Harve ‘Slim’ Stone 1919-2004
Ask the Ol’ Timers in the vast open spaces of Sublette County, Wyoming who they think the toughest man they ever knew was and “Harve Stone” flows from their lips. ‘Slim,’ as his friends called him, didn’t have to say aloud what his life motto was: hard work, a helping hand, and speaking softly. When “Harvey” talked, people listened.
Simple could be a term to describe the old hand. Simple in that a life can amount to fulfillment when you simply take care of what takes care of you. He had faith in the grace of working hard consistently and providing what one can contribute, not acquire, while in this life. You’ll never find it written on paper, only in Stone, the code that a cowboy such as Harve gave to the world one generation at a time. Harve’s code, like all great cowboys, held that the best things in life didn’t come with a price tag but were bought with sweat, blood, and tears.
Born May 16, 1919 to Oscar and Sophia Stone in Burk, SD, he was raised in the saddle, cowboying his entire childhood on ranches all over SD and on to Colorado with his ten other siblings. It was only natural that the rugged geography of Wyoming allure to such a man. Stone was destined to be a part of this fascinating land, leaving the plains of South Dakota, the Rockies of Colorado to start his own life in the untamed earth of cowboy country. In 1938, he made his way out West arriving at the Campbell Ranch in Bondurant, Wyoming. To most, he may have had the skills of a true cowboy mastered by now, however, the soul of this talented gentleman knew he could learn more, teach more and leave a legacy that was all his own to the generations yet to come.
By his side and leading by example, Harve and his bride Lois Farris, raised four children within a cowboy’s life amidst the Wyoming and Gross Ventre mountain ranges. He sought to be a part of each of his children’s lives and his grandchildren too. Even his great-grandchildren remember him fondly as the best man they’ve ever known. The Stone’s treated any close friend, neighbor or fellow cowboy like family; a well-known fact amongst the Winds.
In 1943, Stone was called upon to perform his civic duty and joined the fight of World War II. While in Germany, he served as a prisoner guard and was injured in a jeep accident as it rolled over with four of his fellow brothers in arms. As with most things, Harve spoke little of his time in the war and sought no glory in his service.
Once back from the War, Harve and two others traveled throughout Western Wyoming and Idaho performing in his band, known as the “Pack Saddle Trio”. But as accomplished as he was picking his old Gretch guitar and singing with his smooth tenor voice, mastering the explosive buck of a saddle bronc became his life’s journey in and out of the arena.
Harve, Lois, and their 4 children journeyed to the cow camps where he rose in rank to cow boss. He found his home there. For 30 years, Harvey and the Stone’s herded thousands of cattle throughout the Wyoming and Gros Ventre ranges. He packed his kids on horses and taught them about hard work and strong character. During this time, Harve and Lois began tending to and irrigating one of the last desert land entries of Wyoming Territory. Stone would cowboy all day long in Bondurant. Every year, towards the end of November, after gathering the ‘Basin’ (mountains around Bondurant), Harve would go back and ride for strays. He would trail the cattle through 20 miles of any blizzard that dared to confront the man all the way to Big Piney, delivering strays to each designated ranch.
Long days in harsh country and unforgiving conditions weren’t complete until the cowboy went out to irrigate his 800 desert acres. He slowly transformed the raw, unwanted land into lush, fertile ground, bearing the feed that would be the start of the family’s own cattle herd. Piece by piece, Stone built a ranch from nothing but the mere dream and commitment to cowboy life.
30 years as cow boss granted him the title of longest running cow boss the Cattleman’s Association had ever known. It also granted him incredible stories like taking down a bull elk with a dud rifle, 1 bullet, a pocket-knife, a stick, and a rope. Or the time when Harve got thrown from his horse and broke his neck. He had to slowly get back to cow camp. Some even say he lay there for 3 days before he could move. Stories. A life of amazing stories made into legend like the very man himself. Only these legends really happened right here in our big, beautiful Wyoming. Proof found in his x-rays, years later, at the age of 75; scar tissue from several old fractures to his cervical spine. Living legend.
In the 1970’s, Stone entertained locals, cowboys, family and visitors every week at the Cowboy Bar and Stockman’s in Pinedale, WY. He played for years in Jackson Hole and Dubious as well. His songs were old school classics portraying the life triumphs and trials of a cowboy’s world. Of course, as any cowboy is capable of; Harve never grew out of going ‘out on the town,’ so to speak. Stone did it, however, in his own style, riding his horse through the infamous Cowboy Bar of Pinedale, WY. Other than having a horse inside the bar, none were quite that surprised by Harve. Slim was genuine enough that he could pull off this stunt without offending many; having the purest intentions of the model cowboy that he was. Perhaps he just wanted to buy his horse a drink.
As hard as Stone was, the classic cowboy had a special place set in his heart for children. It wasn’t often you could find him without one of his grandchildren tagging along beside him. He used his time to care for and share his life with young ones. Many a story arose when looking back at the legacy of Harve Stone when it came to this subject. When wrapping up a long, cold day out on the Roberts’ ranch, Harve helped Dru Roberts, a young cowboy at the time, undo the chinches on his saddle because his fingers were too numb. Dru insisted that his father always made him tend to his own horse and Harve simply replied, “Your dad doesn’t need to know about this time.” That was like Harve: finding little, yet grand moments with children. Growing up around Harve was special for kids. He made life magical; filled with wonder. From teaching children about horses to racing and playing tag on them, he made each day important. He even installed a swing in the middle of his living room for the kids to play on. Young ones naturally gravitated to Harve and he was well-known for helping any baby fall asleep on him, stopping babies mid-cry and ushering them off to dreamland with the rise and fall of his chest. Whenever Harve would take a trip to Salt Lake City, UT, he was sure to make a stop to visit the children at the cancer care center. Never a soul forgotten. For some reason, an undying care lingered in the cowboys’ heart for the young, but that was who he was.
Harve never lost his love for horses. Every spring, Harve would load up a trailer full of wild horses to either break and sell or use for the bucking string. Some of Pinedale’s best rough stock came from Harve and his grandsons. At 75, he was still breaking horses and they still worked him. While wrangling one of these wild mustangs, a line, tied hard and fast to a post, caught Stone and flipped him over as the horse fought the cowboy, breaking several of his ribs. This would be the last horse Harve would ever try to break. His love for his deceased wife and his love for horses only grew stronger in him as the years passed and eventually would overtake him as he passed in 2004. His children by his side, he saw Lois and smiled before he let out a breath and joined her in the wide, open spaces of the heavens.
Even today, many of western Wyoming’s most seasoned cowboys can attribute much of their knowledge of life’s wisdom, women, and wild horses to Harve Stone. Stories of his exploits are still jawed about over an amber bottle and a two finger shot glass. While he passed in 2004, he is survived by many. His family of 4 children became a family of numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren and they aren’t shy to keep his name and great story alive. Most of Harvey’s family can be happiest when remembering him and sharing him with others; each remembering those special moments he made extraordinary just for them. It isn’t hard to find talk of ‘Slim’ at the bar after a long drive or on the bleachers at the rodeo. You can find Harve on the WWII memorial in Pinedale and in the old pictures around the small town. You can hear him in the laughs about good ol’ times in Stockman’s, The Cowboy Bar, the VFW and in the strum of an old guitar. Look closely and you can see him in the eyes of the young boys hanging on the fences of the corrals and hear him in the thundering of a cattle drive. Great cowboys never die, they live on in us. Harve ‘Slim’ Stone is one of those cowboys.