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Jay Fowler

Jay Fowler (1914-1999)

Jay was born in Grace, Idaho to William and Rose (Christianson) Fowler. He had four brothers and one sister. All of his brothers were businessmen and one became a professor.

Jay wanted to be a “Buckaroo”. They moved to Ogden, Utah where Jay finished his elementary and high school education. Then they moved to Elko, Nevada in 1934. It was at this time Jay pursued his dream of being a part of the great ranching and buckarooing opportunities.

First Jay hired on with the Pitchfork Spanish Ranch Crew (Stanley Ellison) and worked for Claude Barkdall, who was the Buckaroo boss at that time. He learned a lot working with Barkdall and found that the life leading up to being a Buckaroo was tough, long hours, tough horses and long rides across the desert. He learned all about buckarooing at the Spanish Ranch and decided to change ranches, so he went to work for the Allied Land and Livestock. Mark Scott was running the outfit at that time. Tom Hayes was the Buckaroo boss, a really easy going boss he liked to help young people to learn and handle horses and cattle. Jay stayed there for a few years then moved to Humboldt County in 1937 to work for the Bliss Brothers Ranch, where Clovis Pinson was the Buckaroo boss. Clovis decided he wanted to quit and Jay was hired as the Buckaroo boss.

In 1942 Jay was drafted in the army. He served in the 344th division of engineers where he was assigned to build bridges in Africa, Italy and France. He was stationed in Worge, Austria. When the war ended in 1945 Jay returned home and resumed his work with Bliss Brothers as Buckaroo boss and stayed there until 1948. He married Jean McNinch and they had two children, Dan and Wilma.

The Bliss Brothers sold out to Ed Waltz in 1956, Jay stayed on and was promoted to Ranch Manager. He was a good boss; the men would work well for him. He lined out the work and everyone knew just what was expected of them and when Jay made the rounds he expected his orders to be followed, which they were. Jay was a very nervous person and was up and going at 3 a.m. every day and he put in long days. It was a large outfit and there was lots of traveling to get to all the ranches to make sure everything was being done.

The ranch then sold to Jake Schneider in 1960 and then later to the Nevada Garvey Ranches. Jay and his family then moved to Sloughhouse, California and ran the cattle for John Gill Cattle Co. for six years. Jay then moved back to Nevada and worked various jobs; he ran the Bullhead Motel, pumped gas and worked at the Horseshoe Ranch near Beowawe, Nevada until he retired to live in Golconda, Nevada.

There were many stories told about Jay. One story in particular, was cleaning the lower field at Kelly Creek. The cows and calves were onery and they split and scattered, cows going one way, calves going another; the seasoned Buckaroos could run across the flat and usually catch the calf and bring it back to its mother. There were some young Buckaroos that hadn’t learned to rope at a fast speed so they weren’t much help and rather than leppy the calves the mothers had to be turned back and another gather would have to be made which made for a lost day. He told these young fellows, “ I want you two back to the house and get to the milk cow pen and rope those calves until you never miss a shot, I can’t be out on the range with someone that can’t rope.” They spent the rest of the afternoon in the milk cow pen a heading and healing calves.

Jay was one of the first bosses who was given a four-wheel drive pickup to use on the ranch; it was really an asset checking the high country. Jay was able to get to the cow camp in any kind of weather. One time at the Pole Creek camp a man got the tick fever. He was so sick he couldn’t ride out in the rain. Jay came pretty regular to check on them and was able to get him down off the mountain to a doctor. Jay was good to all of his men and always had a good willing crew.

Jay passed away June 12, 1999 in Winnemucca, Nevada.

Remembering Jay Fowler by Carl Hammond

Jay was a good leader of his crews, men working with him were coaxed to work hard and to do a good job no matter what Jay asked them to do. Jay started his days a lot of time at 3 a.m. and worked until sundown. I can remember as a boy when we would work with the CS wagon in the springtime, camped at remote camps on Snowstorm Mountain, Layton place, First Creek, Pole Creek, getting up early and waiting for the jingle of the bell mare as the wrango brought the cavvy to the corral. The Buckaroo boss would rope out the men’s horses for the days work. Jay liked kids and they respected him, he was a big raw boned rugged individual and looked at you kind of stoned faced when you asked him a stupid question.

One time while riding out from Layton Field camp early one morning, I was about seven years old and when Jay led the buckaroos out in the mornings we would travel single file behind him for several miles usually around day break. This particular morning as we left the corral on a trot I’d filled up on so much coffee at breakfast and it began jumping up and down in my belly, about a mile out on the circle I couldn’t hold it anymore so I said, “Uncle Jay, I got to go to the bathroom”. Jay stopped trotting and the whole crew stopped (about 12 men). I made a big scene out on the desert and Jay must have been embarrassed some to have the men see him stop and cater to the needs of a small boy out there where there was usually only men and Jay had to show them how rough and tough he was all the time. I don’t know what he was thinking, but he didn’t let it show and I thought he was great.


Jay was inducted into the Buckaroo Hall of Fame September 2001.


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