Close ties, Hampton family maintains strong relationships
Ten Sleep – Sam and Phyllis Hampton have family ties to Washakie County dating back to 1911 when Sam’s grandparents, Cyrus and Nellie Hampton, settled in Worland.
This was also the year Washakie County was established.
In 1924, Phyllis’s grandparents George and Elizabeth Hefenieder moved their family to Worland after a few years of farming in Ranchester. They became neighbors of the Hamptons, and it was in 1955 that Sam and Phyllis were married.
Being neighborly is especially important to Sam, since the Hampton’s operation is spread out over some 80 miles in a patchwork of private and BLM lands.
Sam stresses that, “If we want good neighbors, first we must be one.”
“We cross our neighbors land, and they cross ours. We’re there to help whenever needed, be it branding, fall vaccinating or corral work. And they are always there for us when we need help. We are blessed with good neighbors,” Sam adds.
The Hampton’s two ranching outfits are set up to where they pasture their cows during the winter through spring months on BLM grazing lands around Worland, then trail their cows from winter to summer range at the Ten Sleep ranch.
When the Ten Sleep ranch, located at Mahogany Butte, was purchased in 1946, Carl Hampton’s sheep business was in full swing, and cattle were added to balance out the range.
Both sheep and cattle grazed the Hampton lands until 2009, when the majority of the sheep were sold.
In recent years, with the absence of sheep, the Hamptons have noticed a significant rise in weed population.
“Sheep and cattle together benefit the range, and we see the effects now of just how much. The cows share the range with antelope, deer and elk, but it seems apparent that it was the sheep that kept the weeds down,” remarks Sam.
“We just have a small handful of sheep that the grandkids raise for 4-H and FFA and for our table, as we all enjoy good lamb,” Sam adds with a smile. “Mostly now our critters consist of cattle, horses and grandkids.”
Sam and Phyllis have eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren whom they hope will continue this wholesome way of life.
Being very concerned and conscientious about the welfare of the land due to impacts from weather, grazing and erosion, the Hampton family stresses the importance of land management for the sake of their livestock and future generations.
Started in the mid 1980s, they devised and constructed a system of spring fed, gravity flow water pipelines to some 25 reservoirs and a few stock tanks that supply water to cattle and wildlife in areas that beforehand were too far from a water source.
“When a critter has to travel great distances for water in rough terrain, it wears off pounds, and weight is what we sell,” states Sam.
Keeping an eye out
With his favorite saddle horse in the trailer, Sam regularly drives around looking for potential trouble.
He is constantly checking and making sure the cows are utilizing the available feed and water, if there’s enough salt or maybe he’ll find a frustrated pair on opposite sides of the fence that he rejoins.
Sam is also on the lookout for any open gates and sections of fence that need mending, and it is not an uncommon sight to see Sam with his shovel making cutout diversions to prevent water run-off from creating deep ruts or potential washouts in roads.
Sam may dig out snow from cattle guards to prevent cows from walking across them into the neighbors.
“I’m happy our whole family knows how and is not afraid of using a shovel, even the girls. It builds character,” Sam comments.
Sam and Phyllis, being third generation stewards of the land, continue ranching with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Both he and Phyllis are proud of their four kids and their families who are a part of the cattle operation.
“It’s nice to have the whole family participate, and this lovely lady, Phyllis, keeps us fed and straightened out,” Sam says affectionately.
Sons Dan and Steve and their families live on the Ten Sleep ranch full-time raising hay, building and fixing fence, regulating the hunters during fall harvest, checking and maintaining water lines to reservoirs and performing mechanic work on their tractors and equipment.
Calving time begins in late January and will keep Dan and Steve busy until spring. Throughout the year, they will also be searching for better ways to raise and improve their Black Angus herd.
They are also very active in their community and church. Steve’s wife Kathleen teaches at the Ten Sleep school.
Daughter Janna helps calve heifers, cowboys and keeps records on the cattle and tends to their Paso Fino horses.
Janna says she’s “on call” for her dad and is ready to ride at a moment’s notice, for the life of a rancher is filled with unpredictable moments.
Her husband and stepdaughters help out when they can on weekends and during summer breaks.
Youngest son Justin lives mostly on the Worland ranch taking care of the farming there, but he also spends a lot of time traveling back and forth between the two ranches working where needed.
Justin and Sam feed the replacement heifers and bulls at their feedlot throughout the winter and spring.
Justin’s faithful cow dogs accompany him when he trails cows, checks and regulates water pipelines, maintains fences, drags dry reservoirs to knock down the cockleburs and when driving the water truck to fill water tanks in the badlands.
Faith and heritage
“I think it takes a lot of faith in the good Lord to help us carry through,” says Phyllis. “It is a real privilege to be a part of this lifestyle and not take anything for granted. Yes, it takes a lot of work, but we stick together and work together.”
The Hamptons appreciate their heritage, and they would not trade their lifestyle for any other.
“We are very thankful to be in this profession. It’s very rewarding, and I’m especially glad I don’t have to push a nine-to-five button,” says Sam. “There’s nothing like it. We’re kind of spoiled having the opportunity that we have here.”
Ties to history
Along with the Hampton’s long family history to the area, they also have an old sourdough recipe that began from a starter that dates back to 1926 when Sam’s father Carl first created it.
Besides being a staple in their family, that sourdough starter has also been known to be very versatile in its day.
On the trail to Lysite, the area railroad shipping yard, Carl and his herd of sheep were camped along the way when an unpredicted, wet, fall storm froze the water in his old 1929 Model A truck and cracked the engine block.
Sourdough starter is sticky like glue, so Carl got the notion to use his starter and patch the engine crack with it. Low and behold the sticky sourdough starter held, and Carl was able to fire up his truck and head on to Lysite.
“Who would have thought that a starter that was made from the water of unsalted boiled potatoes, yeast, a small amount of sugar and some flour would be so handy?” Sam says. “And not to mention, it is delicious and still consumed today.”
Phyllis is famous for her sweet, buttery sourdough cinnamon rolls. And through Sam’s insistence, many friends and family, young and old have been given a sourdough starter and recipe.
“We can’t fail with sourdough,” encourages Phyllis.