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Old Soldiers & Cowboys

By Donald Earl McKinney, Jr



    In a previous article ”PIONEER COWBOY, ED McKINNEY” that was published 1988 in the "Wind River Mountaineer", I told the story of Great-Grandfather and the ranching life he and his family experienced from 1880 through the 1920's which was during the frontier era of Fremont County, Wyoming. As I mentioned in that article, Great-Grandparents had several children but the ranching tradition was carried on by only one of the sons, Grandfather Earl McKinney. This article simply continues the basic story of ranching and the cowboy legacy left behind by Great-Grandfather. I was inspired to a great extent by stories our father told me over the years about family traditions and the day to day cowboy life he experienced while growing up as well as his military experiences. This article was written mostly from his perspective and consists of actual quotes*** made by him as he reminisced. Our father suffered from emphysema  and other medical problems during the 1980's and was in gradually failing health. I made the 850 mile trip from Kansas to the ranch virtually every year during the 1980's. After the deaths of his parents, Earl & Dottie McKinney during the 1970’s, Dad’s brother Edward F. McKinney took over the ownership of their ranch on Twin Creek near Derby Dome. Uncle Edward and I went on numerous excursions throughout that area of Wyoming where he, Dad and their sister Lenore were raised. I had my video camera running most of the time as we drove around in his truck. I even videotaped conversations with some of the people Dad used to know and there are still a lot of people around Fremont County who knew Dad well and remember him. Dad was unable to make the drive to Wyoming during these later years because of his health, but as he watched the video tapes that I brought back to Kansas with me, he reflected on his experiences. It was almost like he was able to be there with us as I toured the countryside with his brother. I also included quotes from his brother and others who shared in these experiences. They tell the story much better than I could. Dad left Wyoming during World War II and joined the horse cavalry at Fort Riley,Kansas. He served combat tours in Burma and later Korea where he received a battlefield commission. He retired from the Army as a Captain in 1962 and served as General Manager of the Fort Riley Credit Union until his death in 1988. The old soldier made many visits thru the years but was never able to permanently return to his beloved Wyoming. This article is dedicated to my father and all of his Wyoming ancestors as well as those relatives still residing in that wonderful area of the west.

    *** Quoted sources will appear in parenthesis before each quoted narrative

    My Grandfather, Earl McKinney, was born in 8 September 1895 soon after his parents Ed & Nora McKinney moved from the Gus Lankin place at Split Rock to the upper Graham place along the Sweetwater River near Myersville. He as well as his younger brothers and sisters were raised on this ranch that his parents operated on shares with James Graham. Granddad Earl met my Grandmother, Amelia Grace "Dottie" Farthing , while he was living in Borners Garden with his parents. Dottie was born 16 Dec 1892 & was raised on a farm in Sinks Canyon near Lander where her father farmed and practiced horticulture. Her parents were EDWARD & ELIZA (KIMBER) FARTHING who immigrated to this country from the Isle of Wight, England in 1878. Earl & Dottie McKinney were married 19 September 1913 and lived for awhile at Granddad's boyhood home, the upper Graham place on Sweetwater before moving to town. Their first child was a daughter named Lenore who was born in 1915. She was named after her Grandmother McKinney whose name was Lenora (Nora). Their second child , born in 1917, was a son named Edward Farthing McKinney who was named after both his paternal and maternal grandfathers. Their last child was my father, Donald Earl McKinney who was born in 1920. All three children were born and raised around Lander. Grandad and his family lived in town during those early years while he was in partnership with his father who ran cattle on the open ranges of upper Beaver Creek and the the Sweetwater. Grandad later leased a place in Red Canyon near his brother Lloyd's ranch. Lloyd sold his ranch in 1921 before moving to California and never ranched again.

    1918 Lander, Wyoming. Earl & Dottie McKinney with son Edward & Daughter Lenore. Youngest son Donald was born in 1920.

    (Edward F. McKinney):"We lived in Red Canyon when I was about four years old. It was one of Greenough's old places. Granddad was living in Sinks Canyon. That's when they still had a lot of stuff on Sweetwater and they brought in, it must have been 500, 600 head of horses. Granddad's Ring tailed R horses. Trailed them in here, crossed the river down there. Mom and us kids watched the little colts floating way down the river. Swam them across. There was a big 2 story house with a screened in porch and a wood pile right out in front of it. That was when Dad got bucked off by a horse called Snip right on that wood pile. Mom and I was watching him as he rode up. Dad had an Indian working for him and that horse bucked him off right out of his boots."" (Endquote Edward F. McKinney)

    Granddad Earl and his family later went to Southern California when his parents, brothers and sisters decided to move there. But he soon returned to Wyoming where he continued the ranching profession. He leased a couple of places in Sinks Canyon, including the old home place in Borners Garden that his parents had earlier sold to old friend James Graham before the move to California. This was in 1924 and the three children were still quite small. Graham later sold it to the Jackson's. Uncle Edward once told me, "Yes sir, I always liked that place. We always called that the old home place".

