Roy Martin was a “fixture” on the Gros Ventre. Even after his saddle years had ended (sometime in his ninth decade), he still showed up at Jack Robinson’s working corrals to watch the loading or unloading process as the cattle headed for or returned from the range.
He would stay in the Hansen cow cabin on Bear Cabin Creek or camp on the range for much of every summer with his wife, Zelda, and their children. His experience as a cowboy was understood by all of the valley ranchers, and his veterinary knowledge was often in demand. Neighbors and friends would call on Roy to help with a caesarean birth or with removal of a “cancer eye”.
Roy Elsworth Martin was born to Charles Reed and Cora (nee Payne) Martin on October 25, 1917 at Daniel, Wyoming near the old Warren Bridge on the Green River. He was one of nine children – three daughters and six sons. In the agricultural depression that followed the end of World War I, his parents lost their ranch and in 1921 the family moved to Jackson Hole. He spent the next 93 years there.
When they moved to Jackson, his mother drove a truck with the family’s household goods through the Hoback Canyon while his father and oldest brother, Robert, moved the livestock and a wagon by way of the Gros Ventre Road, which went all the way to Cora at that time.
Their first home in the valley was on the Mose Giltner place in what is now the National Elk Refuge. Roy led a typical life of a ranch family at that time. By the time he was old enough to help, he was involved in a wood cutting business. During the week his father would take teams up into the forest and snake out logs. On the weekends, the entire family would help cut them into suitable firewood lengths and then they would take the wood into town to sell. All of this work was done using teams of work horses, so from his very earliest years Roy learned to work with and to love horses.
When he was just a teenager, Roy got a summer job working on a dairy farm which was just downstream from where the Jackson Lake Dam is now. He not only milked the cows, but every morning he had to swim his wrangle horse out to an island in the Snake River where the work teams were kept. He said he really didn’t like that part of the job.
After graduating from high school, he worked at various jobs on a number of ranches around the valley. In 1942, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and spent the next three years in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. He took part in the landings at Anzio and Salerno. He was wounded during his tour of duty and was awarded a Purple Heart. He hardly ever talked about his wartime experiences, but he did say that he never slept under a roof for three years. The closest he got was an army tent.
After returning to the valley following the war, he again worked for various ranches until 1950, when he was hired full time by Peter and Sylvia Hansen. He would continue to work for the Hansen ranch for the next 50+ years.
In 1951, he married his longtime friend, Zelda Timmons. Zelda’s first husband, Stanley Klukan, had been killed in an auto accident, leaving her with two small children, Mary and Gilbert. Soon afterward, Zelda gave birth to sons, Roy Reed and Will Richard.
Roy and Zelda became the herders for the Hansens’ Gros Ventre range and spent the next 20+ summers ranging the mountains checking on cattle, packing salt, fixing fence, and doing all of the other chores involved with the task of caring for range cattle. Their kids all learned very early to ride, to chase cows, and to fish. Roy was a very good fly fisherman and taught all of his kids to love the sport. In fact, there are several lakes in the Gros Ventre that contain trout because Roy hauled the first stock in on pack horses. He became a great packer who could and would pack almost anything.
During the winter, Roy and Zelda lived and worked on the Hansen Ranch in Spring Gulch. During his sixties, Roy took on the job of Wyoming State Brand Inspector. He continued that job as well as still working for the Hansens until his seventieth birthday. His last herding job was for Mary Hansen Mead and Liz Lockhart on their summer range at the Elk Ranch in Grand Teton National Park. There, he got to deal with not only the standard herding chores, but also with hungry grizzlies and then with wolves.
After that, he had to quit as he needed to help take care of Zelda. Roy was seen on a horse in the late summer of his 87th year. Even though he was retired, he continued to spend the next few winters driving the teams for the dinner rides on Rendezvous Mountain at Teton Village.