History, horsemen abundant in Hickey Ranch heritageWritten by Jennifer Womack
“There were no secrets in those days,” he laughs of a time when people listened in on the telephone for entertainment’s sake.
A hallway connects the house to the one Jack and his wife Marian added to the ranch in the early 1950s. Jack says the hallway was built so they could better care for his elderly mother. It also connects Jack with numerous childhood memories and a glimpse at the past generations whose hard work founded the family ranch. Jack was born in the corner bedroom of the old house in June of 1929. The ranch has been his home ever since.
Black and white photographs line the walls. A trunk holds the dresses Jack’s grandmother once wore. Another trunk is full of brand books, ranch papers and those items Jack’s grandfather found to be important.
Among the photographs is one of Jack and his brother, who died as a young teen, with two Hereford steers. In what was a rare trip to the stockshow in Ogden, Utah, the brothers entered the competition. When the steers were sold, Jack says they each had enough money to purchase a new saddle. The remainder of their money was pooled to buy their mother a bedroom set, which stills stands in one of the upstairs bedrooms.
The Hickey Ranch is situated in very southern Wyoming. Looking south from his house Jack says, “All of those mountains with timber over there are in Utah. The state line is five or six miles away from here.” Like many other Uinta County ranchers, the Hickeys run in both Wyoming and Utah.
“My granddad came here from Montreal, Canada when he was about 16,” says Jack. “Have you ever heard about those charcoal kilns?” he asks of the kilns near the ghost town of Piedmont near Evanston. “When he first came to the country he worked on them for a while.” Interestingly, the kilns, which have been designated as a state historic site, seem to have some connection to most old Uinta County ranches in one way or another.
Located in a unique location, the Hickey ranch is flanked by mountains on the south and desert to the north. “It’s open from here almost all of the way to Little America,” says Jack of the desert country.
“He homesteaded up by a place we’re haying right now,” says Jack. “He had this house built in 1908,” he says of the 101-year-old house that holds collections of Hickey family history. “He lived up there where he homesteaded for quite a while.”
Jack attended school near the ranch through the eighth grade when he was needed back at the ranch. His sister boarded out over in Mountain View where she was able to complete her education and go on to attend college to become a teacher. Of the Lonetree school, he says, “The last two to three years, my sister and I were the only ones going and we rode over their horseback. The barn we kept the horses in all day is still over there.”
Horses have always been a part of Jack’s life. You’ll never meet a guy more humble. While he won’t admit it, his fellow Uinta County ranchers say he’s one of the finest cowboys around. At 80 years old, he explains his present limp is the result of being kicked by a horse just a while back.
Like so many cowboys of his day, Jack met his wife Marian while attending a rodeo over in the Woodruff and Randolph, Idaho country. He rode broncs, roped calves and bulldogged. In celebration of his 40th birthday he entered up in the Evanston rodeo bronc riding for old time’s sake.
“We have three boys and a girl,” says Jack. “The girl teaches school in Lyman. One boy and his wife teach school in Mountain View. One of the boys is up haying and there’s another one on the ranch, too.” Grandkids and great-grandkids scurry in and out of the kitchen in hopes that Grandma Marian might have a treat.
Jack’s gathering up lunch to head back to the hayfields. While the family has made the transition from horses to machinery, the hay is still put up loose. Why? Jack responds, “Because it’s the cheapest you can do it.” The hay is stacked in 12-ton loaf shaped piles. Jack says the number of tons can be estimated by measuring the length and the width of the stack.
His mother, he recalls, was good at figuring out how much hay was in a given stack. It was necessary math for those years when the family purchased a neighbor’s hay. Jack says the cattle would be moved close to the stack for feeding.
The Hickeys run a cow-calf operation and for the past 18 years Jack says Geezer Bowling has purchased their calves all but one year. “They’re mostly black,” he says, “but we started Hereford. Used to be everyone had Herefords.”
In 2006 the Wyoming Game and Fish recognized the Hickeys among their “landowners of the year.” The agency said, “There probably aren’t too many places more hunter-friendly than the Hickey Ranch.”
“Jack Hickey has never charged an access fee for hunters and has never denied hunter permission,” said the agency presss release. “Each year a significant number of area 35 moose hunters harvest their animal on the Hickey Ranch, and Jack gives many of them a tour of the ranch’s best hunting spots. But his generosity doesn’t stop there. When a moose is harvested, Jack will use a tractor to assist in retrieving the hunter’s game.”
“The property is home to a wide variety of wildlife,” said the agency release. “The irrigated native hay pastures along the cottonwood-lined Henry’s Fork and the willow-choked irrigation ditches are a haven for moose, deer, elk and the occasional otter. Pronghorn and sage grouse use the surrounding sagebrush uplands throughout the year.”
The release continued, “The needs of wildlife do not fall on deaf ears when Jack Hickey is around. In recent years, when drought hit the Lonetree Valley, Jack sought additional property to lease so he could spread his cattle over a greater area and avoid overgrazing. Each year he leaves a considerable amount of forage in his pastures because he knows it is the right thing for the land and wildlife.”