    L to R: Unknown boy, Lenore, Donald & Edward McKinney on the Walker place in Sinks Canyon east of the States Place (old Gaylor place) that was leased by their parents during the early 1920's after returning from California.

    L to R: Donald & Edward McKinney with their cousin Fred "Junior" Adams in Lander, Wyoming about 1926.

    (Donald E. McKinney Sr) ""That creek (Hornecker Creek) came right down through there boy. Good running creek, had fish in it and everything. I remember catching fish there with mother. It ran right down across the place and into the Popo Agie near the Borners Garden school as you cross the road. I went to first grade at the Borners Garden school. Ed, Lenore & I rode Dan Patch to school when living up there on that other place (Walker/Elliott). Man, that horse could run. We would race down that gravel road; and the Hornecker kids, going to that Borner’sGarden school. At the old home place we walked to school across that hay meadow.""(Endquote Donald E. McKinney, Sr)

    In 1928 the family leased the Baldwin place southeast of Lander near the Dallas Dome oil field where Granddad Earl ranched on shares with Chester Baldwin. They stayed there about a year then moved to lower Beaver and leased one of John Auer's places.

    The following are entries found in the Wyoming State Journal when the family lived on the Baldwin place:

    May 30, 1928 "Lower Willow Creek. Chester Baldwin and Earl McKinney and his two boys rode for cattle Sunday. Earl McKinney and his boys also rode for cattle Friday to help John Hudleson. Mr Chester Baldwin and Earl McKinney called on Kirk Calvert Sunday. Mr and Mrs Lloyd Calvert and children visited Earl McKinney's Monday evening. Bernice and Donald Sheldon and Lenore McKinney called on Edna and Charles Calvert Saturday."
    "The following report of the number of books read by the pupils of the Lower Willow Creek school will give the people of the district an idea of what their children have been doing in this branch of their school work. Charles Calvert, grade 3, read 71 books; Bernice Sheldon, grade 4, 65; George Barton, grade 6, 25; Joe Warnock, grade 2, 21; Ruth Warnock, grade 2, 22; Edna Calvert, grade 7, 37; Donald Sheldon, grade 2, 24. Other children that have attended our school only part of the term have made good records also, The McKinney children have been with only 3 months. Their record is Edward McKinney, grade 3, read 12 books; Donald McKinney, grade 2, 3; Lenore McKinney, grade 6, 3."
    "Edward McKinney reports a bird egg in his bird house that he built. The last day of school picnic was enjoyed by all on Litle Popo Agie. The forenoon was spent at games among the trees and a long hike upon the cedar hill. The large picnic dinner included wienies and marshmellows and a camp fire."

    August 29, 1928 "Lower Willow Creek. Peterson's machine is threshing at Earl McKinney's, with two machines at work in the neighborhood all the grain in this vicinity will be cleaned up in short order."

    (Donald E. McKinney,Sr): ""On the Baldwin place we used to ski off that hill and run into that chicken wire fence that stopped us. Ted Baldwin played with us. He lived in town, but sometimes would come out with his father. We'd ride horses together. Used same pair of skis when we were on the Auer place on lower Beaver. Dad leased that John Auer place. Ed, Lenore & I rode to school on those skis. The school was about 2 miles away on the Yellowstone ranch. Two of us would get on our saddle horse, Old Slim, and the other rode skis and away we would go. Auer also leased some land to Savage for his sheep. Ronald McDonald was a sheepherder. I used to go up there and stay with Ronald McDonald and the sheep. He was a good cook. He had a brother, Murdo McDonald. They were strictly Scotchmen. They had a Scotch brogue. - - - - Mom and Dad and us kids used to drive out to Hailey and visit the Signors. Mrs Signor gave us kids milk and cookies. We used to go up to John Auer's on Beaver. Sometimes we would visit with Walter Mathisen up on Twin Creek. Red Mathisen, his brother, lived with him. When he wasn't with Walter, he was with us."" (Endquote Donald E. McKinney, Sr)

    L to R: Rhett Hancock, Earl McKinney, Edward McKinney, Chester Baldwin. Grandad Earl leased the Chester Baldwin place in the Dallas area (later the Taft ranch) during the late 1920's. Prior to that, they leased the old home place in Borners Garden near Sinks Canyon. Grandad Earl's parents, Ed & Nora Mckinney, had sold the Borners Garden place & moved to Covina, California in 1923.

