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Buckaroo Museum, Winnemucca Nevada


Tom Marvel

Tom J. Marvel (1924--)

Tom Marvel was in his 80's when he used to say, "I get tired of listening to all these old men talk about what they used to do. I just want to talk about what I'm still doing." The fact is Tom Marvel was still doing exactly what he had done his entire life -- the work of a cowboy. Even at almost 90 years old, Tom puts in a full day's work. Although these days he's slowed down a bit and even found time to plant his own vegetable garden.

Hard work has been a way of life for Tom. His father, Cap, (so-called because he had earned the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army) always said, "Better to work every day, and on Sundays do twice as much." Tom would later add, "I don't know how anybody gets any work done now-a-days. We used to only get Christmas and the 4th of July off."

Thomas Jenkins Marvel was the second of three sons born June 7, 1924, in Battle Mountain, Nevada, to Louise Jenkins Marvel and Captain Ernest Ray Marvel. He had an older brother, Dick, and a younger brother, John.

Tom's family owned and operated the W.T. Jenkins Company, first established by his Welsh grandfather, who came to Nevada in 1872. At one time the W.T. Jenkins Company ran as many as 33,000 sheep and 8,000 head of cattle across five counties.

Tom says, "When I was young, we never had stock trucks. Pickups and horse trailers were unheard of. The outfit spread 70 miles south of Battle Mountain and 70 miles north of Battle Mountain. Everything was done on horseback. In 1939 and through much of the 40's, the Martin and Home Ranch were our main ranches. We had two ranches in Jersey Valley -- Upper Jersey and Lower Jersey, and one ranch in Antelope Valley. At that time, we ran about 1800 head of cattle and about 20,000 sheep. Each year we continued to build our cowherd."

Tom started working as a cowboy in 1932 at the tender age of 8. "That first summer, my brothers and I stayed for a while at the Stampede Ranch, northeast of Battle Mountain, with an old Indian by the name of Jim Fatty. We helped with the cattle and packed supplies to the sheep camps." By the age of 13, Tom was very apt at packing a horse himself.

Tom quit school after the eighth grade and went to work full-time as a cowboy. "In 1938, when I was 14, my dad met me with a saddled horse and another packed, and said, 'Hit the road.' So I did. Don't get me wrong though. This is what I wanted, and Dad knew it." Tom got his first job with the Cattle Association out of Elko, Nevada. Although he didn't stay there long. He soon went to work for Bill Nichols at the 25 Ranch, south of Battle Mountain, as a "cattle rep" for the W.T. Jenkins Company.

Tom explains that during those days, there were no drift fences, so all the larger outfits had reps that would go to the different ranches. Tom says there was lots of neighboring. As a rep for the W.T. Jenkins Company, Tom would ride to various ranches such as the TS, Ellison's, the Moffitt Ranch, or the 25 Ranch. He'd report to the buckaroo boss who was in charge of several cowhands, help gather and sort out the Jenkins cattle, then trail them home. By 1941, during WWII, the draft took men away by the bushels. The W.T. Jenkins Company was badly in need of cowboys. Tom's dad, Cap' (Ernest), asked young Tom to become cowboss for the company. At 17 years old, Tom took over control and management of all the cattle. Riding long hours in the saddle, it was a life that he loved.

In 1944, Tom met the love of his life, Rosita Camarillo Petit who had come to Battle Mountain to visit a classmate. On December 28, 1945, Tom and Rosita were married in St. Mary Magdelanís Catholic Church in Camarillo, California, during Tomís furlough from the U.S. Army. (Tom had enlisted earlier that year.)

Tom served his country in Okinawa in the Air Corps photographing and developing film of enemy combatants. Meanwhile Rosita, delivered the first of their seven children. While still at war, Tom became Catholic. Upon his return, the Marvels settled in Nevada and began a life of cattle ranching. The time Tom spent in the army (close to 3 years) was the only extended period he ever spent away from the ranch.

In 1947, the W.T. Jenkins Company, purchased the 25 Ranch west of Battle Mountain. After living in town for a short time, Tom and his family moved out to the ranch on the Humboldt River. Tom was cowboss, and "The Outfit" was now running about 8,000 head of cattle. Six of Tom and Rosita's seven children spent much of their childhood at the 25 Ranch.

In 1964, the 25 Ranch sold along with the rest of the W.T. Jenkins Company. Tom and Rosita acquired the Martin Ranch south of Battle Mountain where they moved their family and ran cattle. This is where their seventh child was born.

In 1986, Tom and Rosita sold the Martin Ranch and moved to California for a time where Tom trained cutting horses and made a greater name for himself in the horse industry.

In 1996, Tom Marvel received the "Vaquero Award" given by the California Reined Cow Horse Association for the contributions of outstanding horsemen to the cow horse industry. Also that year, the Nevada Cattlemen's Association awarded Tom membership into the 100,000 Mile Club. This honor is bestowed on cowboys who have ridden 100,000 miles or more in their lifetime. At that time, it was estimated that Tom had logged more than 279,000 miles in the saddle. Tom rode with many great cowboys. Many of them even worked for him-- men like the Dorrances (Tom, Bill, and Jim), Albino Taos, Jumper Jones, Don Pomi, Buster Miller, John DeLong, Orland (Doc) Hood, Virgil Brooks, Jim Fatty, Willie Whiterock, Sam McMullan, Johnny Welch, Chas Welch, Freddy Howard, Benny Gerigo, Eddy King, Lem Yates, Bill Kane, Bob Wright, Earl Conklin, Dave Clancy, Randy Bunch, Frank Tobin, Johnny LaMount, Charlie Chapin, Harold Chapin, Jerry Chapin, Bob Salmon, Dick Smith, Melvin Jones, Evert Jones, Logan Willie, Tommy Butler, Max Allred, Sam King, Henry Stratin, Leonard Shepherd, as well as others. Of course he also rode with his brothers, Dick and John, wife, Rosita, and all of his sons and daughters.

Tom and Rosita have seven children (Tommy, Suzy, Mike, Sally, Joe, Pete, and Amy), 22 grandchildren and three-dozen great-grandchildren. Tom even delivered one of them himself. On Labor Day, 2012, at the age of 88 years old, Tom, with help from his wife Rosita, delivered one of their great-grandsons after the child's mother went into labor at the ranch. Tom claims it wasn't too much different from all of the calves and colts that he helped birth in his lifetime. Tom and Rosita now live in Spring Creek, Nevada. Tom Marvel continues to ride, help with ranch work and assist people with their horses. God and family remain a top priority in Tom Marvel's life.

Tom Marvel was inducted into the Buckaroo Hall of Fame in August 2013.


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