The Jandreaus

by Siri Stevens
The Jandreaus

Rodeo runs as deep through the Jandreau family as the Cedar Creek and the sod that covers the South Dakota plains. For Marty, Sindi, and their children Dawson and Cedar, rodeo is the glue that connects them all, provides their fun, their entertainment, and fulfills their competitive drive. 
     They live near Lower Brule, S.D., a few miles where Fay and Roberta Jandreau raised Marty and his brother, Fay, Jr. With Fay Jandreau’s brothers and sisters all living close, family was plentiful. At one time, there were five boy cousins, including Marty, all the same age. “They were cousins, but they just as well had been brothers,” Marty says, “and it’s still that way today. It’s a tight knit group of family.” 
    Members of the Lower Brule Sioux tribe, the Jandreau home place is on the Lower Brule Reservation, and since television was only two channels (CBS and PBS, when it came in), and nobody had any money, rodeo was cheap and good entertainment. Each summer, there would be a team roping twice a week and they’d buck horses once a week. “We were always rodeoing. We never quit.” 
    Marty competed in high school rodeo in the team roping and the saddle bronc riding, making it to the National High School Finals his senior year. It wasn’t easy. “By the time I was 15, there were twenty kids that could ride doggone good. There was so much talent in this state, and a lot of it never got seen.” In 1978, his senior year of high school, he won the South Dakota High School’s Team Roping Championship and placed second in the saddle bronc riding.
    After high school, he decided to forgo college and go straight to work on the tribal farm, but driving tractor all summer made him change his mind. “I started chewing Copenhagen because of it,” he jokes. “I couldn’t stand to be in the tractor. I decided to go to college.” Marty spent two years at Dawson Community College in Glendive, Mont., contributing his top five finish in the bronc riding to the men’s team, who won second in the nation that year. “Everybody on the winning  team went to the National Finals Rodeo that year. I don’t think any of them went to class, but they all went to the NFR.” 
    After Glendive, he sat out of college two years, and went to Ft. Scott (Kan.) Community College, and then on to Panhandle State in Goodwell, Okla. The plan was for him to return to Goodwell as assistant rodeo coach, but he had begun his pro rodeo career. “I got started winning so much money, I couldn’t afford to go back to school.” His Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association years had begun.
    He rode broncs, qualifying for the NFR in 1985. In September of ’86, he broke his leg at a rodeo in Spokane, and even though he qualified for the NFR that year, the injury kept him out. For five or six years after that, he finished in sixteenth or seventeenth place, just barely out of reach of another NFR. 
    It was in 1990 that he thought about slowing down. He was traveling with Bud Pauley and they were sitting fifteenth and sixteenth in the world standings. Bud was borrowing money from him, and he thought, “this is dumb.” He decided to slow down, and begin ranching. He came back to South Dakota and started a small cow herd. 
    All this time, a cowgirl a state away was doing her thing. Sindi Johnston grew up in Grassy Butte, N.D., the daughter of Jim and ElvaLou. She competed in high school rodeo, graduating from Watford City High School, and Dickinson State College. After spending two years helping her dad, a North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame inductee, on the ranch, she moved to Oklahoma with friends. She was living with her cousin, Brad Gjermundson, and his wife Jackie, when she met a saddle bronc rider from Lower Brule. Marty had run into the blond barrel racer and goat tyer when he judged a college rodeo, and later at another rodeo, but at the time she was dating someone else. When they met for a third time in Edmond, she had no boyfriend. “I didn’t waste any time,” Marty remembers. “I went ahead and grabbed on.”
    The couple married in 1990, and Sindi traded a horse for four or five cows. “It was a meager beginning,” Marty remembers. But it was the beginning to a good life.
    Marty continued to rodeo, and the next five years were the most profitable of his rodeo career. He competed at bronc matches and pro rodeos in the circuit, World’s Toughest Rodeos, and would occasionally venture off to the big shows. “I’d win $25,000 or $30,000 a year in the PRCA and another $20,000 in the matches.” The money went to get the place going, buying more cows, horses, and for diapers.
    In 1991, their first child, Dawson, was born. A second son, Bridger, was born in 1993, and at three months old, he died of SIDS. Three years later, their daughter, Cedar, was born. She was named after the Cedar Creek, near Marty’s parent’s home place.
    The kids have been riding and involved in rodeo since they were young. Dawson and Cedar competed in Little Britches Rodeo and 4-H rodeo, and then moved on to high school rodeo. In high school, Dawson rode bulls, team roped, rode broncs, and won the National High School Finals Saddle Bronc Riding title in 2009. He also played high school football for Lyman High School. He graduated from Vernon (Texas) College last May. He qualified for the College National Finals his freshman year, and now, with his degree in farm and ranch management, is helping his dad on the ranch and pro rodeoing. He’s competed at three Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeos, but sat out much of 2013 with knee injuries. His plan in 2014 is to make a run for the NFR, following in his dad’s footsteps. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be that good,” he says, “but I’d like to be.”
    Cedar, a junior in high school, runs barrels, breakaway ropes, goat ties, and heads in the team roping. In 2011, she won the Little Britches Rodeo Junior Girls Breakaway title, and has twice been to the National High School Finals and the Indian Rodeo Finals. She plays basketball, runs cross country (“it keeps me in shape for basketball and rodeo,”), is an honor roll student, member of the FFA, and Student Council member. After high school, she hopes to go to college in Wyoming, continue rodeoing, and get a radiology degree. 
    Marty quit riding broncs in 1999. He wanted to stay involved with rodeo in some way, however. He had judged rodeos back when the PRCA required NFR contestants to judge one a year, and now his judging has grown into 75 to 100 performances a year. He’s judged the National Finals Rodeo nine times since 2005. “I never envisioned being a judge. People don’t even remember me riding broncs, and that’s what I wanted to be remembered for.” 
    Sindi, who served on the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association board for nine years, has put her barrel racing on hold while her kids are still at home. “I made a choice that I wouldn’t miss what my kids do. I can’t justify going to a rodeo, and not watching my kids (compete in sports.) I have two years left (with Cedar in high school), and then I get to enter rodeos again.” 
    For her, rodeo has meant good times for her family, scholarships, and an outlet for competition. “It’s our fun time, and it’ll pay for my kids’ education. Dawson got his education paid for, so I’m hoping Cedar does, too.” 
    And competition is strong among the Jandreaus. “I think anybody who rodeos has that fear of losing, that determination.” When the family plays games, no one wants to lose. “If it’s Monopoly or cards or horse shoes, we hate to lose. We have some wicked Wii games, and the tempers start flying.” 
    But whoever wins or loses, rodeo unites them. And so long as there’s a Cedar Creek, and the sun comes up over South Dakota, somebody will have a rodeo to enter, and somebody will be in the stands, cheering them on.

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