    (Edward F. McKinney): ""Donald and I rode all over that country when we was kids, around that Beaver rim. Used to run cattle up in there. Rattlesnakes thicker than hell in there boy. Mrs Wynn had a filling station down there. Sold candy bars, pop. Your Dad and I used to come up a horseback, ride up there, get some candy bars and visit with them. Ed Wynn had a homestead there. He was kind of an invalid then, her husband. This old trapper lived out in there in a cabin. Donald and I went up there and got him with a team and wagon. He was sick. We hauled him down home and Dad took him to town. He had emphysema or asthma. We thought he was going to die in that wagon. We went like hell. He tried to get us to slow down. Wagon was a bouncing. Old George Vince. A real old timer. Saved his life.""(Endquote Edward F. McKinney)

    Around 1930, they moved back to an area near Dallas called the Dry Lake place which they leased from Floyd Scott, the Chevrolet dealer in Lander. The family remained on this place for about ten years. Dad, Lenore and Edward went to school at the lower Willow Creek School, that Dad remembers being called the Dry Lake School which was located on the old highway that ran through that area. This was the same old school they attended a couple of years earlier when they were on the Baldwin place.

    Grandad Earl McKinney, about 1930.

    My father talked about this place which is where he grew up during the 1930's:
    (Donald E. McKinney Sr): ""Dad had cattle on shares with Mr Scott, got half his calves. Dad had the IZ brand. (I reverse Z) Later Mel Hallam took over the Chevrolet garage and he bought the Scott place. We got the most experience with Dad. That's where we learned everything. Dad knew a lot of people and would loan us boys out to other ranchers in our spare time. It was good experience. We worked, by God, when we were growing up. On that Scott place I loaded hay when I was 10, 11 years old. Drove the team and everything else. With my Dad you didn't have to be very big and he'd have you driving a team. I was just a little guy on the Baldwin place but I was big enough to drive a team. He worked the hell out of us. Hauled manure, build fences. Always something to do. It was good for us. We trailed cattle from the Dry Lake place to Sawmill Basin. Also trailed cattle from Sawmill Basin down in to Ed Young Basin. We took some of ours up there and some of Scott's up there - - in the summer time and bring them out in the fall. We took the cattle in to Lander, loaded them on railroad cars and shipped them to Omaha. I made the trip one time. Dad and I and Edward and some other guy shipped some cattle. I was 15 or 16. Rode in the caboose going down. We stopped in Valentine, Nebraska and unloaded to water them. In the middle of winter and cold as hell. We rode his calves every once in a while. He caught us riding this one milk cow. Had a saddle on her in that round coral down there, this old Gurnsey cow. He whipped us hard for that.- - - - - Dad told us never get ahold of a saddle horn. He told us there's one way to saddle a horse and that's the right way. If he'd catch it on wrong, he'd kick your butt all over the place. Boy, if you used a bridle, or a harness or a saddle and didn't put it back where it belonged and the way it was supposed to be, man, he'd take a lariat rope to your butt. Strict as hell. You only had to tell me once, I never did forget it. Yeah, he was a good horseman himself and boy he was death and he didn't want you galloping them either. He'd get his field glasses and watch you. Only do that when you have to and he said you always have a fresh horse and when you need him you got him. If you run him all the time and you need him you got a played out horse. He rode them hard, but he took good care of them. Cutting out cattle he had a bullwhip. He would pop that whip and move the cattle around. Make them go where he wanted them to go. I remember Dad talking about Gravel Springs, McGraw Flat and the French George place where they had their cow camp. That big bay horse he had called Snip went from the cow camp on French George place to Gradddad's old home ranch in Sinks Canyon with hobbles on. Plum to the home ranch. No fences then. They put him out at night with hobbles and he took off. The next morning they couldn't find him. He was heading home. I heard Dad mention that many times. He bucked Dad off, Momma said, in a wood pile. That buckskin horse, Buck, went from the Scott place to Fort Washakie. How in the hell he got through there, I don't know. I know one time we had some cattle down there on little Poposia and it must have been 45 below zero and Dad had this big grey saddle horse called Rex. He knew all the cows and knew their names and whether they had a short ear or long one. God, he saddled up early that morning before daylight. He went out on old Rex and brought this calf home wrapped in a gunny sack. Brought him in the house and laid him on the kitchen table. Saved him. He carried him from the Eagle place plum up there to the Scott place on that grey horse across the saddle and I know it was 40 below zero. There were ice sickles having off old Rex's nose a foot long. One time when I was just a little guy, Dad needed to cut some cattle or something and he wanted me to go get his horses. The horses were in the pasture and he always kept old Rex in. So I got down there to the barn and he says "come here!" He saddled old Rex up with my little saddle and told me to get on the horse. I was scared to death of that horse. He picked me up, threw me in the saddle, slapped old Rex on the rear and away we went. If I had saddled that horse up and rode him myself he'd have whipped me. He had one big black horse called Darky that belonged to Uncle Lloyd. One of Granddad's Ring tailed R horses. When he had a real rough mission, he'd saddle old Darky up. He died there on the Scott place of old age. Dad had to shoot him. That was the only horse he kept and didn't trade off. I think that was only because he belonged to Uncle Lloyd.""(Endquote Donald E. McKinney, Sr)

    Uncle Edward McKinney was a teenager here with a neighbor boy during the 1930's on his parents' ranch they leased from Floyd Scott on Dry Lake near Dallas Oil field.

