Golden buckles, wild horses, spurs rocking: Miles City remember Oren Morey in pass challenge


I love gold buckles and wild horses

The spurs that shook when my shoes hit the ground

It’s the eight second chances and the cowgirl looks



It’s blood and glory, baby, that’s why we ride

-This Is Why We Ride, by Casey Donnayo



If all the contestants at the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale Orin Muri PRCA showed up in pearl shirts and black Wranglers, Orin Muri was smiling his big, sloppy grin.

Orin was 18 when he died in a car accident just over two years ago, April 29, 2020. If he hadn’t, he would have been in the ring, and in the running for the title at the event that now bears his name, says Orin Challenge organizer Craig Miller. Muri PRCA Permit, Oren’s friend and coach.

The PRCA-sanctioned Permit Challenge provides an opportunity for 20 of the best PRCA permit holders (the contestants who have not won $1,000 in the PRCA Rodeo) to compete for one of two entries in Sunday’s big money bout, against the best Bronx racers in the country.

Miller said the permit challenge has two purposes — to allow young Bronx riders to get some good horses, and to compete at a high level, while saving plenty of Bronze riders for future sales contracts on Saturday.

Oren was in the middle of it all, with a “bullshit” smile, as his mother, Beth Morey describes it – and everyone else. “Everyone knows his smile. He will break anyone, and make you smile.”

That wasn’t his only signature, though. He loved classic country music, although one of his favorite songs was “That’s Why We Ride” by Casey Donaio. Orin’s thrift store shirts and black Wranglers, the tan his father made for him, his determination and ability to sit and visit with anyone were Orin’s trademarks.

“He was an old breath,” Pete said. “Everyone who met him said he was an old spirit. He would sit and talk to anyone for hours.”

All Oren wanted out of life was to be able to raise livestock and ride bronze. “He loved cattle and ranching,” said his father, Dax. “Even on miserable days, he would weigh down and go out to check on the calves, so no one else had to. It was the sixth generation of my family with cattle in Montana.”

Oren has known most of his friends all his life, and they became like family. “His guys will send me videos on their Snapchat, and everyone they send is talking about riding,” Dax said. I asked him, “Is that all he talked about?” And they said, “Yeah, pretty much.” He was definitely hanging out bent. He knew what he wanted.”

Dax said he wanted to ride the Bronx starting at age 15, before many people thought he was physically ready. “We were your typical parents. We were trying to deter him. He was so skinny. But it was clear to a few guys who were helping him, that we could be there and help and support him, or he would do it without us. He was in his blood.”

Beth said, “We knew that when he was hit by the Bronx four or five times in one day and he was still smiling, there was no sense in trying to get him off the hook.”

Dax remembers once when Oren was training some Craig Miller’s horses, and one horse was fighting him on the second jump at a time. Oren kept asking for that horse to be reloaded, because he was so determined to ride it.

One of Oren’s most prized possessions was the Judd Pilbury memorial belt buckle that he won in a Tour Match in Broadus, Montana. “Judd really loved, and was most proud of that buckle. If he’s wearing a buckle, he’s wearing that buckle. He died wearing it,” Dax said.

His other prized possession was his 16.5-inch Dave Dahl bronc saddle—generally accepted as the best of the best, by professional Bronx riders. “He bought it himself, and packed it everywhere he went,” said Dax. “Dave called Dale and had him build him one. Dave was kind of dragging his feet, wondering who that kid was. But Oren was very persistent. When he finally showed up, he had that sucker on the floor, grinning from ear to ear.”

Oren called one of his best friends and travel associates, Liam Pauley, to come see his saddle that day. “It was like Christmas,” Liam said. “He was very proud of that.”

Liam and Oren traveled together frequently, often in Oren’s grandfather’s silver Mercury Marquis, with a large trunk and bungee cords across the headline to hold cowboy hats.

Liam said, “We were good to each other, but horrible to each other. I was always that kind of kid who would bump and jam at 100mph everywhere I went. Oren was always calm, calm and collected. He cooled me down and fast. It worked perfectly “.

Dax said Oren was the one who gathered his traveling companions after the rodeo, to make sure they wouldn’t miss the next flight.

But it was Oren who left his jeans on the fence in Choto, Montana.

“The shower for us was dry shampoo,” Liam said of being on the way to the rodeo. “There was a nice nice creek just behind the rodeo grounds, so we washed our clothes in the creek, and Oren left his pants–black Wranglers–on the fence to dry, and he forgot them.”

In every town they went to, the two often traveled with their companion, Gavin Nelson, to thrift stores they could find, looking for $2 pearl shirts.

Although they loved being on the rodeo route, they made an effort to get there.

Liam credits Barney Brehmer and Wally Badgett with making the boring, repetitive foundation work that prepares them for success in the big arena. “Barney was making us ride horses without a saddle. He kinda cursed him at the time, but we thanked him when we showed up at the rodeo and we were better off than a lot of the kids.”

The boys often trained at Miles City Community College, coordinating the Bronx and the pickup men themselves. Liam remembers once when his head horse stood tied to a fence during team training for tug of war before they smashed into pieces of bronze directly, pawning a solid two-foot-by-two-foot-tall spot full of solidity. Oren walked past him and said, “I sure hate landing in that spot.”

Sure enough, said Liam, when Oren climbed onto the back of a bonfire, it came around and somehow ended up landing at that exact spot. “He pulled him out, cold wedge. Finally his dad got him up and said, ‘Oren, do you know what to do?’ He said, ‘Heck yeah, I do horseback riding in college.’”

Despite all the memories cherished by his family and friends, they regret all the memories he never had the chance to make.

Oren has a girlfriend, Gina Gibson, from Jordan, Montana. His father knew he was serious with her when Oren asked him to come from the farm to meet her. Beth knew it was dangerous when he pressed his jeans to meet her parents. “He was never worried about his looks, but he was that day,” Beth said.

Oren’s younger sister, Tilly, lost her first year of high school, because her older brother was supposed to be there for his senior year, arguing with her, teasing her, and offering some guidance.

Oren’s parents wonder if he’d been diagnosed with narcolepsy, if he’d lived longer, like some other family members. They wonder if this might explain why he fell asleep behind the wheel 10 miles out of town, at 9 a.m. on a Wednesday in April. “We’ve never really worried about horses, it’s always been traveling,” Dax said.

And they all wonder if he ever replaced Judd Bilberry’s belt buckle with one, said the world champion.

“He would have won the world in riding,” Dax said. “It wasn’t really a dream with him, it was just what he was going to do.”

Oren always worked hard, riding a good knee, but Dax said in the past few weeks before his death, everything clicked. “Every horse he rode, he rode as he should. I think God would have given him that, before it was time for him to come home.”

This year in Miles City, Liam plans to be in the yard, on his own Dave Dahl saddle, in his sparkly T-shirt and black pearl, honoring Oren Morey by doing what he loves best.

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