Ranching wasn’t just a business for Gary Frank, it was a way of life. He was an astute and hardworking cattleman, a talented rodeo competitor, and a devoted family man who left a lasting mark on the Wyoming ranch community.
Gary was born on a farm in Nebraska in 1943, and was only four years old when the family moved to Lander, Wyoming. They soon settled at the present Frank Ranch in Lyons Valley where Gary was to live and work for more than 60 years.
As a youngster in the 1950’s, Gary drove the family team of work horses raking hay. He rode colts and broke many horses for others. A typical country kid, he liked to hunt and fish and enjoyed outdoor life on the ranch. He raised and showed steers at the county fair. He loved to compete and rode calves and jockeyed race horses in the relay and flat saddle races at the Lander Pioneer Days, the world’s oldest paid rodeo.
Gary attended school in Lander, graduating in 1962, where he was a talented athlete and a natural leader. He served as senior class president and belonged to the National Honor Society. He was active in FFA and was on the State Champion FFA Livestock judging team. During his senior year he played for Lander in the State Championship football game. He was the State Champion in the 154 pound division in wrestling and he was a member of Lander’s only State Champion wrestling team. He competed in the National High School Finals Rodeo in Valentine, Nebraska, winning the Bareback Bronc championship in 1961. In 1962, he won the All Around Cowboy title by winning both the Bareback Bronc and the Saddle Bronc championships and placing in the Steer Wrestling competition. Gary was the first of only four Wyoming cowboys to ever win the NHSFR All Around Cowboy title.
At the University of Wyoming, Gary competed on the wrestling and rodeo teams. He won the Western Athletic Conference wrestling championship at 147 pounds and wrestled in the NCAA championships in Ithaca, New York in 1964. While attending college he met and married his wife Diane. He graduated in 1966 with a Bachelor Science degree in Animal Husbandry and came home to the join the family ranch in Lander. Gary and Diane settled into a life of ranching, rodeoing and raising their young family.
Throughout the late 60’s and 70’s Gary became a central figure on the Wyoming rodeo circuit when he joined forces with his father, Bill, and brother, Billy, to form Frank and Sons Rodeo Company. They produced rodeos in the area and statewide. Gary served as a pick-up man at the rodeos. One of his favorite pick-up horses was acquired as a prospective bucking horse. Despite the opinion of the former owner, Gary found him to be a well-broke mount and rode him to gather the bucking horses from the pasture the day before they were trucked to the rodeos and for other ranch work.
Gary was an organizer of the Wyoming Rodeo Association and an active competitor winning 15 saddles and too many belt buckles to count. He won the All Around Cowboy title at the Fremont County Fair and Rodeo in 1967, 1969, 1970 and 1973, competing in both riding and bulldogging events. During the rodeo years, Gary’s dogging and hazing horses were in high demand, and he mounted and hazed for many cowboys throughout his college and rodeo career. He rode his last competitive saddle bronc at age 40 in the Lander Old Timers Rodeo. Gary was one tough cowboy.
As the years passed, Frank and Sons Ranches concentrated on cattle ranching, running cattle in Lyons Valley and on South Pass. Today the Frank Ranch is well known for its fine herd of Angus cattle and also produces grain crops, corn, and hay. Ownership of the ranch passed into Gary’s hands when his father retired in 1993. Always looking for ways to improve, Gary combined traditional cowboy ways with modern business methods to better respond to the demands of an ever-changing cattle market.
In 2006, Gary and Diane, along with daughter Anjie and son-in-law Mike began raising registered Angus bulls, and developed a program that produces bulls sought after by many in the ranching industry. In 2014, the Grand Champion Market Steer at the Fremont County Fair was produced by the Frank Ranch, and was fed and shown by grandson, Mark McConnell.
Gary was a man whose life was well-spent: working with the land, riding horses, raising livestock, appreciating life on the ranch, and passing the Wyoming cowboy legacy along to his children and grandchildren.