    (Edward F. McKinney): ""Dad was always trading horses. Damn, he'd get a good saddle horse and trade him.He said, "By God, I never get married to none of them."" (Endquote Edward F. McKinney)

    Grandad Earl McKinney with "Buck" on the Scott Place (Dry Lake)

    (Donald E. McKinney, Sr): ""Dad and I and Rhett Hancock and bunch of other characters, I don't know, were rounding up some horses in the hills someplace and had them coraled at the Kurtz place. I don't know who they belonged to. I think Dad was riding old Darky. We stayed there in that log cabin that night, the old Kurtz house that was kind of Savages Headquarters for sheep camps up there near the Carmody place. Early the nextmorning, - - - - - Dad threw one slick unbranded horse down and put his brand on it.- - - - Unbranded horses on the open range were free for the taking back then.- - - - - - - - - "Dad taught us how to break horses. We'd sack them out and get them used to you. Tried to get them not to buck. Tie a hind foot up and drag sacks over them. Get on and off them with their foot tied up and then let their foot down and get on them and have someone snub them out for you, another rider snub them so they didn't get away, a long lead rope. That's how I broke Mrs Ellis' horses too. I didn't break them for her, I broke them because we needed them." - - - - - - - - "Dad had some good teams. - -we use to get out there with them to feed the cattle and it was 40 below zero. Using the pitch forks, it was just like picking up a chunk of ice. And chop those water holes. Sam and Eagle was a white team he had. Dad always liked this black team, Star and Baldy. I had a load of water that I got out of the river and didn't get a mile up the road (Dallas Road) when a car went by and the team stampeded. Old Star, boy and he was always on the left side next to the traffic. I lost that whole damned water tank. The wagon was bouncing 4 feet in the air. What started him to doing that, they were a young team and Dad just broke them. He was pulling a load of hay from Sinks Canyon and an old Model A or Model T loaded with a Christmas tree went by. The tip of the Christmas tree scraped along side old Star and God did they ever carry the hay home that night. And down in to that barn, they both tried to go in the barn door at the same time. Then they stopped with that hayrack full of hay. Dad finally got a great big spade bit and put on old Star, what you would use on a saddle horse, with a chain curb strap and man you could not hold him. You might as well just be prepared to ride. And old Baldy wouldn't hurt a soul, but she just went along for the company. Star and Baldy."" (Endquote Donald E. McKinney, Sr)

    In 1933 while living at this Dry Lake place, Granddad Earl took out a homestead in the high country of Sawmill Basin. Dad and his brother Edward took turns living on this homestead when their father grazed cattle there during the summer months. Witnesses on Granddad's homestead application (Final Proof) were Walter Mathisen, Kime Hancock, Sandy Mills and Bruce Haynes. Other witnesses to the final land transaction were Francis Savage and Floyd Scott.

    (Donald E. McKinney, Sr):""When I was on the homestead, I would saddle up early in the morning before sunup and check on the cattle, check fences. I was there by myself all summer. I was about 18. There was always something to do. Sometimes would go visit with that old Government trapper. He had a sheepwagon down there on Beaver. I'd let his wife use one of my horses and we'd go into Ed Young basin and check his traps. Savage had sheep up there and I would visit his sheepherders where he had his headquarters. Sometimes I'd visit with Kime Hancock who had a place up there. Sometimes Mom and Dad came up and brought some groceries.
    - - - - - I saw this big bear out there sometimes during the day and I guess he killed some of Savages's sheep one time. One night I was inside the cabin and heard the horses. This bear was prowling around the cabin and pounded on the door. The dogs were growling. After making my rounds during the day, I tried to get back to the cabin before dark because of that. One night I was riding back after dark. The hair stood up on the back of my neck until I got my horse corraled and I was inside the cabin. It was a spooky feeling. That government trapper eventally shot that bear.
    - - - - A heavy snow hit and I left the homestead heading for George Goon's place in Red Canyon. Riding one saddle horse and leading another. I rode old Darky and led the appaloosa and the 2 dogs followed. I was plowing thru the snow and the snow was so deep and I saw this car sitting there along side the road. I saw all this stuff in the back seat and went on up the road a ways and this guy was sitting in the road. Frozen to death. Candy salesman. That was in June. If he had stayed in the car he would have been all right. He tried to walk out of there."" (Endquote Donald E. McKinney, Sr)

