Australian cowboy considers South Dakota his home

Australian Jamie Howlett competes at the 2019 Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo, hosted by the Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo. Now living in Rapid City, he has also unofficially qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo, pro rodeo’s world championship. Photo by Cowboy Images/Peggy Gander

MINOT, N.D. — An Australian has found a home in South Dakota, thanks to a South Dakota cowboy.

Bareback rider Jamie Howlett, from Roma, Queensland, Australia, now lives in Rapid City, because of another bareback rider, Shane O’Connell.

Howlett first came to the U.S. in 2009 and 2010, as a high school rodeo athlete, and competed at the National High School Finals Rodeo. In 2013, he came again, this time for college at West Texas Colegein Snyder, Texas. He rodeoed collegiately, finishing the 2014-15 collegiate season in second place nationally.

Then, the next year, because the paperwork for his visa hadn’t been done correctly, he had to go home. It was a rough year. “I lost my drive and my competitive edge,” he said. “It took me a good solid year to get back into the groove.”

It was while he was in college that he met O’Connell. At Christmastime in 2015, Howlett didn’t have the money to go home, so he planned on staying in Texas. O’Connell’s parents offered him to come to Rapid City for the holiday. He accepted, and since then the O’Connells are like family to Howlett.

“Everybody considers him family,” O’Connell said. Howlett and O’Connell found another kind of brotherhood, beyond rodeo, too. Both men have sisters, but no brothers. “I’ve never had a brother,” O’Connell said, “so it’s kind of fun” to have him as a brother.

And Howlett loves his U.S. family. “They’re awesome,” he said. “I’d do anything for them.”

Howlett’s first trip to South Dakota, for Christmas, was the first time he’d seen snow, and he saw plenty of it, O’Connell said.

“The first time I brought him home, we went to feed cows and had three feet of snow on the ground. I got the pickup stuck and we had to walk two miles home.”

Howlett makes Rapid City his home now, and he loves it. “It’s a beautiful place. I don’t mind being here. It’s pretty cold in the winter but you get used to it.”

This year, Howlett is ranked first in his event, headed to his third Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo, hosted by the Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo, to be held October 9-11. O’Connell likes to remind him that the Badlands Circuit, rodeos in North and South Dakota, are his, not Howlett’s. “He’s still got to know that it’s my circuit,” O’Connell joked. O’Connell will also compete at the Badlands Circuit Finals in Minot.

Howlett won last year’s Badlands Circuit Finals year-end and average title, and for the first time in his career, has unofficially qualified for his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, pro rodeo’s world championship. He hopes COVID travel restrictions will lighten so that his parents, Paul and Joanne Howlett, can travel to the U.S. to see him compete.

The Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo takes place October 9-11 at the State Fair Center in Minot. Performances begin at 7 pm on Oct. 9, at 6 pm on Oct. 10, and at 1:30 pm on Oct. 11. The Sunday matinee is Military Appreciation and First Responders Day, sponsored by EPIC Companies, Spicy Pie, Bud Light, Pepsi and the North Dakota State Fair. Discounted tickets are available at Spicy Pie in Minot.

Tickets are available online at For more information, visit the website.

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