 1996. We’ll see him again someday. Until then, we’ll treasure the memories.