    (Edward F. McKinney):""When Donald and I rode up to the homestead we would go up that road (Red Canyon) and sometimes stayed all night there at the Goon's, because he always liked to have some company. Damn there have been some glorious times around there. We went down in there jackrabbit hunting. He had an old model A Ford pickup. He got a bigger kick out of killing those jack rabbits after night than we did. One of us got on each fender and he would drive and boy we would go and you have to hang on with one hand and have a hell of a time shooting. Used shotguns. And he cussed loud. He just hollered. He said "shoot them sob's, shoot them sob's." They were eating the hell out of his alfalfa. I got drunk one time down there, old Goons. It was hot coming up that canyon and I stopped in there to get a drink of water and he says, "Hell lad, you better have a drink of this." He always called youngsters,lad. We went down in that celler, cool and nice down in there and we was dishing that wine out in a dipper. He had barrels of that stuff, choke cherry wine. I got drunker than hell. I got on that wagon and started out with the team and I was asleep before I got to that turn down there. And I woke up and that old team was standing up there at the gate for me at the homestead."" (Endquote Edward F. McKinney)

    (Donald E. McKinney,Sr): ""Uncle Lloyd had some horses in Willow Creek Basin that were running wild for years. D Mill Iron brand. He turned some lose up there. Some of them were branded and some of them weren't. Dad told us about them and sent Red Mathisen, Edward and I to bring them out. I was about 17, 18 years old. We didn't make it out of there either. They got loose and were like a bunch of wild goats, knew those mountain trails, couldn't keep up with them. I went down there to run them out and I don't know if there were two in the lead or one in the lead, but man we took off. They knew every nook and cranny. Couldn't catch them. Couldn't keep them under control. We didn't get a damn one out of there. We thought we could get them out of there that day, but it was a hell of a long ride from the Scott place to Willow Creek basin. We got them down there on this rim but it was too late to get them out of there that night so we had to stay all night and try to get them out the next morning. We stopped down at the creek and got us a cold drink of water. Horses were tired, limping, all those rocks. We did a lot of fast riding. It was pretty chilly, we had a fire lit. Had only a saddle blanket to wrap around you. Brought no food to eat. We were so tired, we didn't think about food. I suppose they all died up there. There were a lot of wild horses up there then. One little bay horse that I drove those cattle to Sherlocks with, he was a D Mill Iron, Lloyd's horse. He came out of there a couple of years before. Red Mathisen is the one who brought him out. I broke him and used him on the Sherlock drive. Damn good horse."" (Endquote Donald E. McKinney, Sr)

    (Edward F. McKinney):""That was the longest night I ever spent in my life. That took the owlhoot days all out of me."" (Endquote)

    Uncle Edward McKinney in Lander, Wyoming about 1940

    The family lived on the Scott or Dry Lake place until 1940 when they leased the Carmody place at Derby Dome from the Savages. In the summer of 1941, Granddad leased the Mackey place at the junction of highways 287 and 28 and lived there until they moved back to the Carmody place which he leased until he purchased it in 1949. Dad grew up on his parents' various ranches and also gained ranchhand experience on other local ranches throughout Fremont County, including the Winchester ranch near Crowheart and the Ellis and Grieves ranches on Sweetwater. He also worked from time to time for Chester Baldwin, Bill McPHee, J.B. Greenough, Jim Brown and Donald Sherlock.

    (Donald E. McKinney, Sr): ""Jim Brown, he ran a ranch for this lady in town. (Old Reid ranch, later Sherlock's). I drove his John Deere tractor with a cultivator behind it. I was about 14, 15 years old. Irrigated a little. Helped him cut and stack hay. Drove the tractor that pulled the combine that thrashed the grain. Edward worked for him for awhile too. Back and forth. Jim Brown and his wife and 2 daughters and 2 boys. I know his youngest daughter was named Jean. She went to school with us at the Dry Lake School. So did Glen Corbett and his bigger brother, the Calvert kids, Joe Warnock and Ruth Warnock were adopted by Mrs Warnock. - - - -And these two girls who lived up on the old Facinelli place. Red Mathisen married one of them, Maxine. The Corbett kid married the other one. That was years later. We just walked across the hay meadow, this alfalfa and went to school. These kids were from the 1st grade plum to the 8th grade. Ninth grade we had to go to town on the bus."
    - - - - - - - - "I helped trail some of Donald Sherlock's cattle from Fort Washakie to South Pass. There were about 500 head, maybe more. I was about 17 years old. The first day we trailed them out to Dad's place (Scott Place) and kept them there. Bed them down on that big pasture in back of the barn. All of the hands slept on the ground in bedrolls, what little sleep you got. I stayed in my folks house that night except when it came time for nightherd. Then we drove up Red Canyon to Sawmill Basin the next day. Stayed near Dad's homestead, down in that valley. Donald Sherlock had his 3/4 ton truck and he pulled that sheepwagon on rubber tires. He had a cook that fed everybody. Then we started trailing out the next morning at daylight up the road and drove them in to South Pass the next evening. It took three full days. I stayed in that hotel. They fed us downstairs, homestyle. Mrs Sherlock cooked for us. I stayed with George Goon in Red Canyon that first night coming back from South Pass."
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - "I worked for Clarence Grieves on Sweetwater with Collins Jamerman. One of the other guys was named Moore. I can't remember his first name; had a brother named Hally. After work, Collins and I used to go in Mitchell's bar in Jeffrey City when we weren't too tired. You would go in and relax and have a cold beer and go on about your business. Clarence used to come in Mitchell's and have a beer with old Collins and I. He was friendly, but there was no doubt who the boss was. He would speak to you and go on about his business."" (Endquote Donald E. McKinney, Sr)

