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Big Piney – On March 11, the Green River Valley Cattlemen and CattleWomen Association (GRVCA) gathered at the Daniel Schoolhouse to recognize members and receive updates on the latest issues affecting the livestock industry.

The daylong meeting culminated in a banquet and dance, where members took the chance to catch up and celebrate another year of cattle production in the Green River Valley.

Among the awards presented were the Ranch Woman of the Year, Friend of Ag and Lifetime Member awards.

Ranch woman

Madeleine Murdock was presented with the 2017 GRVCA Ranch Woman of the Year Award, which recognizes her numerous years in the livestock industry.

Nominator Molly Landers wrote, “Madeleine married Stan Murdock in 1973, beginning her ‘career’ as a ranch wife. Within the first year of marriage, Stan bought Mad a purebred Hereford heifer for a gift.”

At that time, Murdoch began a herd of purebred Herefords, and since then, she has continued to serve as ranch wife on the family operation.

“Madeleine loved all the animals that she cared for, and as I understand, she was given the charge of all the bottle calves,” continued Landers. “Madeleine loved to ride and be outside, always taking in the landscape.”

Murdoch helped move cattle during the Green River Drift each year, and she was instrumental in irrigating, cooking, vaccinating and more on the ranch.

When her husband passed away in 2007, Murdoch continued the ranching operation.

Landers concluded, “And here she remains, smiling and continuing to give back to her family, friends and the community.”

Friend of ag

As the 2017 Friend of Ag Award winner, GRVCA honored the Mackey Family and the Chuckwagon Days Barbeque Committee. 

“This year 2017 will mark the 83rd anniversary of serving Wyoming beef to hungry locals and guests,” said Bob Beiermann in his nomination letter. “The Chuckwagon Days Barbeque has the distinction of being the longest-running free barbeque in the nation.”

Chuckwagon Days has been an important part of Big Piney’s Fourth of July celebration, and each year, beef donated by area ranches is served to attendees, bringing with it a reputation for high-quality hospitality and its ability to feed large groups.

“The barbeque committee hasn’t let anyone down in this regard in the past 80 years,” Beiermann added. “The barbeque is the highlight of the festivities that brings everyone together. It is a much anticipated community event and part of our culture and custom in Sublette County.”

The Chuckwagon Days Barbeque Committee, he continued, is much deserving of the honor of Friend of Ag for its support of the livestock industry and beef promotion, as well as its commitment to fostering community spirit at the event.

Lifetime members

Three lifetime members were honored during the meeting, as well, including Shirley Tanner, Betty Lou McLoughlin and John and Susie Blaha.

Tanner was honored as a 2017 Lifetime Member of GRVCA for her commitment to the farming and ranching operation.

After she moved from California during her eighth grade year, Tanner jumped right into the agriculture industry, cooking for haying crews and running equipment, among other duties.

“Mom cooked for haying crews of what seemed like 20 people, three meals a day, every day – full meals,” said Tanner’s daughter Lynn Rodell. “She often also was the equipment runner and ran to town to pick up that needed part to fix a piece of equipment.”

She added, “Mom never missed a meal, and she always kept up with us kids, too.”

McLoughlin was born and raised on a cattle ranch in the Kendall Valley on the Upper Green River, and she started working as soon as she could walk, helping with fencing, haying and cooking.

“In 1969, Betty Lou and her husband Melvin built ‘The Place’ in Kendall Valley and, with the help of family and many friends, operated the café and bar for over 20 years,” says McLoughlin's daughter LaDonna. “She has had a very busy life raising three children, working on the ranch and operating The Place.”

John Blaha moved to Wyoming after he graduated high school, coming from Illinois with a dream of owning a cattle ranch.

After moving to the state, he soon learned about Boulder and met his future bride Susie Bousman at a square dance. That same summer, he started working on the Richie brother’s ranch on East Fork.

In 1974, the couple was married, and Susie started vet school at Colorado State University. John moved to Fort Collins, where he worked at Larimer Equipment, while she worked on her degree.

After graduation, they moved to Saratoga and then Boulder in 1983, where she started Boulder Veterinary Clinic. John worked for Susie’s parents on the family ranch.

When her mother passed away in 1990, Susie’s father sold the ranch to his children, and John’s dream of owning a ranch came true.

“John and Susie’s ranching dreams rightly came true as they have owned and operated Blaha Ranch since that time,” reads their nomination letter.

