Frank Leon "Jumper" Jones
Leon "Jumper" Jones (1885-1958)
Frank Leon "Jumper" Jones was born February 26, 1885 to Ben
and Ida Gray Jones at Jamieson, Willow Creek, Oregon.
Jumper was a true Vaquero, working for cattle ranches throughout his life
like Miller and Lux (PLS Co) from Harper to Burns, Oregon. He went on
trail drives for “The PLS” to Winnemucca, Nevada and from the “Island
Ranch” out of Burns to Brogan, Oregon where they shipped at El Dorado
to the Miller and Lux Ranches in California. He first worked for the “PLS”
at Harper, Oregon under Frank Newman.
Benny Jordan of Vale, Oregon and Jumper also worked for the Eastern Oregon
Land and Livestock Co. at Ironside after Miller and Lux shut down in the
1920’s. They worked together there “breaking out” horses.
Benny said Jumper taught him a great deal about horses, especially how
to get on and off horses. These were big strong horses that could really
buck if given the chance. Jumper showed him how to put his knee in their
shoulder and “ease up” real slow. This probably saved him from many wrecks.
Lena McKinney McHargue said her Uncle Frank (Jumper) was working at Cow
Valley, Oregon in the 20’ and 30’s. He would bring a string of bucking
horses into the Vale rodeo. Benny Jordan said that on the way back to
Cow Valley they would ride the bucking string.
Val Gene Dice remembers seeing Jumper in the late 1930’s working for his
Uncle ‘Pink” Becker at Westfall.
In his later years (1940) Jumper went to Nevada and started working for
Paul Sweeney at the Squaw Valley Ranch owned by Ellison’s Ranching Company
(The Pitchfork). Pete Pedroli called Paul on the phone and told him he
had a Buckaroo there that Paul should hire. Pedroli had worked with Jumper
when they were with Miller and Lux, Paul said he could tell right away
when he saw him and talked to him awhile, that he was a real “Old Time
Buckaroo”. So he hired him right there and took him out to the ranch.
Jumper was happy there, as he told his niece Lena, and he stayed there
about 15 years.
Paul let him pick his own string of horses (all sorrels) and he was breaking
his own colts when he was in his sixties. Paul said he was a wonderful
bridle man who had a way with colts. (Meaning that Jumper could handle
a horse in any type of bridle with ease). They never seemed to want to
buck. Their mouths were so light the way Jumper started them. All he had
to do was barely touch the reins and he could lift their heads up.
He would start the day at sun-up with the other Buckaroo’s and ride all
day sitting “straight up” on his horse in the Old Spanish Vaquero style
and come in late still sitting the same way, never complaining about the
very hard work in the everyday life of a Buckaroo.
He was a small man who wore a narrow brimmed hat, Levi’s and Levi jumper
jacket. This is how he got his nickname. He had a small foot and wore
custom-made “Hyer” boots. When he got a new pair he gave his old ones
to the Sweeney's kids.
Gene Gabica remembers Jumper being very quiet and calm when working with
cattle, horses and children. One day, Gene and another little girl spooked
some cows Jumper was moving through a gate. These cows were kind of wild
and they scattered. The little girls ran thinking they were really in
trouble. They hid and watched, but Jumper never overreacted, he just sat
on his horse for awhile until the cows quieted down, then he moved them
on through the gate. He never said a word about it. Gene thinks her parents
didn’t know about it until much later.
Whenever he was working cows, he and his horse were always quiet. He never
separated a cow/calf pair, whether out of a rodear or in a corral. He
had great timing and it was uncanny the way he could read a cow and anticipate
its moves. He could make a very dangerous situation look easy. His horses
were never “chargie”.
Others thought Jumper only rode gentle horses, but this was because they
handled so well in the bridle for him. One day, while he was “repping”
at the “25 Ranch”, a Buckaroo and his Boss needed a couple of horses to
ride back to the Spanish Ranch. Two of Jumper's horses were there so they
decided to ride them... both horses bucked them off!
Paul said Jumper was one of the few Buckaroos he never saw get bucked
off. If a horse ever did buck with him, he just sat straight up in the
middle of his horse with a loose rein. He has such a natural feel for
a horse and such a good head set that he didn’t have to pull him.
One day Paul asked him when he was about 70 years old why he didn’t retire
and take it a little easier. Jumper said “no, he was going to ride until
he fell off his horse”.
Finally.... One day, after many in the saddle, Jumper did fall off his
horse when he suffered a stroke.
He told Maxine Sweeney and her daughter, Lynn, when they came to visit
him in the hospital in Winnemucca that he was getting better and wanted
to back to work. He was in the hospital for quite awhile and they would
come regularly to see him and bring him ice cream to eat. But, sad to
say, he didn’t get better. He was taken to the nursing home in Ontario,
Oregon and then to the Ontario hospital. He passed away there in 1958
and is buried in the Ontario cemetery.
Jumper, a true “Old-Time Vaquero", gone to rest after many years
riding “straight up” in the saddle. Frank Leon “Jumper” Jones was inducted
into the Buckaroo Hall of Fame in September 1998.
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