    (Collins Jamerman, Sweetwater):""I bought a brand new flower stamped saddle from your Dad (Donald). I don't know why he didn't like it. I went in the Navy in '44 and haven't seen him since. Yeah, we were good friends. We sure had some days on the Grieves place. We rode all over this country, didn't have trailers in those days. We went out horseback. Nowadays they haul these horses around all the time. We had some good times. Sometimes we would go to Mitchell's. Charlie and Jane. Drink beer. We'd drink that old grainbelt beer, you know, 25 cents for a great big old bottle. ""(Endquote Collins Jamerman)

    Dad was living with his parents on the Scott place in January of 1940 when he first went out to Sweetwater to work for Mrs Ellis. Granddad Earl and his father knew the Ellis family back during the 1920's. Mrs Ellis' husband left during the 1930's and occasionally she needed ranchhands to help her son Newell and daughter Jean with the ranch work. Dad had a lot of respect for Mrs Ellis and she liked him. He always admired strong minded women like her who knew how to take charge and do a man's job. So, they got along very well.

    (Donald E. McKinney, Sr): ""Lee Ellis, and Mrs Ellis had it later after he left, owned a lot of land and had a lot of leased land out there on both sides of the river toward Beaver and on towards Rawlins. They had that Z cross brand. Lee Ellis went first class. He was well off, had a lot of money. That was a nice log house. The water tank was up in the roof of that kitchen there. That place was spotless. Septic system, blacksmith shop, good corals and fenceposts set in cement. I used to go all over that country out there when I worked for Mrs Ellis. Mrs Ellis was very nice but could be very onery, boy. As long as you didn't get on her list. She had a temper, boy.I tell you. She would poke you in the nose if she thought you deserved it.- - - - - - -She was the boss.- - - - - - - - Very attractive woman, combed her hair straight back and had it in a big knot. Real classy woman, high society--When you see her all dressed up. - - - - - - - Mrs Ellis stayed in town all the time. Would come out there on weekends. When school was out, Jean would come out there. Newell and I and a sheepherder were out there all the time. Sometimes Jean and I went down in the boondocks someplace out there to get some cows. She could sure ride a horse. Oh boy. She was a good worker. - - - Once in a while I could get Newell to smile. I used to get him laughing blowing those stumps out with dynamite. He fixed breakfast every morning. He could sure make sourdough pancakes. He had a sourdough jug. At sage chicken time going along there, we we didn't even have to stop the team, those sage chicken feeding along the river there, we'd shoot those young ones. Shoot their heads off with a 22 rifle. We'd have sage chicken for dinner.- - - - - I was out looking for cattle on the open range near the Ellis place and saw this dead mother (mare). I rode up and this little colt was laying there. I saw it was alive, got off and picked it up and threw it across the saddle. I didn't want to leave him there to die. He was pretty weak and finally got him started on that milk bottle and you couldn't take it away from him. I also found a bumb lamb out on the range. Also a little baby chicken that was an orphan. They got really friendly, followed me around everywhere. In the spring of '41 took them all home to the Carmody place."" (Endquote Donald E. McKinney, Sr)

    (Jean Ellis, Lander, Wyo): ""Donald used to work out there for mother, cowboying, ranch work, haying and what have you. He was real good with horses. He broke some saddle horses for us and the teams, you know. - - - - Thinking about the old times and everything, the happiness, you know, and the good times and the whole bit. I don't know, it was just wonderful. The horses and the fun we used to have, you know. We just thoroughly enjoyed ourselves."" (Endquote Jean Ellis)

    (Newell Ellis, Sweetwater):""Dry Lake place, that's where they lived when I first picked up Donald when he went to work for mother. That was in 1940. Mom had him go out there to kind of watch the range and patrol the range. Yeah, we did horse work. Don was good because he learned it from Earl. Don was more oriented to it than most. He carried on the roping and the horse work. He got it from Earl and old Ed, his grandfather.""(Endquote Newell Ellis)

    This was our father Donald McKinney Sr in 1940 with some orphans (including chicken) he rescued when he was 20 years old on the Sweetwater. Dad was working on Sweetwater & found "Ol Mex" next to his dead mother on the frigid, snowy open range. Before entering the Army in 1941, he brought all 3 orphans to his parents' leased ranch on Twin Creek, Derby Dome. His parents, Earl & Dottie, later leased the Mackey ranch but returned to the Twin Creek place during the mid 1940's, eventually purchasing it in 1949. Brother Richard & I remember "Old Mex" who was our favorite horse during our childhood visits of the 1950's-1960's..

