Tribute to a Wyoming Pioneer

Written by Dick Perue

Dear reader, please indulge me this week as I pay tribute to one of Wyoming’s most remarkable pioneers who recently passed away. Although a Carbon County native and life-long Saratoga area rancher, Ken Olson’s life mirrors all those special Cowboy State pioneers from border to border.

During a memorial Dec. 2, 2017, in the Saratoga Presbyterian Church, friends and family heaped praise upon the local cowboy during the service and in the printed program.

The following article was written by Dick Perue in June of 2014 when Ken was awarded the prestigious Carbon County Pioneer award.

Information was compiled from personal interviews and material provided by friends and relatives of Ken.

Saratoga area native and life-long rancher Ken Olson has been selected as this year’s (2014) Grand Encampment Cowboy Gathering Outfit Carbon County Pioneer.

Ken was born Dec. 2, 1932 on the 4 Bar ranch, now owned by the Kerbs family west of Saratoga, and lived there with his parents Swan and Margaret Olson and younger sister Elva for several years.

The young man attended school in Saratoga, where he sang in the choir and graduated as valedictorian from Platte Valley High School in 1950.

As a youngster, he attended Sunday School at the Presbyterian Church and is now a member of that congregation. Ken attends Bible study and worship service at that church and has been both an elder and deacon, serves on various committees, sings in the choir, plays his fiddle and provides treats for fellowship following worship. 

Ken joined the Army in 1953 and served as a fire control mechanic in Korea during that conflict. Corporal Olson was honorably discharged in 1955 and returned to the family ranch.

During the 1940s, the Olsons operated the Cedar Creek Ranch east of town. In the fall of 1950, they purchased the Pick Ranch and moved their family there. It was home to Ken until 2006 when he sold the property to the TA outfit and purchased a home in Saratoga.

He married a Rawlins girl, Mary Eley, in 1960, and the couple had two children, Pam, now Bartlett, of Saratoga and Dan, who died in 2006. Mary suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years, and Ken faithfully took care of her until her death in 2000. Many folks remember Ken taking Mary to church and around town or visiting her in the nursing home.

Ken and Mary were active in many community activities including the Eastern Star, of which they were Worthy Matron and Patron. He is a 60-year member and past Patron of the local Masonic Lodge, active member of Farm Bureau, belongs to the American Legion Post, served on the Saratoga Museum board of directors, is a reliable ranch historian who is willing to share his vast knowledge of the area as a tour guide for valley historical treks, a well-traveled individual and a tireless cowboy as well as talented story teller and jokester.

In his own way, Ken also helps many other folks and organizations with his time and anonymous donations.

The local rancher learned to bake and cook from his grandmother, mother and wife, a skill which came in handy when he had to cook for Mary and the kids.

Friends love it when he serves his homemade Swedish coffee cakes to various functions. He enjoys making biscuits for his breakfast each day and at various times provides a big pot of ham and black-eyed peas for dinner guests.

Ranching has been almost his whole life. He can remember driving a tractor at an early age and haying with a team of horses. As a youngster, he helped his dad with horses, cattle, dairy cows, chickens, turkeys, sheep and haying, which, he says, came in handy when he was operating his own ranch.

An article in the Saratoga Presbyterian Church newsletter notes, “Ken Olson is a tall man, but he is soft-spoken, gentle and a little shy. He has worked hard all his life. He now lives alone, cooks for himself and continues to be independent. Despite some bodily aches and pains, he never wants to complain and is thankful for his many blessings. He also does not want to brag about himself. He is a caring, devout Christian who everyone looks up to for inspiration and wisdom. Thanks, Ken, for all you do for others.”