Traveling group gathers together as a world champ gets married
Slack had just ended on July 2 at the Black Hills Roundup Rodeo in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, and the boys were hungry.
The bulldogging traveling posse of Jacob Edler, Stockton Graves, Riley Westhaver and Bridger Anderson were ready to eat. Edler ventured off with some company that was in town to see him: daughter Taylee, fiancé Moriah and her mother, Sholi Glaus.
“We needed a stirrup for a saddle, so we headed off to get that and were going to meet them at The Stadium,” said Anderson of Carrington, North Dakota. “We called him to get us a table for lunch, and he said, ‘We’re not headed there now.’
“ ‘Where are you headed?’ ” they asked.
“ ‘We’re headed to the (Butte County) courthouse,’ ” they were told by Edler, the reigning world champion steer wrestler from State Center, Iowa. “ ‘I might need Bridger to get ordained so he can marry us.’
“Here I am driving down a gravel road, so I get on my phone, and in about 10 seconds, I become ordained. We went back to the courthouse and had a little ceremony in the room across from the clerk. We celebrated with steak tips afterward.”
There in the western South Dakota community of 5,600, the proud parents of 2-month-old Taylee got hitched with Anderson as the officiant and Graves and Westhaver as witnesses. Taylee and Grandma stayed out in the car. It may be a little out of the realm of possibilities for some, but it was just right for Jacob and Moriah Edler.
“We talked about it, and we were ready to get married,” he said. “She was over there at slack at Belle Fourche, and we had to be up in Mobridge (South Dakota) that evening. I figured if there’s time, we’ll run over to the courthouse and get married.
“We needed an ordained minister, because they didn’t have anybody at the courthouse to do it. Bridger found the information on his phone and became ordained.”
It’s the perfect story to tell for Edler, who shocked the rodeo world by winning the Montana Silversmiths gold buckle this past December at the National Finals Rodeo in its one-time home in Arlington, Texas. An Iowa farm boy, he found his way to Northwestern Oklahoma State University to compete in college rodeo for Graves, a Northwestern alumnus who is the team’s coach.
Now, they travel together. In fact, all four men are alumni of the Rangers rodeo team, and in 2016, Edler was the reserve college champion to teammate J.D. Struxness. Three years later, Anderson left the College National Finals Rodeo as Northwestern’s second national champion. Like Edler, he qualified for the NFR for the first time last December, and both men are Cinch endorsees.
It all makes for one of those obscure Cowboy Christmas stories that go under the radar most of the time. With Edler in the mix, it just adds to the flavor and fun of everything that happened.
“Moriah’s mom came over to Mobridge with is, and my mom came over to watch, and we went to the beer stand after the rodeo there in Mobridge,” Edler said, noting that the beer garden served as the couple’s wedding reception. “Bridger’s mom, Robin, got us a cake. Moriah’s mom watched the baby, and we had a good time.”
It was just that kind of day. It was a nice break from a two-rodeo day for the boys during their Fourth of July run. Mobridge is more than 200 miles northeast of Belle Fourche, but everyone made it there on time and ready to rumble. It was a day they’ll all remember for their own roles into all that transpired.
“The ceremony was a little different, and it sure didn’t take very long,” Anderson said. “They didn’t prepare any vows for me, so I had to wing it. I’d think we’d have to do a better job if we got time to practice before the next one. It was just ‘Eddy’ and ‘Mo;’ ‘Canada’ (the group’s nickname for Westhaver) and Stockton were there to witness it. We didn’t notice it, but later people pointed out that the three of us were wearing striped light blue shirts, and Eddy was wearing a dark blue shirt.
“It turns out we were real dressed up and styled in everything, still covered in dirt from throwing out steers that morning. It was a real bulldogger wedding.”
They’re all real bulldoggers, too. Three of the four have NFR experience with the coach owning the most. Graves has been to the NFR seven times and, as it happens, has a chance to make it back an eighth time. Of the foursome, he leads the pack at ninth in the world standings as of July 11. Edler is 21st, Anderson is 26th and Westhaver is just outside the top 50.
But it’s time to turn things around. After all, Edler has diapers to buy. Much has changed in the last 12 months. He learned of Taylee’s due date shortly before the NFR began in Texas last December. On the final night of the championship, he announced to the ProRodeo world that he was going to be a dad. Since her birth on May 10, 2021, even more has changed in the man’s mind and soul.
“It’s made me grow up even more and realize that I have a lot of responsibilities, but I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” he said. “That little girl means everything to me, and so does my wife. Both of them keep me inspired and keep me wanting to do good.
“This is my job now and my living, and I’m very fortunate that Moriah understands that and supports that and wants me to do that. I’ve put my whole life into bulldogging, and last year finally came to the surface and solidified that I know this is what I’m meant to do. I’m fortunate to rodeo for a living. This is literally my childhood dream.”
He came off the NFR with a boatload of confidence and a lead in the 2021 world standings. While he’s still in great position to do some big things this year, he admits that there have been some other things maintaining his focus as of late.
That’s OK, though. Instant love of a baby girl is hard to comprehend and grasp, and then there’s the non-traditional way he and Moriah have shared their lives together in the last year. Just before the nuptials during one of the busiest times of the rodeo season, they gathered with family in Moriah’s hometown of Chamberlain, South Dakota, to baptize Taylee. After the party in Mobridge, the family parted ways again, and that’s going to be the norm for weeks to come.
He and Graves worked their way to the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede, and Edler was focused on the love in his heart and the job he has at taking care of those he cares about most.
“It’s very hard to be away from them, and, honestly, it’s putting a damper on me doing my job,” Edler said. “I need to figure out how to stay gone and focus on how to do my job. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better than that. I know my family wants me to win, so now it’s time to go do it.”