    (Donald E. McKinney Sr) :""I met a lot of good people on Sweetwater. I knew Bill Grieves, Clarence's brother, well. Old Whiskey Bill. Bill was very friendly. - - - - Last time I saw him he was with his mother up there on their old home place. Real nice fellow. Judd Blodgett had a homestead out there going up toward Mitchell's station near Green Mountain. I met him in Mitchell's station. I helped him drill a well. I helped McCaskey trail his sheep from Fort Washakie to Mrs Ellis's place. She let him graze his sheep on her range. He was later town marshall in Lander. Old Joe, can't remember his last name, cooked for Mrs Ellis at the cow camp. He had a homestead in the Green Mountains. Walt Hurner, I knew him well, he was a good guy, little short fellow. He used to come up to the Ellis place a lot. He used to work for Scarlett below the Sweetwater bridge. Man, that guy was a wild horse chaser. He would rope one of those horses and just stuck a tire on it, tied it hard and fast and wouldn't even get off his horse and man they would just go end over end. Newell and I trailed some of his horses to Rawlins one time across the Red Desert. We sewed their noses up so they couldn't run off. Jean drove across in a pickup and we brought the saddle horses back in a trailor.""(Endquote Donald E. McKinney, Sr)

    Dad dated several women before he joined the Army. Two of them were area schoolteachers. When Dad left the Ellis place in the spring of 1941 he went back home to live with his parents. They were now leasing the Old Carmody place on Twin Creek near Derby Dome. He met Naomi Halverson who taught the Hancock and Carr kids at the Twin Creek school not far from the ranch.

    Donald E. McKinney, Sr): ""I was bringing her back from Rawlins one day and I shot an antelope not too far from Mitchell's Station on the right side of the road. Shot him right out of the car with that 25-20 with the octagon barrel that Dad had. I carried it with me everywhere, in the car and on the saddle horse all the time. There were no fences then. I just drove down into the bar pit and the sagebrush and put him in the trunk of this Oldsmobile coupe that I had and took it back to the ranch and backed up to the red barn. I hung him up, skinned him, gutted him. I was wearing my suit and didn't get a drop of blood on me.- - - - - - -"At Sweetwater Station, there was a ranch across there, Countryman. I used to go with one of the Countryman girls. I think it was the one younger than the one Warren Myers married. There were 4 or 5 Countrymen girls, and one Countryman boy." - - - - - - - "I used to go with a Murphy girl, Ruth Murphy. It was in 1941 before I joined the Army. After I joined the Army she was teaching school at the Dry Lake school. I brought a horse up there for Scarlett from Fort Riley and brought two back. She was staying at Jim Brown's at the old Reid place.""(Endquote Donald E. McKinney Sr)
    (Note: Scarlett was a Fremont County man who was stationed with Dad in the cavalry at Fort Riley.)

    Earl McKinney on his ranch on Twin Creek near Derby Dome. He & family leased it briefly in 1941 & later during the mid 1940's before purchasing in 1949

    During the summer of 1941 before joining the Army, Dad was getting a haircut in the old Fremont Hotel. Jack Bailey, foreman of the Jack Creek Ranch at Saratoga was in there also. He was looking for a ranchhand. In the course of the conversation, Jimmy Trimmer, the barber asked Dad what he was doing that summer. Dad was hired by Bailey on the spot and worked on the Jack Creek ranch until he joined the Army that fall. Dad registered for the Army draft in the little post office at Split Rock ranch on Sweetwater. His experience with horses and ranching made him a prime candidate for U.S. Cavalry recruitment shortly before American involvement in World War II. In October 1941, he joined the Army and was sworn in at a ceremony in Cheyenne with Col Tim McCoy presiding. Tim McCoy was the western movie actor who lived in Fremont County in his youth and was the former Adjutant General for Wyoming. Dad was stationed at Camp Forsyth, Fort Riley, Kansas where he became an instructor at the Horsemanship Department, Cavalry Replacement Training Center. He soon advanced several ranks to become, at age 22, the youngest First Sergeant at Fort Riley. Dad's sister Lenore married Bert Hambrick before the war and lived for a while in the Lander area but eventually settled in Missoula, Montana where they raised their children, Barbara, Donnie and Steve.

  • Article: ”OLD SOLDIERS NEVER DIE”--published in "Kanhistique", Ellsworth, KS, Vol 17/No 10, continues the military career of Donald E. McKinney, Sr

    Dad's sister & husband Bert Hambrick leased the Scott Place (Dry Lake) after their parents left that ranch in 1940. The Hambricks & children Barbara, Donnie & Steve eventually settled in Missoula, Montana.

    Dad's sister Lenore (McKinney) Hambrick.