Joy Ufford of the Sublette Examiner and Pinedale Reporter compiled the biographies and nomination letters for these awards. Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup compiled this article from her work. Send comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

As a doctor by trade, people might think that Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) would know a lot about health care issues but not so much about agriculture. However, Wyoming residents are fortunate to have a Senator who understands critical agricultural issues and works closely with the state’s agricultural organizations, according to many in the ag industry.

“As a doctor who has practiced medicine in Wyoming for more than 25 years, I’ve been able to talk to and listen to the concerns of multiple Wyoming farming and ranching families,” explained Barrasso. “I have a lot of experience treating families from agriculture backgrounds and the different injuries they have due to the physically demanding aspect of working on the farm.”

He continued, “In addition, I’ve also had the privilege of serving as a doctor for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. That was a very rewarding and unique experience.”

The Senator does such an admirable job that he recently received the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Gold Plow Award during the association’s annual Advocacy Conference. The Golden Plow is the highest honor the organization gives to members of Congress. 

AFBF Vice President Scott VanderWal presented Sen. Barrasso with AFBF’s Golden Plow award at the association’s annual Advocacy Conference. 

“We are privileged to have with us a very deserving leader to receive this award,” said VanderWal. “We greatly appreciate his superior commitment to and leadership on behalf of U.S. agriculture and in support of Farm Bureau grassroots policy.”

Wyoming support

Wyoming Farm Bureau endorsed Barrasso for the award because of his commitment in Congress to issues important to farmers and ranchers.

“We were extremely pleased that Sen. Barrasso received the AFBF Golden Plow Award,” said Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton. “What makes it so nice is that Sen. Barrasso is on the same page as Farm Bureau without anyone having to convince him of our position.”

Hamilton continued, “We’ve been fortunate in Wyoming to have Congressional delegates who share many of our policy positions, and Sen. Barrasso is no exception. His efforts to overturn the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, his efforts to overturn the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) and a number of other issues that impact our folks certainly made him deserving of this award.”

Todd Fornstrom, Wyoming Farm Bureau president, said Sen. Barrasso is accessible and great to work with on agricultural and rural issues.

He commented, “He represents the people in Wyoming well. There was no question that he was the perfect candidates for the Golden Plow Award.”

Hamilton added that the Senator’s interest in agriculture’s issues have been apparent in his outreach.

“This isn’t just something he’s done recently, though. One of the things I conveyed to AFBF was that when Sen. Barrasso was serving in the Wyoming Senate, he always reached out to us and others in agriculture to see what issues we had that he as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee could help with,” he said.

Working with ag

Working with Farm Bureau has been important to Barrasso, too.

“From my time in the Wyoming State Legislature, Wyoming Farm Bureau has always been a tremendous resource for me in gathering information to make decisions about agricultural issues,” Barrasso said. “I have fond memories of working with past Farm Bureau leaders including Perry Livingston, Larry Bourret, Mark Marquardt and Karen Henry.”

He continued, “Now I look to Ken Hamilton, Todd Fornstrom and Brett Moline, who do a great job representing the Wyoming members. Cole Coxbill has also been a great advocate for Wyoming-specific issues. Leaders of Wyoming agriculture are highly respected in Washington because they are so involved and so dedicated to commonsense solutions to problems across the country. No matter when we call, members of the Wyoming Farm Bureau are always there to provide their expertise.”

Agriculture importance

For Barrasso, helping farmers and ranchers is all in a day’s work.

“I consistently hear that the biggest obstacles facing our farming and ranching communities are the rules and regulations coming out of Washington,” he explained. “Wyoming and our nation’s ranchers should be focused on running their operations – not dealing with bureaucratic red tape. I will continue to work on repealing regulations that do more harm than good.”

Certainly, he also understand agriculture’s role in rural communities.

“Our nation’s farmers and ranchers are the ones who produce the safe, high-quality food and fiber we all rely on. In Wyoming, the agriculture industry has a long and proud history. We know that if agriculture is strong, so are our western communities,” said Barrasso, adding, “One of my favorite events to attend every year is the Centennial Farm and Ranch Awards. It is not an easy task to remain in business for a century when Mother Nature continues to throw curveballs of excessive moisture or drought, but these families run the most unwavering operations in Wyoming.”

Future optimism

Barrasso sees working with the new leaders in D.C. optimistically.

“With the new Trump administration, we now have the opportunity to look to the future and develop commonsense policies that recognize successful management depends on engagement at the local level,” he said. “We’re already working with the Trump administration to reverse harmful regulations like the Bureau of Land Management’s Planning 2.0 rule, WOTUS and endangered species reform.”

