William D. Saunders (Bill) was born to Roy and Mabel (Seaton) Saunders on December 19, 1925. Dr. Huff who rode by horseback to deliver Bill was unable to make it on time before Bill decided to make his entrance to this life; therefore, Bill was delivered by Mabel’s mother at the Roy McBride Ranch located at the north end of the Jackson Hole Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming.
Bill’s Grandpa and Grandma Saunders owned and operated a ranch next to the McBride Ranch in Jackson. Mrs. Maggie McBride and Mrs. Josephine Saunders were sisters. Grandpa Jabez (Jesse) Saunders lost his small cattle herd to wolves so the decision was made that the Saunders’ would move into Jackson. Both Jesse and Roy Saunders were carpenters by trade so they began making a new living constructing and building structures in and around Jackson.
The summer that Bill was just eight years old, his mother fell sick and was unable to care for him for awhile, so she sent him to his Grandfather at the Black Rock Association on Togwotee Pass where he ran his cattle. He rode a pack saddle covered with a quilt because that was all they had for him. This was the beginning of Bill’s days spent in the saddle helping his parents and grandparents operate their cattle and horse ranch in South Park, which is now known as Rafter J Subdivision in Jackson, Wyoming.
If Bill wasn’t in the saddle working the ranch, he could be found competing in horse races, rodeos or on the ski hill. Bill considered at one time becoming a jockey, but he grew too fast.
Bill went to school in Jackson and graduated in 1943 from Jackson Hole High School. He quickly enlisted with the Marines. He was just 17 years old, so his mother told him that before she would sign his papers to enlist, he had to spend the summer riding the herds at the Black Rock Cow Camp.
Bill returned from the Marine Corp in 1946. While he was away, his Grandpa Seaton had sold the ranch in South Park, so he went back to work for the Black Rock Association where he was most comfortable…in the saddle.
On January 10, 1951, Bill married the love of his life, Martha Ann Graham and they had five great kids. Bill went on to work for AT&T. In 1954, he took a job with Gilman Ordway at the Fish Creek Ranch in Wilson, Wyoming. Here, Bill and Martha raised their children and taught each of them to work cattle, ride horses, rodeo and ski while operating a successful cattle and dude operation.
In the late 1950’s, Bill bought the Wilson Rodeo from Walt Callahan. After two years of operating the rodeo in Wilson, Bill moved the rodeo to Jackson where he also had a ski shop. He was also guiding hunters for the Toppings at the Moose Head Ranch in Moran, Wyoming. Bill decided it was time to sell all and he moved his family to the Schwabacher Ranch in Wilson, Wyoming. Here he operated a successful cattle operation and had three ranches leased. He traveled much as he became a much respected cattle buyer for ranches across the country.
In 1972 Gilman Ordway bought the River Bend Ranch in Bondurant, Wyoming and Bill took on this adventure as well. He moved his family to the ranch and began another very successful cattle operation. Bill, Martha and their youngest son Tony Saunders and his wife Stacy operate the ranch today.
In 1989 Bill was named an honorary member of the Teton County Barrel Racing Association. He is also an honorary member of the Green River Valley Cattleman’s Association. Bill is also a lifetime member of the U.S. Marine Corps Division #1.
Bill still sits a horse today at the age of 89, but just last year turned over his position of roping at the basin’s Spring brandings to the younger ones. Bill is highly respected by not only his own children, but everyone who has had the pleasure of getting to know him. He is the first to lend a hand, a saddle, a horse or a dog, but above all, a kind honest word.