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Ralph Urbigkeit selected 1993 Ag Citizen of the Year

By Del Tinsley
1993 State Fair Edition
            Ralph Urbigkeit of Crowheart, a veteran of 55 of cattle and sheep ranching, is the 1993 Ag Citizen f the Year.
            Urbigkeit, picked by a panel of agricultural leaders in a competition sponsored annually by the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, will receive a plaque and special recognition at the Friday, Aug. 20, night performance of the PRCA Rodeo during the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas
            He was born May 1, 1924, at what was then Lenore, Wyo., and is now only a memory. Ralph spent most of his younger years on various places along the Big Wind River in Fremont County. In 1933 his parents moved back to the original place where he was born. Ralph and his wife Eileen still own the place today.
            He married Eileen Landers in 1948, and they have four children: Rose Mary, an attorney is Missoula, Mont.; Dale with Real Estate in Riverton; Nancy Reed in Union, Ore.; and Rusty with a ranch of his own at Crowheart.
            Perhaps the most expansive summation of Ralph is found in a poem written about him by Eileen:
 
            My genuine cowboy is tall and slim,
            A little stooped now and hair getting thin.
            The twinkle in his eye is still there, along with the dry humor he’s famous for. Very well educated from Bible and Books, Loves history especially community and state.
 
            He loves the land and is a good conservationist.
            Abides the hunting laws and abhors waste. Works hard the year “round,” thinks of retiring then takes on another project or lease. Has served on many boards, chairman of most. Is highly respected when he gives his “word.”
 
            He enjoys his cattle and excels the care which he gives. Can be seen in the quality of his herd.
            My favorite sight is to watch him ride his horse. To his firmness and gentleness the horse responds.
            He won’t tolerate abuse. And has been known to speak his mind.
           
            I believe the joy of his life is children. There is nothing he won’t do for his “boys.” No matter if they are nephews, strays or his own. He has a special place for daughters, I believe they overwhelm him some. If he can help one with a problem there is always room. They are “the Kid” to him until they are grown.
 
            He loves dogs and usually has one with him. I don’t know which one he likes best. He tolerates my “puppies” and pampers Andy, but if I single one out it would have to be old Charlie Brown.
           
            My cowboy is many things, a Jack-of-all-trades. Too generous, sometimes to a fault. But he will leave a heritage to his family, it won’t be material wealth.
            But genuine love of children, animals, truth, honesty and pride in work.
 
            Ralph has been a member of the Farm Bureau and Farmers Union for many years. He is also a life member of the National Rile Association, the Lander and Dubois sportsmen association. He served as an Emergency Medical Technician for four years and has been A Notary Public for the Crowheart area for 20 some years. He is a member of the Fremont County Pioneer Association and Fremont County Hay Producers Association. IN addition he has a long history of public service starting with being elected to the local school board in 1948.
            In 1980, Ralph was named the Outstanding Farmer Rancher for Fremont County at their annual banquet.
            He served the Fremont County Weed and Pest Board from 1966-70, then again from 1977 to present. During that time he was chairman of the County Board from 1979-83. Also during this same period, 1981-83, he was elected chairman of the Wyoming State Weed and Pest Council.
            IN 1983, Ralph received the prestigious Alvah Elledge award presented to an individual for recognition of public service and leadership in an effort to control the spread of noxious weeds in Wyoming.
            Although Ralph first joined 4-H in 1935, he did not become a leader until 1960. In the ensuing years from 1965 through 1970, he served the County 4-H Leaders Council as vice president. In 1971 he was elected president and served four years. Since that time, while not as active as before, he still has time to be a leader when and where needed.
            Ralph is a member of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association where he served one years as secretary-treasurer and the Wyoming Wool Growers Association as well as the National Cattleman’s Association.
            Ralph was elected to the board of directors of the Dubois-Crowheart Soil Conservation District in 1953 and served until 1955. He was re-elected in 1963 and served until 1980 at which time he decided it was time to let the younger generations take the reins. During his service, he was chairman two terms, also secretary, treasurer and vice chairman.
            In 1965, Ralph was given the outstanding co-operator award from the Dubois Crowheart District. Then, in 1973, he received the Distinguished Award from Area Four for his work in conservation. In 1971 as chairman he started the district newsletter, the “Windy,” which is still published.
            During this time, the district purchased a grain drill that also was used to spread fertilizer. They also purchased the first Eversman land level to use on a rental basis.
            The Idaho experiment station in 1965 decided to release a new grass that had been acquired from the mid-East. This was an entirely new type of Brome grass that grew from the crow instead of the stalk as Smoot or Lincoln Brome did. It was named Regar Brome and with help form the plant material center at Bridger, Mont., Ralph was able to get enough seed for seven acres – and the original seven acres is still in Regar Brome.
            It has proven to be one of the outstanding irrigated pasture and hay grasses. Another grass that Ralph was quick to try when it became available from the plant materials center is Garrisons Creeping Meadow Foxtail. For land that has a high water table, this grass was and still is a top producer, and now Fremont County has extensive planting of this grass.
            The non-Indian landowners were presented with a bill in 1961 for the original construction of their irrigation project dating back to 1905. Ralph helped organized and was elected chairman of the Wind River Water Users Association. In the next seven years through three changes of U.S. Representatives and two changes of U.S. Senators, they were successful in getting a bill passed and signed by the President to cancel the construction charges on non-Indian owned land if certain conditions were wet.
            Ralph was elected to the country A.S.C.S. Board in December of 1972 and one month later was elected chairman, serving the next eight years. It was during this period while serving on both A.S.C.S. and SWCD boards that Ralph helped Fremont County get included in the areas covered by the Great Plains Conservation Contracts for cost sharing of conservation practices. Until that time Fremont County was considered to be too far west to be eligible and was denied benefits enjoyed by the eastern part of the ceremonial.
            Fremont County decided to start a countywide fire district in 1965, and Ralph was included on the original board of directors. Since then the County Fire Department has become the model for the rest of the state and has acquired the State Fire Academy at Riverton. Although Ralph is no longer on the board, he is still a member of the local department.
            It was in 1966 that the county, by a vote of the people, decided to start a junior college. Ralph was elected t the first board of directors helping to establish the campus of the Central Wyoming College. It was during this term that the site was selected and the first building erected. The college has continued to grow and this past year voted in an $8 million expansion.
            Ralph was elected to one term in the Wyoming House of Representatives in 1967. It was one of the highlights of his public career to serve the people of his county in this position. At the same time, Sen. Alan Simpson was a member of the Wyoming House.
            Ralph decided to enter the political arena one more time in 1986 and was elected County Commissioner. After serving on the board four years, he was elected chairman for two years. He was re-elected for four more years in 1992.
            Ralph and his wife continue to ranch on their home place, two miles west of Crowheart, about 45 miles west of Riverton where they are busy raising hay and enjoying the summer visits with their grandchildren. For many years, they ran a herd of commercial cattle but now have sold off all their cattle and sheep and just raise hay that they sell and rent their pasture.
            In answer to the question of what he has accomplished over the years in public life does he feel was the most rewarding, his answer was “Serving as County Commissioner. As Commissioner, I feel that I can do more for the people and that is a feeling of accomplishment that I enjoy. I’m especially proud of the fact that we’ve been able to maintain a four percent sales tax here.”
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