Keeping Sturgis Beard(ed)

Posted by Michael Zimny on

Major Henry’s sharp eye fell on Hugh’s grizzly beard. He looked at it awhile as his face hardened. Finally he said, “Hugh, I see you still haven’t shaved clean yet. Like I ordered…

Another silence. All eyes flicked from Hugh to the major and back to Hugh again.

“Hugh?”

“I heard ye, Major.”

“Well?”

“Don’t crowd me and I’ll think on it some.”

- Lord Grizzly

In Frederick Manfred’s version of the Hugh Glass story, Major Andrew Henry removes Glass from a hunting detail when he refuses to shave his beard. In a huff, Glass storms off on his own, “only to run smack into a she-grizzly.”

In this telling, his fidelity to facial hair is both his downfall and the source of the mojo he’ll need to survive. Manfred uses the adjectives grizzly or grizzled as modifiers for Glass’ mane. The bear may have mauled him, nearly killed him, but Glass in turn metabolizes the grizzly’s aura, absorbing it into his own — a symbol of his dogged — maybe reckless —independence and grit. 

Alongside leather vests, public nudity and the bikes themselves, the grizzly beard is a ubiquitous symbol of the Sturgis spirit at Sturgis Bike Week. This year, the Rally recognized it as such with an inaugural Beard and Mustache Contest. 

Contestants could enter one of seven categories, but the “Papa Beard” (a natural full beard at least six inches long) seemed like the most natural fit for Sturgis. The contest brought in competitive bearders as well as bikers who stumbled onto the contest hardly aware of it or even their own bearded-ness. 

John and Royce from Ohio.John and Royce from Ohio.

John and Royce rode in from Ohio. This is John’s fourth rally and tenth year growing his beard. 
“It’s something I kind of evolved into,” he says. “It just reflects what’s going on inside.”

“To me,” says Royce, “it signifies you’re more of an independent spirit. I’m self-employed. I thought it was going to be a big issue and it’s not. [People] see and realize you’re a person that’s not afraid to just be who you are and express yourself.”

Mike from Denver grows his because: “I like to live loose and entertain my friends.”

Tim from Alabama grows his because: “Razor burns suck.” 

William from Scottsbluff, Nebraska stopped shaving in 2013, “because I wanted to test the limits.” He says his beard brings him a lot of attention and he doesn't shy from it. 

L to R: Todd from Rapid City, Robbie from Boulder, William from Scottsbluff.L to R: Todd from Rapid City, Robbie from Boulder, William from Scottsbluff.

Robbie from Boulder has been growing his out for three years. He’s grown his as long as thirteen inches but trims so as not to obscure a tattoo. He grows because: “Originally I was just tired of [expletive] shaving. Then I got a little bit, and it became, dude, man-bro! [Women] love it. My wife loves it. Like [William] said, we get mad attention.”

William and Robbie agree that not all of the attention is positive though. “I could walk down the street and no-one will talk to me,” says William, “but then when I’m stopped somewhere they’re like ‘I’ve gotta talk to him.’ But then they’re so nervous of it.”

“If you’re alone you’re the biggest dog in the house,” says Robbie. “You have the biggest, baddest lion mane. And it becomes this whole hierarchy. It’s crazy. Dudes like shrug away when you walk by them in a bar.”   

The first Sturgis Rally All-around Beard and Mustache Contest winner was a local. Todd has been to every rally since 1995, the same year he stopped shaving. He used to ride in from Grand Junction, Colorado, but for the last decade or so he’s been commuting from the Rapid City area. He hasn’t trimmed once in twenty-two years. He usually keeps his braided and rolled up, but even when he lets it loose he doesn’t feel like his intimidates. “I usually get some stares but I certainly don’t do it to intimidate.” For Todd, bearding just sort of happened. “I didn’t intend for it to get this long,” he says. “I just stopped shaving.”   

A man named Bear.A man named Bear.

Jason from Rapid City.Jason from Rapid City.

A judges' beard inspection.A judges' beard inspection.

flag guy 3 copy.JPG

subscribe to sdpb email updates food blog link image learning blog link image living blog link news and information blog link science and technology blog link sports blog link image

Related content from SDPB Radio - Art

Art That Takes You Home

In The Moment ... July 18, 2018 Show 381 Hour 2 Jon Crane creates "Art that Takes You Home." After a tour at...

Renowned Artists Visit Oscar Howe Summer Art Institute

In The Moment ... June 19, 2018 Show 361 Hour 2 Art can be meditation, expression, activism, and escape. It can also...

Eagle Butte Artists Learn Tips To Flourish

Artists who turn their passion into a business venture can find it a challenge. They need to figure out the details...

2018 Sculpture Walk Installation

In The Moment ... May 2, 2018 Show 328 Hour 2 Visitors to Sioux Falls will soon be able to stand beneath a giant...

Books

Read, Baby, Read: What's America's Best-Loved Novel?

In The Moment ... May 22, 2018 Show 342 Hour 1 What's America's best-loved novel? You get to decide. PBS launches...

Author Kirk Wallace Johnson's "The Feather Thief"

In the Moment ... May 1, 2018 Show 327 Hour 1 The centuries-old art of salmon fishing fly-tying has a dark side. It...

Jane Yolen Celebrates #Yolen365 And Counting

In The Moment ... April 26, 2018 Show 324 Hour 1 In March, author Jane Yolen released her 365th book. That means you...

Christine Stewart: 41st Great Plains Writers Conference

In The Moment ... March 21, 2018 Show 301 Hour 2 The 41st Great Plains Writers Conference kicks off on March 23 at...

Music

Fun Approach To Music Theory

Andrew Rogers – in home music lessons designed for children and young adults. Uses a unique teaching style that...

The Literary Style of Reina del Cid

Reina del Cid kicks off her summer tour with a stop in Sioux Falls at the Icon Lounge. She joins SDPB's Lori Walsh...

Eric Johnson Returns For Black Hills Playhouse Opener

In The Moment ... May 29, 2018 Show 346 Hour 2 Leave the ordinary behind at this year's Black Hills Playhouse Season...

The Claudette's: Making Music In The Midst Of Crisis

In The Moment ... May 24, 2018 Show 344 Hour 1 The Claudettes play Total Drag Records in Sioux Falls, Saturday, May...

Theater

Broadway Choreographer Chet Walker

In the Moment ... April 9, 2018 Show 311 Hour 1 The University of South Dakota Theater Department presents "Cabaret"...

Images of the Past: Stage To Screen

In The Moment ... November 27, 2017 Show 227 Hour 2 A new exhibit at the Old Courthouse Museum tells the story of...

Personalities: From Huron High to Broadway

Singer, actor, and teacher Joseph Mahowald graduated from Huron High School in 1977. He went on to study music and...

In The Moment ... Alex Meyer's Scenic Design

In The Moment ... May 10, 2017 Show 090 Hour 2 Alex Meyer. He's a junior art and theater major at Augustana College...