Sommers Homestead Open House - WY Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductees of 2016
A Look Back in Time
Renee and her bumblebee glasses with Emory and the Sommers Ranch reflected.
Everyone in Cowboy Country has a story.
by Terry Allen
September 5, 2017
This past Sunday about 200 people from around the world came to the Sommers Homestead Living History Museum to hear three stories of the latest Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductees from our region. The 2016 Sublette County honorees were Ira and Edna McWilliams, Robert "Bert" Harvey, and Norm Ritchie.
Haying was about done and the mosquitoes were gone so it was a perfectly enjoyable warm day for the event. Besides the locals, folks from Lander, Riverton, Thayne, Sheridan, Buffalo, Rock Springs, Afton, Casper, California, Oklahoma, Colorado, New York, Georgia, Wisconsin, Utah, Texas, Germany and Mexico, showed up for the event.
We were scheduled to hear the stories about the honorees after lunch so I just walked around with my camera and notebook and said hi to whatever and whoever caught my eye or caught my ear.
I stopped at Jonita’s check-in table at the homestead entrance and from there, I noticed Windy Noble, the organizer for the Cowboy Hall of Fame portion of the event, all the way down at the restored bunkhouse. I couldn’t see her face but I knew her walk even as she walked the other direction. "I can tell who a person is by how they sit on a horse," Jonita said. "In fact, it runs in the family. Norm Ritchie sits on a horse just like his Uncle Henry. Ryan Roberts sits on a horse just like Bob Miller his Grandpa." Gee, I guess I’m not as skilled as I thought I was by being able to pick out Julie Early with her long grey hair and her two-toned horse.
Emory and Renee Naylor were in the shade on the walkway overlooking the Green River Valley and the horse and milking barn admiring the lush horseradish that appears to grow wild. "Bert Harvey is my stepdad and one of the honorees today," Renee said. "He was a guy that everybody liked and we’ve heard some folks say that he had a grin like Ronald Reagan. He worked for Miller Land and Livestock for about all his working life…around 58 years. His wife died in childbirth with twins and one survived. Bert was a wonderful stepfather to us three girls."
Windy introduced me to Rocky McWilliams who is Ira and Edna McWilliams oldest grandson and they raised him in cow camps. We couldn’t talk right then, so I walked up a while later and sort of eves dropped on a conversation he was having with an old friend. "My boy bought a farm and I said to him…if you’re gonna buy one it better be close ‘cause I’m not gonna drive all over the country to help you. He must have listened because I can sit on my porch and watch him work it."
I think a lot of country people are like me in relation to food. Just about everything except people and horses I have looked at and wondered how they’d taste. So I was surprised and fascinated to discover the old Sommers Homestead residence all covered in hops vines. Jonita had a bunch of ladies around her and they all said the hops were planted to produce yeast for bread making. I looked at every one of those ladies and tried to find a chink in their tale but couldn’t. Not long after I found Albert and asked him about it. I figured he’d give me the straight scoop. "No, I think the women are correct," he said. "My Grandmother was a teetotaler, so I’m certain there wasn’t any beer making going on in those days. "Ahhh…did I just notice a little something in between the lines? "…in those days." I make crabapple wine and pick berries for jam and if it was legal I’d grow corn for whiskey, so I have a hard time believing that in over a hundred years, no enterprising Sommers kid ever picked some hops and put them in an old milk can to ferment. I decided to give up, but not before Windy and I talked some agreeable cowboys into climbing into the hops vines to take a fun picture…just in case I ever hear the rest of the story.
Della May McWilliams had a little story about Rocky. "When Rocky was two he decided he was going to be a cowboy like his Dad and Grandad," she said. "He’d ride an old saddle on the rack for miles herding cows, chasing off coyote's, scattering salt and whatever else he saw his idols do."
I noticed a young man named Buckly vigorously scrubbing clothes using a washboard and a tub. He worked every inch of the clothing with the bar of soap and beamed when I said I’d never seen anyone do such a fine job. His Grandmother Pauline Williams Baker said her grand kids do know how to work. Buckly was the family egg hunter until the chickens got smart. "The chickens started hiding their eggs, but I found them," he said. "When I went to get them the rooster jumped on me and drew blood on my belly." Saige is Buckly’s brother and she just won a medal in Mutton Busting.
I met Maria Faler a few years ago when she was two. At that time she showed me around her ranch in Boulder and thought I’d be interested in how many fish she had in her pond and how many horses and cows she had, and how she had a lot of that stuck to the bottom of her boots. Today she looked about age 8 and I asked her what her favorite pie was. "My favorite pie is 3.14. It’s the scientific pie," she said. "But, 4.13 is pie if you look at the numbers..it spells pie." I guess she could tell I was going cross-eyed and she rescued me. "But I really like anything with vanilla…like rhubard," she said.
On the way back to listen to the speeches I bumped into Buckly and Saige again. Along with Grandma Pauline we made our way to the barn to milk the cow. I’d seen them shaking up some butter bottles and learned that the mother cow that had given up the cream was now on loan to Michael Klaren because he had a baby calf that had lost its Mother. Anyway, the kids showed me how to milk the cow and then Saige asked if she could use my big expensive camera to take a picture of me doing the milking. She did as good a job as me.
The speeches were sure entertaining, so please open the links below for more details on the honorees.
The Homestead is done with the regular season now. All that is left are some fall school group tours. We'll have Big Piney 4th graders out on this Friday for the day. Next week we'll have Pinedale 4th graders on Tuesday and Wednesday - they have a big 4th grade bunch and have to split them into two groups over two days.
Thank you to everyone for letting me take your picture and write down your remembrances. I sure had a great time making some new friends. Thank you Dawn Ballou of Pinedale Online for hiring me to record this event for posterity.
Your photographer: Terry Allen – firstname.lastname@example.org
You may share these low resolution photos among yourselves for personal purposes. I do sell full/hi-rez photos and permission for commercial use…with permission of the subjects, of course.
Norm Ritchie: http://www.wyomingcowboyhalloffame.com/inductees/2016-inductees/richie-norm/ Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame
Robert "Bert" Harvey: http://www.wyomingcowboyhalloffame.com/inductees/2016-inductees/harvey-robert-bert/ Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame
Ira and Edna McWilliams: http://www.wyomingcowboyhalloffame.com/inductees/2016-inductees/mcwilliams-ira-and-edna/ Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame
Sommers Ranch: https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/sommers By Stephanie Lowe, wyohistory.org
The Sommers Homestead Living History Museum is a cooperative effort between the Sublette County Historical Society, the Green River Valley Museum, and siblings Jonita and Albert Sommers. It interprets the early settlement and ranching history of the Upper Green River Valley from the early to mid-1900s. The Homestead is all volunteer run. It is open June, July and August on Fridays and Saturdays from 10AM to 3PM – admission is by donation.