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Paul Sweeney

Paul Sweeney (1910-2001)

On July 12,1910 on a ranch at Fort Bidwell in Surprise Valley California, Paul was born to Lawrence and Maggie (Rothgib) Sweeney. A member of a large family, he spent his childhood riding and driving horses.

At the age of 12, Paul began working for a neighbor, Jay McMannis on weekends and during the summer. McMannis, an accomplished horseman, posed a model Paul viewed attentively, learning a great deal during the next two years.

The summer of 1924 found Paul buckarooing and breaking colts for Ern Fee in the Fort Bidwell area. Like McMannis, Fee was a horseman and Paul observed his technique carefully. For a young man with his keen interest there was still other models to emulate in the area, the old-time Vaqueros he also watched their ways diligently. Although Paul began his freshman year of high school while working for the Fee Ranch, a feud with his teacher over how he should fill the wood box as the classroom janitor prompted him to walk out of the school never to return.

The Gene Mazanas and Doc Lyona sheep outfit was Paul’s next stop in 1927. However, his stay was brief as he contracted blood poisoning while building a yard fence for Mrs. Mazanas in exchange for her promise to bake bread for the sheep camp. He was taken to the doctor in Lakeview, and after a brief period of recuperation, he returned to the Fee Ranch. During this stay at the Fee, Paul’s life took a different direction. He and Jay rode 28 miles to Cedarville to enter the bridle horse class at the fair in September of 1934. Their entry fees were $2.00 apiece. Jay won first; Paul won second, and Paul’s winnings amounted to $5.00. However, this seemingly inadequate purse was more than compensated for when young, Maxine Maupin, soon to be his bride, caught his eye. The couple was married in October.

The Diamond S Ranch in Golconda, Nevada where Paul was employed to buckaroo and break colts for Mrs. Stall became home to Paul and Maxine in 1935. There, their first son Lester was born. A year later Paul followed an offer for more money from John G. Taylor to run a haying crew at the Hot Springs Ranch, near Golconda. As there was no place for his family to live, he was commissioned to run the Bank Ranch (Hay’s Ranch on the Humboldt River just east of Winnemucca). However, he traded places with Henry Angus who was located at the Lower Clover Ranch so that the Angus children would be near a school. The following spring the Clover Ranch sold, and he moved to Midas where he worked in the mines for a few months.

He was later hired by the Ellison Ranching Company to run the Squaw Valley Ranch, commonly tagged the “Pitchfork Outfit” as the cattle and horses all carried the Pitchfork iron. As the Buckaroo Boss, Paul took the old wooden wheeled wagon out in the spring for moving cattle onto the range, and in the fall for the roundup. In his employ at this time were LoLo Munoz and “Jumper” Jones, old-time Vaqueros, and during a large part of the year they were joined by Albino Taos who represented the 25 Ranch.

Haying season at Squaw Valley generally lasted from the 4th of July until September 1st, during which time Paul lived a-horseback riding through the fields monitoring the hay crew. In the winter he rode feed grounds, and during times of sub-zero temperatures, chopping ice to water the cattle. When chopping ice, he was known to get his gloves soaking wet, wring the water out, put them back on to wear them frozen stiff.

While at Squaw Valley, Paul had three children; a son, Patrick, and two daughters, Gene and Lynn. Until 1952 the children attended school in Midas, but subsequently due to the teacher’s departure in December of that year, Maxine and the children lived in Winnemucca during the school year joining Paul on weekends and during the summers. School was an eighty-mile drive mostly gravel road, and sometimes impassible roads in the winter. Snow accumulations made the main road accessible only by bobsled drawn by a team of horses.

The need for proximity to a school prompted Paul’s next move in 1958 when he became a government trapper working out of Winnemucca.

Subsequently Paul recognized a new opportunity in the community of Orovada, Nevada where he built the Rocky View Bar and Restaurant. He operated his new business and continued to trap until he sold his Bar and Restaurant in 1973,

After the sale of his business Paul became very active as a 4-H leader in horseman ship and leather craft, He then moved to Emmett, Idaho, where he continued as a 4-H leader.

Paul was a man of many talents; He was an artist with a rawhide reata whether branding calves in a rodear or at a horse roping competition in a rodeo. His partners were Marvin Myers and Tex Bouscal. He was notorious for his big loop, which was often thrown over the hip of a calf or the front shoulder of a horse.

Among his many talents were those of designing and repairing silver bits, an art he practiced for himself as well as other Buckaroo’s. His bits were lightweight and often designed for horse that wore them. He often used a little bar bit on his own snaffle bit colts, and a light spade bit or half-breed on his bridle horses. He also took pride in inlaying silver, a technique not known to many.

In addition, Paul invented and patented the cow wheelchair for paralyzed cows and later sold his patent to Ted Barber.

Buckaroos who “repped” other outfits and worked with him noted that he was a great boss if you could keep up with him. “He was likely to trot you to death before you even started gathering cattle”. There were no roads good enough for a stock truck in those days so you trotted a saddle horse for miles to gather before rodearing, branding and sorting off the big steers.

Pat Heaverne is quoted as saying, “When it came to cattle, he knew and understood them, knew how to handle even the wild ones without getting them stirred up, and there was never any “Monkey Business” when he was working.

Paul always instructed his kids and other young kids who were roping, “you don’t need to wear gloves, if you lose a finger in a rope, I want to see it go, not shake it out of a glove”.

English Shepherds and Border Collie dogs accompanied him as faithful companions and assistants, when they weren’t with him; they were trained to stay with his saddle. He rode a slick fork with a straight cantle made by Capriola, Ratchford, and Ray Holes, the symbol of a man upright in the saddle.

Paul continued to be a perfectionist, an old habit hard to break. Even as he sought models to learn from, he was quickly becoming one. Until he died, he was consulted for valued advice regarding various aspects of horse training by young and old alike, a fitting tribute to a lifetime Buckaroo.

Paul was inducted into the Buckaroo Hall of Fame in September 1997; and passed away in August , 2001 at the age of 91.