As for the award, the Senator is very pleased.

“It’s an honor to receive the Farm Bureau’s Golden Plow Award. It’s hard to think of more hard working people than our nation’s farming communities. I will continue to stand up for them by fighting against Washington overreach and preserving the water rights of farmers and ranchers across the country,” Barrasso concluded.

Rebecca Colnar is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sheridan – Seven-year-old Cody grew up with a strong connection to cowboys and horses, and when he found out that he was eligible for the Make-A-Wish program, it wasn’t long before he had chosen to visit Eaton’s Ranch in Wyoming to ride a horse as his wish.

“Cody’s initial idea for a wish was for a tortoise,” says Cody’s mother Joelle. “As the wish granters talked to him, he began to change his mind.”

Joelle explains that many years ago, someone passed an Eaton’s Ranch t-shirt down to Cody, and since he was a child, Cody has been enthralled with horses.

“He had a saddle that he put on the dog or the couch,” she says. “He put the bareback pad and bridle on the dog, too. As Cody talked with the wish granters, he remembered the shirt and Eaton’s Ranch came up, so he decided he wanted to go to Eaton’s and be a cowboy and have a ranch experience for his wish.”

Originally, Cody’s little brother Asher was too young to ride horses, according to ranch rules, so Cody decided to wait a year until his brother was old enough.

“Cody wanted to make sure that his brother was old enough to ride so we could all ride horses as a family,” Joelle says. “It was nice that Eaton’s allowed us to do that. Cody’s love of horses started at a young age, and this wish really helped that to come true.”

Wish trip

Joelle, her husband David, Cody and Asher traveled to Sheridan from their home in Maine in June 2016.

“This was our first real family vacation,” Joelle says. “This is the first time we’d gone anywhere new together as a family, and the night we had to leave from the trip, the kids were in tears. They didn’t want to leave Wyoming.”

The week they spent together was a special time for their family, which provided the chance to bond, with nothing else to worry about.

“That time together as a family with nothing else to worry about and the freedom of being in a little oasis at the end of a dead-end road in such a beautiful area was wonderful,” Joelle comments. “Having the big adventure as a family was fun, and it helped remind us how important it is to be connected even stronger as a family. Cody’s wish gave us that opportunity.”

Back to Wyoming

In Wyoming, Sheridan’s Van Dyke family had some similarities with Cody’s family.

“We were in Texas while my husband was starting some horses, and my son Asher was riding a bum calf,” says Amber Van Dyke. “He fell off, and we took him to the hospital. After a CT scan, we discovered he had cancer on his kidney.”

They remained in Texas for several months for surgery and initial treatments. Then, they were transferred to Sheridan to finish his chemotherapy.

The family had heard about the Make-A-Wish program before, but they didn’t know much about it.

“My mom is a pediatric nurse for the doctor who did Asher’s chemotherapy,” Amber says. “She told us that the doctor thought Asher was a candidate for Make-A-Wish.”

The Van Dyke filled out the paperwork, were contacted by Make-A-Wish Wyoming, and in several days, Asher was accepted to the program and began thinking about his wish.

Asher wished to go to Disneyland and be a Jedi. They took their seven-day trip to California in early August, and the whole family – including Amber, Asher’s dad Paul, his sisters Faith and Grace and older brother Seth, came with him.

“The first day at Disney, Asher got to train to be a Jedi. They got dressed up and went through the training, with their light sabers and everything,” laughs Amber. “They got to fight Darth Vader and Kylo Ren – the bad guys from the Star Wars movies. It was a good trip and a lot of fun.”

Coming together

However, before Asher took his wish trip, he got to be a part of Cody’s wish at Eaton’s Ranch.

“Make A Wish contacted a professional photographer in Sheridan to do a photo shoot for the family from Maine that was coming to Eaton’s Ranch,” Amber says. “The photographer is a personal friend of ours, and she thought it would be really neat for the boys to have cowboy attire for their trip. She asked her sister-in-law, an equine therapist here in town, who she should ask to make the handmade chaps for the boys from Maine.”

Paul Van Dyke, Amber's husband, who owns Van Dyke Saddlery and Stock Horses, was asked to make two pairs of chaps for the young boys.

“It was really short notice, but we had been really blessed by Make-A-Wish, so Paul said he’d do what he had to do to get the chaps done,” Amber says. “It was this little boy’s wish to be a cowboy – to live the life we live every day, so he found the time to make the chaps.”

