Thompsons, Dockerys carry on Myers ranching tradition
Sweetwater Station – The Sweetwater River country is historic, having weathered the coming and going of Indians, trappers and traders, soldiers and desperadoes, pioneers and gold seekers, cattlemen and cowboys. Myers Land and Cattle Company, with deep roots and a seasoned past, is no exception.
In the 1870s, John Myers came to the Sweetwater Country to work on the Quarter Circle 71 Ranch. In 1900 he homesteaded on the Sweetwater, and convinced his nephew, Albert Myers, to come west, where he worked on the Barrus and Crofts Ranch on the upper Sweetwater.
Nearby, there was a stage station, saloon and post office called Gates Ranch. In 1900 it became known as the untamed town Myersville. Philip Welty was the Station Agent there in 1901 and 1902. His daughter Elizabeth was fond of life on the Sweetwater, and wrote a book about the station titled Ann of Bar Ton Ranch.
In 1907, Albert Myers returned to Emporia, Kan. to marry. He and his bride Jennie went to Nevada, where he worked on the railroad until returning to the Sweetwater in 1910. In 1917 Albert purchased the ranch on Graham Road, including Myersville. He ran cows, grew oats and potatoes, and served as Myersville postmaster. They raised a large garden and lived in a house of square-cut logs with a tin roof. The inside of the cabin walls were covered in muslin, and later painted. Jennie returned by train to Kansas each time to give birth to most of their seven children.
Their son Albert, Jr. and his wife Barbara eventually took over the ranch. They raised one daughter, Cindy. Cindy earned a degree in medical technology from UW, and she met her husband, Doug Thompson, a math and business teacher from Riverton, at UW in 1968. They then went to Seattle, Wash., where Doug finished his degree at the University of Washington, and worked for IBM. Cindy completed her internship at the Providence Hospital.
In 1970 Cindy and Doug joined the ranch. While Albert passed away in 1993, Barbara still lives at the ranch. Doug and Cindy have three children: Douglas Albert, Andrea and Matthew. Andrea and husband Thad Dockery live and work on the ranch as part of Myers Land and Cattle, and they also have own their own cattle, horses, private ground and grazing permit. Their daughters Laura and Rylee are the family’s fifth generation on the ranch.
The Myersville site is located where the ranch corrals now stand, across the driveway from Doug and Cindy’s home.
“Occasionally, we find relics of Myersville in our corral. One day Doug was cleaning the corral with the tractor and the sheared off a case of old whiskey bottles,” Cindy recalls.
“During the summer we run cattle in a common grazing allotment with Grahams, Crofts, Corbetts, Dockerys and Leonardis,” Cindy says.
Doug explains, “We work a 10-day roundup in the spring to brand calves and scatter bulls, and another in the fall to gather the bulls, yearlings and canners for market. During roundup we sleep in tepees. The Grahams hire a cook, and we use a cook shack and trailer for supplies. Women can ride during the day on roundup, but are not allowed in camp overnight.”
The ranch ran a commercial Hereford cow-calf operation until Andrea and Thad joined the operation 10 years ago. Thad had a commercial Black Angus herd, and the ranch operation changed to run Black Angus bulls on the two-year-old heifers. Two years ago, the grazing association decided to run Black Angus and Hereford bulls in the common allotment.
Thad and Andrea see the future of agriculture strengthening as more people become involved. “We need to get more ag-friendly people in public office to make a difference,” states Thad.
“When I was in Washington, D.C. and someone asked me what I do, I replied, ‘We raise beef to feed the country.’ It’s not like we are the only ones, but I think it’s good for folks to realize we’re where their beef, and their food supply, comes from,” says Andrea.
“We’re members of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA), Farm Bureau, and R-CALF,” Cindy says.
Andrea adds, “We all can’t leave for conventions at the same time, so Mom and Dad go to the WSGA conventions, and Thad and I go to the Farm Bureau conventions. Thad is president of Fremont County Farm Bureau, and I’m the secretary. Thad is on the Fremont County Predator Board, and served as president of the Fremont County Cattlemen for two years. Mom and I a members of the Lander Valley CattleWomen and Fremont County CattleWomen, and I serve on the board for Wyoming Ag in the Classroom and on their education committee. We’re also involved in the local church at Jeffrey City, and Thad and I are foster parents to two children.”
Doug served several terms on the Jeffrey City School Board, and was president of the Wyoming School Board Association. He now serves his third term as Fremont County Commissioner.
“When my grandpa was here,” Andrea recalls, “everyone raised their own horses. Then we kind of got out of it. Thad and I raise foundation-bred registered Quarter Horses with Blue Valentine and Hancock bloodlines. Thad does the breaking and training. Something new Thad and I did for the ranch was take a piece of hay ground that wasn’t very productive and farmed it. We planted oats for a couple of years and now it grows alfalfa. My great grandfather farmed some of the hay ground when he got here from Kansas in the early 1900s.”
“Doing the farming and getting black bulls in the herd were big changes on the ranch,” Thad recollects. “Change comes slow on the Sweetwater.” Thad grew up on a ranch near Thermopolis. “After high school, I could either borrow money to go to college, or borrow money to buy cows. I did the latter.”
Generations of a family working together can be rewarding as well as challenging.
“I appreciate having my grandma and my parents here for our children to be around. For my kids to grow up on the ranch where I grew up means a lot,” expresses Andrea.
Andrea attended Central Wyoming College and UW, earning degrees in home economics education and elementary education. She taught before marrying Thad. They then moved to the Sweetwater and began ranching on their own and with her parents.
Doug summarizes, “When Cindy and I came back to the ranch in 1970, most of our time was spent ranching and enjoying our rural lifestyle. Now, it seems an inordinate amount of our time and energy is spent protecting our lifestyle from assaults by Western Watersheds and other environmental groups, Washington, D.C. bureaucrats and the over-reaching hand of government. It will take a unified, educated effort on the part of the ranching community to be able to hand down the ranch to the fourth and fifth generations, and we are committed to the task.”