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Buckaroo Museum, Winnemucca Nevada

Burton Orville Brown

Burt Brown (1913-1989)

Longtime owner of Owyhee County’s 45 Ranch, Burton Orville Brown, was born August 13, 1913, the second of five children born to Cyrus (CB) and Ruby (Nichols) Brown at their ranch in Bonanza, Oregon. He had two brothers, Dale and Frank, and two sisters, Alma and Grace. Burt grew up and attended schools in Bonanza where he played football and basketball. The Brown boys all loved to tease and had the same good sense of humor as their dad.

In the fall of 1936, Burt and his cousin, Bud Brown, having heard of the Owyhee Desert Country out east where Idaho, Oregon and Nevada come together as being good cow country, took a run out to see it. They heard of a little ranch on the South Fork of the Owyhee River, the 45 Ranch that John G. Taylor had for sale. It was one of the best little cow outfits in the country: Really remote, but you could run cattle there year round and seldom had to feed hay. The Owyhee River cut across the desert in a canyon, maybe 1000 feet deep. The 45 was in this canyon where it widened out enough to raise some hay and had a good river crossing, the only such place for miles in either direction. After a quick, one day trip out to look around, they bought it. The 45 Brand came with the ranch. In 1942, Bud would sell his half of the ranch to Burt.

Burt must have been one good looking, fast talking, son-of-a-gun because when he described the old one-room rock house, 60 miles from nowhere, that would be her new home, to his bride to be, Gladys Flackus, she packed her things and got in. Bud’s mother, Aunt Lou, made the trip with them. Burt was 24 and Gladys had just turned 17, when, on April 27, 1937, they were married in Winnemucca, Nevada, on the way to the 45. They faced some difficult times as they had very little to start out. All their worldly possessions, along with enough groceries to last them several months, fit in two old cars. Burt brought a sourdough crock and a griddle that he would use all his life. (He started every day with sourdough hot cakes.) Although Gladys had to learn to adapt to life on a remote ranch, she always said they were the best years of her life. Once she even went nine months without seeing another woman.

They needed horses and they couldn’t sell the ones they had in Bonanza, so Bud and his brother Barney, put packs on a couple of the horses and drove the band clear to Idaho. They went south to Alturas, then to Cedarville, Denio, past the Whitehorse Ranch to McDermitt, then on to the 45. It took two weeks travel through a big unfamiliar country. When the horses got there, they were able to saddle up and see what their ranch looked like.

Not long after they were there, some of the horses they took out got away and headed back to Oregon. Bud and Burt followed them to the reservation fence on Quinn River. It was early spring and darn cold. They met up with two part Indian brothers, the toughest guys they ever saw. They shared their supper of rice and coffee and their bed with Bud and Burt. Their bed was these old sweaty pack blankets, they all slept together and it was cold. The next morning they rounded up the horses and headed home.

The second year there, they bought 400 yearling Durham steers from Tom Dufurrena at the Kings River Ranch. They trailed them from Kings River to the 45 where they wintered them on the hay they had put up the first summer. They ran those steers 3 to 4 years and never lost one, selling the last steer when he was 5 years old. When it came time to sell cattle, they drove them to the closest railroad at Murphy, Idaho. This took about a week. Later years they drove them to the scale at Riddle, Idaho where they weighed and loaded them on trucks.

An old GMC truck body with only the windshield, a homemade seat and a flat-bed rack made the trip to Mountain Home, Idaho once or twice a year for groceries and supplies. They would take their camp outfit and stay where-ever they needed. When they would fuel up in Owyhee, Nevada, the Indians would laugh at their truck! On the 4th of July they usually went to the rodeo in Owyhee or McDermitt as Burt liked to rodeo. The 45 was half way between the two reservations, and Burt always got along good with the Indians.

Burt liked to rope, raised his own horses and could make a fast walking horse that could get him home from a long days ride when he was tired. A stud horse named Desert that he bought from Sam Ross would sire many good saddle horses, most had names ending in ‘O’: Cheko, Keno, Peeko. In the late 50’s, he bought a couple of nice registered quarter horse mares and a Three-Bars bred stud off the track in Elko he called Jammers. Burt was proud of his horses. Teams were used to put up the hay and feed it in the winter.

One time when Burt was at the ranch alone, his wrangle horse got out with the bell mare bunch leaving him a foot. The horses would feed on top of the canyon rim, but had to come to the river for water. Burt got on a rock outcrop above the trail. After the horses got a drink and started back up, Burt jumped on the back of one of the horses. Scared, the horse tore up the trail with Burt hanging on. After a good run across an alkali flat, Burt took off his Levi jumper and got it around the horse’s neck. Using it for a rein, he was able to get around the bunch and bring them in. When the horses were all in the corral, Burt stepped off and shut the gate.

Burt rode several saddles over the years. He had a basket stamped Ray Holes and his last saddle was a slick-fork, flower stamp, Double H made in Elko, Nevada. He was a good blacksmith and used the old forge in the shop to make bits, spurs and bridle chains for their own use. He braided rawhide reins and reatas. He also trapped in the winter. Living out so far he did what he had to do. He could operate on a bad eye cow with his pocket knife and bailing wire and save her life.

Burt liked to tease, but he also got teased a lot about his bald head. One of his favorite stories was when Dave Castro walked by him, rubbed his head and told Burt that his head felt just like his wife’s behind. With a twinkle in his blue eyes, Burt reached up and rubbed his own head and told Dave, “Be darned if it don’t!”

Burt and Gladys had two daughters, Nancy and Judy. In 1947 they moved to Jordan Valley, Oregon and then bought a ranch at Arock so Nancy could start school. Burt would ride the 70 miles horseback to the 45 to check on things and moved back there in the summer to put up the hay. In 1951 he leased the ranch to Neil Shea, sold the place at Arock and bought the Deer Creek Ranch on Jackson Mt., in Humboldt County Nevada, from Frank Capelli. He ranched there several years.

Burt moved back to his home at the 45 where he lived until he sold it in 1981. He was there 45 years and rode with many good buckaroos and good friends over the years…Oley Skamfer, Harvey Cracker, the Reeds, the Reborses, Frank and Art Drummond, Tex Armstrong, Oscar Skedaddle, Buzz Flackus, Glenn Walcott, Jim and Jeff Anderson, George Abel , Dale Brown, Tom Pedroli and John Nouque to mention some. Several young guys spent time at the 45 with Burt, helping him and learning from him. Wally Blossom was only ten years old the first time he stayed. Others included Burt’s nephew, Butch Brown, Spider Teller, Randy Bunch and Darrell Lee, who worked for Burt for 11 years.

In the following years, Burt ranched in Notus, Idaho, McBride Creek and Diamond, Oregon, where he raised registered Limousin cattle. Even though he had heart problems for the last several years of his life, he was able to continue with the ranch work he loved so much, feeding his last pen of heifers on his way to Heaven early on the morning of July 8, 1989. He is buried in the Jordan Valley cemetery. He was survived by his wife, Pearl. His daughter, Nancy, and her husband Forest Fretwell and grandkids, Stacy, Doug, Colene and Sam. His daughter, Judy, and her husband John DeLong and grandkids, Christy, Jhona and Will. Burt's family continues to carry on his ranching way of life.

Compiled for the Buckaroo Hall of Fame by Judy Brown DeLong



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