Legendary cowboys: Cowboys with deep ties and a rich history in Sublette County inducted into WCHF
History was made Sept. 11-12 during the Wyoming Cowboy and Cowgirl Legacy Week when historic ranching legends and cowboys were inducted in to the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame (WCHF) in Cheyenne. WCHF Region 10 honorees and their families were invited to celebrate at the Sommers Ranch Homestead Living History Museum Sept. 5.
Nominations are made every Dec. 1 through Feb. 28 and inductees are chosen by the WCHF board. There are several qualifications for nominees to be considered. The goal of the WCHF is “to preserve, promote, perpetuate, publish and document Wyoming’s working cowboy and ranching history through researching, profiling and honoring individuals who broke the first trails and introduced that culture to this state.”
This year, Sublette County had several historic individuals inducted into the WCHF. Also recognized are several inductees from adjacent counties with deep ties to Sublette County.
Henry Calvin Hittle, Albert “Bud” Sommers, William Henry “Bill” Budd, the Price family and Clure Smith were honored as 2021 WCHF inductees. In 2020, the WCHF inducted Jep Richie, Kenneth “Buss” M. Fear, Stan Murdock, Henry Williams and Don Rogers, though the celebration was postponed due to COVID-19.
Henry Calvin Hittle
Henry Calvin Hittle, nicknamed “Hy” or “Colonel,” was nominated by Suzy Hittle Michnevich and Patsy Hittle Gore.
“Calvin moved to Wyoming when he was about one-year-old with his parents and his sister Fern S. to run and partner in a ranching operation on the East Fork with George’s Uncle, John Hittle,” shared the nominators.
Suzy and Patsy share, “In 1915, the ranch was sold and Henry swore that he would get it back someday.”
Throughout Calvin’s younger years, he was heavily involved with the rodeo industry and riding bucking horses.
“He worked as the rough string rider for the Green River Drift in 1919, riding all of the junk no one else wanted to or could ride,” said Patsy and Suzy.
In addition to riding roughstock, Calvin was also recognized as a decent roper.
“You could always find him at the Pinedale rodeo grounds chasing out the bucking horse on his old bay horse, then competing in the roping events, which was all part of his retirement years,” nominators shared.
“Calvin and his wife Frieda homesteaded, raised cattle, hay and bought and sold property until they could purchase his beloved home place back in 1938,” shared Patsy and Suzy.
In addition to his cowboy ways, Calvin did a lot of cowboying on his own working ranch raising Herefords. Calvin, who had a soft hand with livestock and children, died June 22, 1984. “He was a cowboy that many will remember with a fondness for his wit, acumen and intelligence.”
“He lived the life of a true, Wyoming Cowboy,” the nominators add.
Albert “Bud” Sommers
Albert Sommers otherwise known as Bud, grew up in Pinedale. He was born on July 3, 1915 to Albert Pomeroy “Prof” Sommers and May McAlister Sommers. He was nominated by Albert and Jonita Sommers.
Growing up in a log house on the Sommers Ranch, Bud’s destiny was set in ranching.
“The Sommers Ranch was started in 1907 when his father filed his homestead and his first water right in 1908,” said Albert and Jonita.
With a passion for ranching, Bud often said, “If it doesn’t eat hay and have four legs, I don’t want anything to do with it.”
Due to unforeseen circumstances, Bud lost his father when he was 13 years old, leaving the ranch to his mother and four other siblings, Bud’s nominators shared.
His mother kept the ranch and continued to teach her children, though much of Bud’s ranch education was taught by the neighbor, Alex Price.
“Albert was respected and cared for a great deal,” his nominators added.
Years later, Bud married Verla Maude Richie on Sept. 29, 1945. The couple had two children, Jonita Ellen Sommers and Albert Pomeroy Sommers III. In January 1947, Bud bought the ranch from his mother.
His nominators added, Bud was heavily involved in the Upper Green River Cattle Association business for many years, “Serving as a secretary/treasurer or foreman of the association for 27 years.”
Though he was involved in the cattle business, Bud’s biggest passion and pastime was roping.
“He didn’t rope in a rodeo until he was over 30 years of age, but became a very accomplished roper in the arena,” nominators share. “He won several buckles and was considered a very good heeler.”
Bud was an honest man above all.
“His basic principle was to tell people the truth, whether they wanted to hear it or not, and to treat everybody equally,” Jonita and Albert note. “On Sept. 18, 2000, Bud passed away as one of the most respected cowmen Sublette County ever produced,” nominators concluded.