The Van Dykes sent the chaps to Eaton’s Ranch with a note, asking if it would be possible to meet the family, since their son was also a Make-A-Wish Child.

“It was really need and a special connection,” Amber says. “We drove out to Eaton’s Ranch and connected with the family. Our children are all really close in age, so they had a great time together. It was a special connection, and we feel really blessed to play a part in giving back to Make-A-Wish.”

A deeper connection

As the Maine and Wyoming families chatted, they discovered several similarities in their stories. 

“It was really neat to connect with another Make-A-Wish family,” says Joelle, adding that there were unique similarities between their family and the Van Dyke’s in Wyoming.

“Their son Asher was six when we came to Wyoming,” she explains. “Cody’s little brother is also named Asher, and he was also six at the time.”

The boys’ fathers also began chatting, discovering that they knew mutual people from their work environments.

“It was neat to have those connection and for them to take the time to come out and see us,” Joelle added.

Value of the program

Today, Cody is eight years old and still talks about the trip to Wyoming.

“In mid-December, Cody wanted to get up in church and talk about how he was thankful to go to Eaton’s Ranch,” Joelle says. “Eaton’s ranch was amazing, and the people there were wonderful. It’s the little things that matter.”

Amber has had a similar experience, noting that they still talk about Disneyland, and the kids recount their trip on a regular basis.

“Make-A-Wish was a great experience,” Amber says. “It was wonderful on every level, and they treated us like royalty.”

Both Amber and Joelle look back on how welcoming the program was for the whole family.

“They didn’t leave my younger son out,” Joelle says. “When a child has a life-threatening illness, it affects the whole family, so they included our Asher in the whole buildup to the trip.”

Joelle adds that the wish experience didn’t end when they returned home to Maine.

“I still get notes from Cody’s wish granters,” she says. “And once in a while, the local chapters keep in contact and keep us involved. There’s a big connection that we feel that someone was there to make our lives and my kid’s life a little better and, bring joy and free spirit back.”

This article is the third article in our series on Make-A-Wish. Check out parts one and two in the Oct. 1 and Nov. 5 Roundups.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Bates Hole – Just south of Casper on Highway 487, Garrett Ranch has a long tradition of ranching, and in the last 40 years, they have focused on improving the habitat on their ranch to improve grazing for both wildlife and livestock.

This year, they were recognized with the 2017 Environmental Stewardship Award, which is presented by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and Sand County Foundation.

“My dad, granddad and uncle started in 1937 up the creek from here, and we moved down to our current headquarters in the winter of 1948,” says Pete Garrett, the ranch owner, who notes that they have gradually expanded their operation to offer more opportunities for their children to come back to the ranch.

Just over 20 years ago, Garrett Ranch acquired the Sneur Ranch, where Pete’s son Steve currently lives.

Garrett Ranch

“Today, we’re a commercial cow/calf operation, and we run mostly Hereford cattle,” Pete comments. “I’m the third generation on the ranch today, Steve is the fourth, and his kids Tyler and Dalton are the fifth.”

Pete’s daughter Laura Miles and her husband Jack are also on the ranch. Steve’s wife Kim is also involved in the operation.

Currently, they winter their cattle on Golden Creek and Bolton Creek. In January, they bring the cows closer to home and their hay meadows.

“Then, we start calving the first of April for 60 days,” Pete explains. “We ship all the steers and light heifers in the fall, and we keep most of our heifer calves.”

The Garrett’s preference for Hereford cattle stems from the history of the operation.

“Herefords paid for this outfit,” Pete says.

His wife Ethel adds, “They’re hardy cattle, too.”

And Steve comments, “The Herefords are also easy to work. They like people.”

“The Herefords have been here since we started,” Pete continues. “We’ve been putting black bulls on some of them, and we’re keeping a few black cows, but the majority of our cows are Herefords.”

Improving pastures

Pete explains that, in the late 1980s, the Garretts began working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to implement rotational grazing strategies.

“We’ve done a lot of fence work and water development, so we can go into a four-pasture rotation in they summertime,” Pete says. “On our winter bases, we want the cattle closer to home, and the rotate through our hay meadows.”

Also in the late 80s, the Garretts started burning sagebrush to get rid of heavy, decadent sage with no understory.

