Leon Maxwell Burch was born in Spearfish, South Dakota, on October 22, 1943. His parents Harold Jay Burch and Dorothy Bess (Guethlein) Burch were on a ranch near Ekalaka, Montana. In 1949 the family moved to Wyoming in the Oshoto area. They leased a ranch from Carl Blatt. Max started country school at age 5 because his older sister, Emma Gail, would have been the only student without him.
They rode horses 1 and 1/2 miles to that first school unless it was too cold and snowy. Their Dad would then take them to school with the team and sled. He built a little shed by the school house for their horses to stay in during school hours.
Max grew up on ranches, riding horses and as he got a little older, breaking colts. Always he worked with livestock, mostly cattle. When he graduated from high school in Gillette, Wyoming he went to work for the Wagensen Ranch, making $5 a day. By then Max was good at riding pretty rank horses. He learned to work sheep, lamb out sheep, move sheep and rope sheep in addition to taking care of their cattle. Anyone who ever roped a sheep knows it takes skill and a good horse.
Max always broke, rode and traded horses. He can harness a team and break them to work. Some extraordinary adventures happened during the years.
In 1965 he married a local ranch girl, George Ann Pickerel. They went to work for Schwabacher & Company at Pinedale, Wyoming. Schwabachers largely took in pasture cattle and had a herd of cows of their own. It is deep snow country and more adventures ensued with teams and hayracks. In the summer months large groups of pasture cattle were moved to the mountains up Green River. Schwabachers also had sheep and mountain sheep herders. Fall was spent bringing cattle and sheep down from the mountain pastures.
Jack Schwabacher sent Max and his wife to California for a few months to get some experience in different country. They lived at the ranch in Madera, California working with cattle, on the Peach Tree Ranch at San Lucas, California, then at Gondolas, California, where Max worked in the feed lot. This was all new to Max, but at the same time still required the know-how he had acquired during a lifetime of riding horses and working with livestock. At age 22 he was back managing the ranch at Pinedale.
In 1968 Max stopped working for Schwabacher & Company to return to the Gillette area to work for his wife’s parents’ ranch, Pickerel Land and Cattle Company. In 1971 Mr. Pickerel was in failing health and died in 1974. Max took over the management of the ranch.
He had always had a great interest in horses of every kind. For a few years he owned and trained ranch horses. Quarter Horse Racing became attractive to him so he purchased and bred registered Quarter Horses for years.
Deciding the racing business was too costly and time consuming, he started to raise bucking horses. He said he didn’t have to pay trainers, jockeys or horseshoers for bucking horses. This type of horse proved to be the kind that brought him a great deal of satisfaction.
Behind the horse scene, though, Max is a hardworking, rugged cowboy. He is concerned about the welfare of all livestock. He is an excellent judge of confirmation in cattle and horses. He has seen on horseback large areas of Carter County, Montana, Campbell, Crook and Weston Counties of Wyoming (and a lot of California). Riding up on a high ridge to see how far he can see is a pleasure.
There is never a part of a cowboy’s job that Max shrinks away from. Calving, branding, feeding, pulling wells, building and repairing fence and corrals— Max is enthusiastic about it all. He likes to have a job done sturdy and right. Max manages Pickerel Land and Cattle Company and has raised two sons who have always wanted to be like him.