Priceless: Wyoming’s Jim and Peggy Price reminisce on ranching with family for more than 5 decades
Jim and Peggy (Miles) Price were each born into the cowboy tradition, and they’re keeping the western heritage alive.
The couple, married for over fifty years and living near Alcova, Wyo., in Natrona County, are 2020 inductees into the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame.
They follow in the footsteps of Jim’s grandfather, H.H. “Jim” Price, and Peggy’s grandfathers, Hank Miles, and Charles “Powd” Clemmons, also members of the Hall of Fame.
Jim and Peggy rode the school bus together and were high school sweethearts. After marrying in the fall of 1969, they lived on the ID Ranch on the backwaters of Seminoe Reservoir for six months, then the Louie Irene ranch for five months, then to Peggy’s parents’ ranch, Miles Land and Livestock, their last destination.
The work was hard and plentiful. “In those days,” Jim said, “we put up little bales and had close to 2,000 cows to feed. So in the winter months, you spent all afternoon loading hay and all morning feeding it, and doing it all over again.” There were four or five guys on the crew, he said, and nobody had the energy to party after putting in long days. In the evenings, “nobody wanted to go to town. Everybody went to bed,” he laughed.
Peggy’s dad bought a loose hay stacker, which they used for around ten years, and then a big square baler, and the small squares were history.
They didn’t have much in the early days of their marriage. Living in a twelve by sixty-five foot trailer, their monthly income was $350. Peggy was the ranch cook, feeding a crew of ten to fifteen men three meals a day, “and she was happy as a lark,” Jim laughed. She missed riding and being outside, but she made it work. “I’d get a little growly once in a while,” she said, “when I was housebound, and I had to cook for those silly guys. But as time went on, I was back outside.”
In 1988, they built a background lot and took in the neighbors’ cattle. “It turned out to be a very good business move,” Jim said. He loved the work and the people, although it could be demanding. “A feedlot is like having a bunch of milk cows. You have to be there morning and night.”
The feedyard helped pay the bills, but the couple had assumed a mountain of debt. After Miles’ death in 1991, they had bought out Peggy’s mother’s and brother’s part of the ranch. A man kept asking Peggy if he could buy a portion of the ranch, the part between the river and the highway. “He kept coming and I kept sending him away,” she said. They finally sold it to him, and bought another ranch between their winter and summer country. The piece they sold included the feedlot, so they were now out of the backgrounding business, and back to a cow/calf operation. The sale helped alleviate the debt and the stress.
The Prices move their cattle from winter country to summer country, a forty-mile trail from headquarters to the summer pasture, on the head of Bates Creek, at the edge of Shirley Basin, including some of the Medicine Bow National Forest Ground.
They use strictly horses for all cattle work; a side-by-side on the ranch is only for irrigating and fence fixing. No motors around the cattle, Jim said. Machines “smash the grass down and leave tracks everywhere, and in our country, there’s a lot of sagebrush, big brush and mountains. You can’t get around (on machines), even if you wanted to.” It’s the cowboy way, he said. “I think the old cowboys, if they saw what was going on, they’d be kicking the dirt off their graves.”
When they had the feedlot, they had an AI program, and ran Charolais/Limousin cross cows for years. In the last decade, they’ve started putting black bulls on them, keeping the first cross calves. “Those Angus seem to cross well with Charolais,” Jim said. “We have a colorful herd.”
The couple was blessed with four daughters: Jody, born in 1971, Kim, two years later, Jamie two years after Kim, and the youngest, Casey, born in 1986. They made good hands. “They were ‘damn good help,’ Jim said. “Probably better help than boys would have been because they wanted so bad to please their dad,” Peggy added.
The girls would rather be outside than inside. “They were not interested in hanging out with mom,” Peggy said. They wanted to be with their dad. “They couldn’t cook worth a damn,” Jim laughed, “but they could turn any wild cow.” They’re good cooks now, Peggy said.
The couple went through hard times, like any family and business does. Bad winters were difficult, and so were the years of debt. “For the amount of debt we were carrying, we were worried whether we would make it or not,” Jim said. At the feedlot, he ran the calculator “every night, and I’m the only one who can run it now,” he laughed, “because I wore all the numbers off. And I’m going to keep it because it’s my favorite.”
But troubles never got them down. “You have to have faith in God, and get up the next morning, and bear down, and do your best.”
Jim had a saying, a compliment he would use for a job exceptionally done. When he said “pretty work,” it was well-earned. “When somebody does something that suits me, that’s what I tell them.”
The couple has slowed down, turning much of the ranch work over to their daughter Casey and her husband Ryan Rohrer. Daughter Jamie, with husband Chad Harkins, has leased the feedlot that Jim and Peggy sold, and bought back some of the ground that Peggy’s grandfather had homesteaded.
The couple has seven grandkids with another one on the way. Jody and Joe Schobel live in Lakeville, Minn., with two children. Kim and Jason Furnival farm in Natrona County, with two daughters; Jamie and Chad have a boy and a girl, and Casey and Ryan have a son and another baby on the way.
Jim and Peggy have loved every minute of their lives. For Peggy, working alongside her husband and kids, and now grandkids, is fulfilling. “Spending time with somebody you love, respect and admire, and when you’re able to raise your kids and be with them every day, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Jim concurred. “It’s pretty gratifying to look at your children as young adults and see how successful they are, and I think it’s because of their upbringing.
“We’re very blessed, a very blessed couple to be able to live in this country. We enjoy it every day.”
The Prices were awarded the Limousin Commercial Producer of the Year award in 2000; the Environmental Stewardship Award from the Wyoming Stock Growers Association in 2001; the Casper Lions Club Appreciation Award; the Citizens Achievement Award in 2008; and the Wyoming Game and Fish Landowner of the Year, Casper Region, in 2014.
Jim served on the Natrona County Predator Board, the Natrona County Planning Commission, the Central Wyoming Fair Board, the Natrona County ASCS board, and was appointed by the governor to the Wyoming Board of Agriculture.
Both he and Peggy believed strongly in working with youth and with the church. They both were involved in 4-H as leaders. Jim was on the parish council for St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, and Peggy served on the parish council for Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church.
Peggy has served on the Alcova Community Foundation for many years and has been involved in the Wyoming Women in Ag for 25 years, the Casper Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; and as outstanding employee for the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts.
Other members of the 2020 Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame include Butch Reynolds and Aldin Reynolds (Campbell County); Ed Cooper and Kenneth Canfield (Crook County); Francis Sedgwick and Jean Harshberger (Weston County); James “Jim” Wilson (Platte County); Fred & Clara Wilson, Donald Heckert and Pat Miller (Niobrara County); Edward Johnson (Goshen County); Marie Belle and Russ Stinnette (Laramie County); James Baker (Natrona County); Fred Hageman and Teddy Pennington (Converse County); Archie Nash and Ralph Foster (Sheridan County); Sue Jarrard and Raynard McKenzie (Johnson County); Robert Good (Bighorn County); Mel Stonehouse, Robert Earl Curtis, and Dale M. Sims (Park County); Ben Kern and Donald & Dorothy Kortes (Carbon County); Thomas Francis Pearson, Lige Driskell and George Finch (Sweetwater County); Tommy Jarrard, John Jack Darnell, and Ronald Crawford (Fremont County); Don & Claudia Proffitt and Bertha Hamilton (Uinta County); Jep Richie and Buss Fear (Sublette County); Chancy Wheeldon and Kenneth Griggs (Teton County); the Stepp Family and Stan Murdock (Lincoln County), and Russell Pinky Walter (board decision.)
This year’s induction ceremonies HAVE BEEN POSTPONED Date to be determined.
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