“We burned sagebrush with BLM until the early 2000s, and then we stopped because of sage grouse,” he continues, noting that they didn’t stop their work to improve the rangeland and remove decadent sagebrush stands there. “Four years ago, we got permission to go into the heavy draws and start grinding paths up through the heavy sagebrush patches.”

In grinding sagebrush, they leave islands of sagebrush to provide cover and vegetation to capture snow, but the native grasses are able to grow better in areas where the brush has been removed.

“In the first year, we got a lot better vegetation, and the deer and sage chickens really pulled into that area,” Pete says. “Laura was gathering cows up there, and she never went through a patch where she didn’t see sage chickens.”

They have continued grinding sagebrush to provide better habitat for sage grouse, deer and other wildlife, as well as better grazing for their cattle.

Improving the range

In addition to decadent sagebrush stands, Pete notes that they have worked to reduce cheatgrass and cactus stands on their ranch, as well.

“We’ve been spraying cheatgrass in cooperation with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD),” he says. “The antelope migrate onto the ranch in the wintertime, so we’ve worked to get rid of the cheatgrass.”
Pete adds, “We’ve sprayed nearly 20,000 acres of cheatgrass.”

When they purchased the Sneur place, Pete also notes that the land had an abundance of cactus on it.

“We bought the place because it made a thumb into the middle of our ranch, and the first thing we did when we got it was sprayed the cactus,” he says. “Then, we went in and sprayed cheatgrass, and we did a lot of sagebrush grinding.”

Water work

Perhaps some of their most widely recognized work comes from the efforts they have taken to improve the water on their ranch.

“On the Sneur place, we had a reclamation company come up and remove the tall, heavy brush,” Pete explains. “That made a lot better habitat for antelope in the wintertime to get them off the sagebrush.”

“We also started working on Bolton Creek,” he continues.

Almost eight years ago, Pete says that Bolton Creek was primarily just a mud flat with almost no bank or vegetation.

“We put in what we call insta-dams,” he says. “When we started, WGFD had a project on Muddy Mountain where they were doing aspen work. They hauled the aspen down to the ranch and used it to feed the beaver, but they ate themselves out of house and home, so we started building the insta-dams.”

The dams are built by using fence poles and then putting trees to form faux beaver dams.

“Through these dams, the creek has narrowed up, and the vegetation has grown back in,” Pete says. “We used the broken trees from Winter Storm Atlas in 2013. The City of Casper hauled them out here, and we used them in the creek.”

“This is highly erodible ground,” he continues, “so we’ve continued the work using leftover Christmas trees from the City of Casper.”

Ethel adds, “When we use trees, it’s helpful because they decompose and there isn’t anything left in the ground that we have to worry about.”

In addition to benefits in the creek, Pete notes that their efforts have reduced erosion, keeping silt out of the North Platte River.

Similar strategies have been used to reduce the head-cuts on the creeks and slow the water down so it doesn’t wash out.

“We started putting the insta-dams in during 2010, and we’ve done a little bit every year,” says Pete.

“The creek has really changed because of it,” adds Ethel. “It has narrowed up, and the vegetation is coming back. The willows are starting to come back, too, which is good.”

Success and failure

While they have seen many successes in their work, Pete also notes that not everything they’ve tried has worked out.

“We’ve had some other projects, as well, that I call failures,” he says. “Not everything works, but we don’t know until we try.”

For example, prior to using trees in their creek work, the Garretts used fiberglass piling and rocks in the creeks.

“The rocks washed out, leaving the fiberglass pilings,” Pete says. “It was dangerous for livestock and wildlife because it left shards.”

“It’s been a learning experience,” he adds. “We’ve experimented with things, and we’ve had failures, but we don’t know if it will work unless we try.”

And the success they have seen has been worth the time and effort put into projects.

“We’ve seen our AUMs increase from 500 to 700, and the grass is a lot thicker compared to what it was,” he says. “The creeks are narrowing up, and we’ve seen western wild rye and willows come in. It’s good for this place.”

However, they didn’t do the work with the plan of winning awards.

“It’s awesome that we were even nominated for this award,” says Ethel. “It’s a really prestigious award, and we’re proud to have won.”

Steve adds, “All our hard work was recognized, which was nice.”

“The WGFD has really helped us along the way,” continues Pete, “and we appreciate that they nominated us. We also appreciate being recognized, and we’re going to continue doing this work because it helps the ranch, it’s good for the wildlife, and it’s good for the livestock.”

The annual Environmental Stewardship Tour will be held on Garrett Ranch in the summer of 2017. Look for announcements in late spring about the tour date.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..