MEDORA, N.D.-The death of Lyle Glass, better known as Cowboy Lyle, has had quite an effect on the North Dakota Badlands town of Medora.
For many tourists and townsfolk, he could often be seen riding through the Old West streets on horseback clad in western regalia greeting them and always with a saddlebag of sweets for the wide-eyed children who had never seen a real cowboy before.
The breadth of the lives Glass touched was clear from the crowd who attended his memorial service Tuesday afternoon, July 24. There were first responders and sheriff's deputies sitting amidst singers, dancers, business people, community leaders, stablehands, friends and family who all come to honor the life of a man who spoke volumes, even when he said nothing at all.
"Lyle and I had breakfast every morning for nine years ...There was no need to talk, we shared unspoken thoughts, just two men, quietly eating and thinking about the day ahead," Winston Satran, a friend and coworker of Lyle's who spoke at the memorial service, said. "One morning I said to Lyle, 'You know why I like having breakfast with you?' He slowly shook his head no. 'Because you never talk.' He smiled and he completely understood what our nonverbal time together meant for each other."
The memorial service was held at the Medora Community Center, and featured an emotional performance of a Badlands rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" performed by Medora's "Queen of the West" Emily Walter as well as poetry and anecdotes shared by family members.
Satran recounted several adventures with Lyle, from mysterious love affairs to encounters shared with travelers from abroad who came to experience the western life.
Glass was described as a man of many talents, from his passion for photography to his love of the American West and the cowboy way of life. He would conduct bus tours and buggy rides, flag raising ceremonies and was perhaps most well known for the solitary "ghost ride" that takes place at each performance of the Medora Musical.
One day Satran and Glass, Satran recalled, took a Japanese tourist named Omata out on a ride with them, as they needed to help break in the trail horses and he had come to Medora out of season. They rode with Omata out to the rodeo arena, crossing a river and letting him experience the work of a cowboy in the Badlands. When it was finished, Satran said he asked Omata what he thought.
"Omata looked at Lyle with this big toothy grin and said, 'Every man in the whole world wants to be a cowboy,'" Satran said. "I would imagine that Omata described this event to his family and friends on hundreds of occasions. Lyle was a real cowboy and demonstrated authentic hospitality to people all over the world."
Glass died on June 27 at age 67. He'd lived and worked in North Dakota and Medora since 1973.