William “Bill” Henry Budd
Bill was born on May 27, 1908 in Salt Lake City, Utah to parents Henry and Leata Budd. At an early age, Budd and his sister Pearl were taught valuable lessons on the family ranch on North Piney Creek.
It was this up bringing that led him to continue these traditions with a family of his own. On Sept. 16, 1929 he married Thelma Vickrey, and together they had three children – William, Robert and Sally.
“Bill spent a dozen years as roundup foreman for the Big Piney Roundup Association during the 1940s and 50s,” shares nominator William Budd. “The association consisted of seven ranches, extending from the Green River westward to the mountains of the Wyoming Range.”
William notes Bill was known for spending very long hours in the saddle and expected the same from his crew, earning him the nickname “IA” or “Iron Ass.”
His nominator adds, “In 1977, Bill and Thelma were honored by the Sublette County Stock Growers Association as Ranchman and Ranchwoman of the Year. Due to his excellent knowledge of cattle and horses, he was employed as a brand inspector for many years.”
Mentoring young people on livestock handling was later a legacy of Bill’s until he passed away on Oct. 21, 1981.
“He was buried in Plainview Cemetery overlooking his favorite mountains with candy in his pocket,” shared William.
Alex Price and his two sons, Clay and Doug, were nominated as a family to the WCHF for their cowboying skills.
Alexander L. Price was born April 1873 in Missouri to his parents Joseph and Elizabeth Matt Price, who immigrated from Ireland. In 1986, Alex moved from St. Joseph, Mo. with his father and sister.
“Alex Price was a very good horseman and cowboy,” reads the nomination. “Alex was known for his horsemanship ability and ability to ride tough horses.”
Bud Sommers, who was Alex’s neighbor, credited him for the skills he learned with horses and cattle, according to the nominator.
“Alex worked for William Graham on Slate Creek, the Spur Ranch on LaBarge Creek and rode for the Big Piney Roundup Association in the late 1800s,” the nominators stated.
Alex was a charter member of the Upper Green River Cattle Association, and ran his cattle in the upper Green River area as early as 1904. Alex had the Open A P, Bar Seven and Bar Diamond brands.
Alex and Mary Woods were married on Dec. 9, 1907. They had three sons, Ellis ‘Clay,’ Clarence ‘Doug,’ and Alexander ‘Bill.’ The Sublette County horseman and rancher passed away on Sept. 29, 1952.
Clay Price born on Aug. 31, 1908 in Kemmerer, the oldest of the three boys.
“He went to school through the eighth grade whenever a teacher was available, but Clay didn’t care how erratic his schooling was,” shared his nominator. “He skipped classes whenever he got the chance to help his father in the field. Besides, he didn’t think he needed schooling to be a cowboy.”
Clay knew from a young age he wanted to be a cowboy.
“He got a job working for the Upper Green River Cattle Association looking after cattle in the summer. He was the rough stock rider for six years,” the nomination reads. “He stayed with that job until 1943, when he became the horse wrangler and guide for the GP Bar Dude Ranch.”
At the same dude ranch, Clay met and married Nora Whitaker.
“Clay worked for his father for several years and leased the Jason Redfern field, a 60-acre place adjoining Price’s upper field and was able to build up a small herd of cattle,” according to the nominator.
Several years later, he sold most of his cattle to make a down payment on a ranch of his own – a place previously owned by Delbert I. “Herb” Fleming on Cottonwood.
“He rode broncs, roped calves and broke horses for other ranchers. His hard work and dedication resulted in the ranch Clay had dreamed of along with a fine herd of primarily Hereford cows,” the nominators share.
Later, he became the roundup boss and president of the Rye Grass Association, which ran on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) permits and the U.S. Forest Service Sherman Association until their end.
Clay passed away on July 11, 1976 and will be remembered as “one of the top cowboys in the country.”
Doug Price was born prematurely on Dec. 2, 1909.
His nominator shared, “He was so tiny they put him in a shoe box and kept him in the oven of the old wood stove. This brought about his dad calling him ‘Short.’”
Doug was very thrifty, and he managed his money with the utmost intensity and care. Many remember math was his specialty.
As a young boy, working with his dad, he would wear spurs and his dad wouldn’t allow it, so he decided to hide them on the trail when they were moving cows.
Doug took a break from cowboying and served in World War II from 1942 to 1945, when he was honorably discharged.
Much like his brother Clay, Doug could ride any horse.