    Dad and Uncle Edward hunted and fished occasionally but only out of necessity in order to put food on the table. They normally didn't hunt for the sporting excitement. One day Dad was riding on horseback through part of his Dad's ranch called the Sharp place near Derby Dome on Twin Creek. This was years later after he was married and on leave from the Army.

    (Donald E. McKinney, Sr):""I had come down through and just crossed the creek and I was on a little knoll and turned around and there that son of a gun was. I was riding old Red. As I got off the horse, I pulled the rifle out of the scabbord and leaned down underneath old Red's head. I was using Dad's old 25-20. That deer was standing there looking right at me. All I could see was his head and those big horns. He was standing in that deep two feet hay right next to the creek. I shot him right between the eyes. It was a pretty good distance. The horse didn't move. Dad was coming down the road in his jeep and he knew what I had done. Edward and I and your mother came back, cut it up and hauled it back up in sacks.""(Endquote Donald E. McKinney, Sr)

    I remember Granddad describing how he witnessed that famous "between the eyes" shot that his son made that day. Dad also told me about the time in Sawmill Basin while he was living on the homestead he shot an elk on a sloped ridge. Dad was at the bottom of the slope and this was quite a distance. When he rode up to where the elk was lying, he found two dead elk. The bullet penetrated the one he was aiming at and struck the other which was a hundred or so feet further up the slope from the first elk. Dad didn't know the second elk was there.
    Dad told me about another incident involving my Granddad Earl. Dad was home on leave at the Carmody place and he saw his Dad saddle up and ride off. Dad didn't know where he went. Later he found out that Granddad was observing some deer poachers in his pasture across the highway from his main place. Granddad was watching these trespassers from that high area above the red cliffs. They had just killed a deer and were skinning him, when Granddad placed some well aimed shots between their legs with his Winchester. He had them doing the highland jig. Needless to say, they scattered and drove off without the deer.

    Conclusion: My Own Special Memories

    When my Grandparents purchased the Derby Dome place on Twin Creek in 1949, Uncle Edward and Aunt Hilda became partners in the day to day operation of the ranch. (See note below). Ed used the D Mill Iron brand on his horses and cattle which he received from his Uncle Lloyd. Granddad Earl still used the I reverse Z brand. Ed also worked off and on for the oil companies and did backhoe and bulldozer work to supplement the ranch income. After my Grandparents died during the 1970's, Ed and Hilda took over ownership of the ranch. Their children, Marilynn, Tim & Kelly were all raised on this ranch.
    This is the place I fondly remember as a child. I have many nostalgic memories of our visits to the Grandparents' ranch when Dad took an occasional leave from the Army during the 1950's and 1960's. This enchanting place is surrounded by these scenic red cliffs with a big, red mountain overlooking the green hay meadows that lie along Twin Creek. This ranch consists of the original Carmody place with the red rock barn beneath the red cliffs along with other adjoining areas they always called the Kurtz place, where the calving corals are located. Also, the Sharp place across the highway from the main ranch and the Rasmussen place on Onion Flat. My brother Rick and I loved to ride Old Bill and Old Mex, which were two old horses that Granddad had around there for the kids to ride. Old Mex was that orphaned colt that Dad found out on the open range of the Sweetwater many years before. My Grandmother "Dottie" possessed a kind, nurturing and almost angelic personality who never had a harsh word to say about anyone. She came from a religious Episcopalian background and was very active in church work and the local garden club. I can still smell her homemade loaves of bread. As Pete Freese once told me, "Dottie was one of the nicest women I ever knew. If ever there was a lady, why she was." Granddad Earl was indeed a strict father as many fathers were back in those days, but as a Grandfather, he tended to spoil his grandchildren. He always had a candy bar or a silver dollar for us kids and teased us when we tried to rope his calves during branding season. My brother Rick and I would occasionally ride around with him in his jeep and sometimes he would slap us on the thigh with his massive hand when we least expected it and offer us a chaw of his tobacco. I make an annual trip to my ancestral homeland to visit relatives and I still get excited when I first sight that big red landmark of a mountain overlooking my Grandparents' ranch near Derby Dome.

    The western culture of Fremont County is a part of my heritage and I am proud to be associated with those who helped make its history. The ranch is now owned by cousin Tim & his family and I am sure my father will rest assured that the ranching and cowboy traditions of the McKinney family will continue for many generations to come.

  • Article: ”McKINNEY RANCH"--for more history concerning our ancestral ranch on Twin Creek at Derby Dome.


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    McKinney ranch on Twin Creek near Derby Dome
    Edward McKinney, his daughter Marilynn, his wife Hilda & son Timmy, Donald & Eda Faye "Tommie" McKinney & son Richard, grandparents Earl & Dottie McKinney, Donnie McKinney

    McKinney Ranch on Twin Creek near Derby Dome, Lander, Wyoming


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