“He was very handy at branding and cutting horses,” nominators share. “He knew how to handle any rank horse – he had his way of saddling, tying a slicker on or getting on so he was one step ahead of the horse.”
Doug “Short” Price passed away on Oct. 4, 1993, after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Clure Smith was born on March 19, 1897 in LaBarge, to Frank DeForester Smith and Minnie Maude Towell Smith.
“At an early age, he started riding for the Mumblie Peg Association on Beaver Creeks and Horse Creek,” reads his nomination.
Clure later married Lola Delores Johnson, a local girl, in 1918. During the end of World War I, Clure spent a short time serving in the war after being drafted. Upon his return home, Clure “cowboyed all over the Cottonwood area and worked for the Cottonwood Cattle Association.”
Nominators share, “Clure had to break most of his own horses and sometimes ranchers would send him some of their ranch horses, especially ones that needed a lot of riding. Clure did all of his jobs with competence and a true love of the lifestyle.”
Clure rode for the Hoback, Cottonwood, Sherman and Rye Grass Associations throughout his life.
“Clure started hiring out as a cowboy in his teens and never wanted any other job for all of his 67 years,” nominators note.
After becoming ill while working for the Sherman Association, he passed away Nov. 5, 1964.
Jeptha Everett “Jep” Richie was born on April 18, 1932 to parents Everett “Ebb” and Ellen (Williams) Richie. Jep grew up with his two siblings, Verla and Norman, on his father’s 1914 homestead on Muddy Creek.
“All of the Richie kids were expected to work on the ranch at an early age. Jep came by his love of horses naturally,” the nominator shared, noting his father had nearly 200 horses on the desert.
Jep and Norm’s interest in rough stock started at an early age riding calves, and their bronc riding started as soon as they sat on a Richie horse. The pair loved to ride rank horses.
“The ranker, the better stories that were shared,” many recall.
At the ages of 21 and 19, the brothers entered their first rodeo competition and traveled the country for many years until 1955.
“Their dad, Ebb passed and the Richie boys slowed down their rodeo career to run the family ranch,” nominators shared.
The brothers’ focus became the ranch, but it didn’t stop them from being involved in the rodeo industry.
“Their love for rodeo continued and they became very active in the Sublette County Sporting Association,” nominators shared. The brothers took pride in caring for a majority of the bucking horses for nearly 20 years.
In June 1955, Jep met and married Barbara Vaugh, a past Lander rodeo queen and together they had three children – Carole, Lynne and Eb.
Their involvement in the cattle industry was important to Jep, and he told his son, “The English breeds, mainly Hereford and Angus, have been there for 100 years, and will be here for the next 100 years.”
Many of the Herford cattle that were present on the ranch when Jep and Norm took over the place on New Fork River are directly related to the cow family on the ranch today.
“When Jep was not involved with working horses on the ranch his life still evolved around horses,” says Eb. “Dad was still breaking saddle horses at the age of 73.”
After having a spill off of a horse named Oprah, his cowboy way told him to get back on. Eb shares, “He was life flighted to Salt Lake City for several months of recover.”
Jep continued to ride horses until he was 83 years old, and today he continues to be involved in the cowboy way at the age of 88.
Eb said, “Horses and cowboying was dad’s life.”
Kenneth “Buss” M. Fear
Kenneth “Buss” M. Fear was born on the family ranch in Pig Piney in 1920. His parents were Clifton and Corneila Fear. Kenneth had one older brother, Clifton Jr., and two younger sisters, Edythe and Corneila “Inkie.” Kenneth’s nickname came from his older brother, and stuck with him throughout his life.
In 1938, Buss married Mardell Bennett after graduating from Piney High School. Shortly after, the couple raised four children on the family ranch – Kenneth Jr., Deanne, Lynda and Melodie.
“Buss always used the opportunity to teach them about life, providing an education not found in books,” shared his nominator. “There was no way to calculate the hours he spent riding beside his grandchildren on horseback explaining ranching, teaching them to rope or supporting them in rodeo, 4-H activities, sports or their education.”
His involvement with the ranch and agriculture was apparent. He took pride in quality cattle and working quarter horses.
“He believed if one worked hard to achieve their best that was all that mattered,” said a nominator.
In addition to being an outstanding horseman, handling a rope was second nature to Buss. Besides doctoring, branding and roping, he participated in and produced rodeos for several years.
He had interest in continuing youth’s interest in agriculture.
“Buss was instrumental in establishing the present Sublette County Fairgrounds and was the president of the Big Piney Roundup Association. He also served as the BLM regional director,” his nomination reads.
In 1960, Fear Ranches, Inc. was formed and Buss was the head man.
“Taking care of the land and his animals came naturally,” nominators shared. “Ranchers, business people and state politicians often sought his advice and expertise.”
As a progressive rancher, haying with horses and raising Herford and Angus cattle with a few black baldies, he left a “legacy of hard work, good fun, love of family and giving back to the land and community,” shared nominator.
The ranching community lost Buss in 2004 at the family home, but his wife, Mardell is still living.
Stan Murdock was inducted into the WCHF through Lincoln County, but has deep ties to ranching in Sublette County.
Stan was born in Heber, Utah on July 11, 1865, the son of Joseph Stacy Murdock and Jane (Sharp) Mudrock. In his teenage years, he worked long days on cattle drives.
Nominators shared, “He was hired with Texas cattle drives and guided a herd of hundred Texas cattle through Utah into Wyoming.”
At the age of 18, Stan was hired by Rody Thornton to help herd cattle.
“Stan worked for Mr. Thornton for the next 13 years as a foreman and ranch hand,” said nominators. “He had charge of the cattle, gained knowledge and experience in the ranching business and spent a lot of time breaking horses.”
Stan was a smart man when it came to coming up with creative ways to set himself up for success in the ranching industry.
“He took most of his pay in calves at branding time, so by the time he went to ranching on his own, he had built a herd,” shared nominators.
In addition to his involvement in the cattle business, Stan was also an excellent horseman, breaking and selling horses to make extra money. He began to raise fine horses, branded with the Four Bar or Pigpen on the left hip.
Stan later sold his horses and the brand to James Barret in the Grand River. Unfortunately, rounding up the horses on the desert was difficult and some were left. For several years, ranchers would see Four Bar horses, according to the nomination.
Stan married Mary Solon in Larchwood, Iowa on Feb. 15, 1906. They had four children – Solon, Caryn, Joe and Pat. On Oct. 12, 1916, Stan Murdock passed away.
Henry was born on Aug. 4, 1897 in Alantic to Henry Watkins Wiliams and Maud. C. (Huff) Williams. He was one child of nine, with siblings Alma, Baby Boy, Ellen, Dorothy, Jared, Mabel, Jeanette, William “Bill” and Paul.
As a small child, he attended school. In 1907, the house in Big Sandy was completed, and the family moved from Atlantic City to Big Sandy, which took three days with horses and wagons.
Later in his life, Henry found a passion for horses.
“Henry loved wild horses and the roundups,” shared his nominator. “The Williams family belonged to the Desert Horse Growers Association from 1917 to 1922.”
Throughout his life, Henry helped many local ranchers with cattle drives. It was noted he made his living cowboying and freighting for the area ranches.
In 1930, the Williams family bought the Finch Place east of Linweed, Utah, and moved the ranching operation. The family drove their cattle and horse herd from Big Sandy to Lindwood yearly as they utilized grazing land on Little Mountain in Wyoming during the summer.
Years later, Henry moved to Manila in 1957 after they were told the ranch was at risk of being flooded due to the Flaming Gorge Dam.
Henry Huff Williams passed away on Aug. 7, 1971.
Don was born in Wheatland to parents Ralph and Mae Rogers. He grew up on a small ranch in Chugwater.
At the age of 15, Don decided he wanted to be a cowboy, and he worked for the Miller Ranch, where he was part of the cowboy crew; working with cows in different areas.
“He liked to ride saddle broncs at the local rodeos,” nominators shared. With a passion for horses, he went to work for John Bell of Iron Mountain as a cowboy.
During the fall months, Don would load 240 steers on the train at Wyoming station and then, during the winter months, he would pack five horses with 200-pound sacks filled with cake and ride from one ranch to another looking for cattle to cake.
“The cows would come through the winter in rather good shape,” shared a nominator.
During the winter months he worked for John Bell and in the summer months he worked for Lozier’s.
One fall, he heard Black Butte Ranch was looking for help and got hired. He then married Nellie Dew. Upon his arrival from serving in World War I and Germany, he continued to work on the Black Butte Ranch through 1950.
After purchasing the Arthur Sprinstread Ranch through the 1980s, he sold his ranch to his oldest son.
“He continued to help move cows to the BLM and the summer pasture until he could no longer ride a horse,” his nominator shared.
Information in this article was sourced from nomination documents submitted to the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame Region 10. For more information on the WCHF visit, wyomingcowboyhalloffame.org.
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.