Wyoming Cowboy Hall Of Fame

The Real Cowboys of the "Cowboy State"

Nelson, James “Jim”

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Jim’s parents were both born in Copenhagen, Denmark. Both parents came to America from Denmark on separate sailboats. His father’s brother was a master tailor in New York City. He said his grandfather was the farrier for the King of Denmark. His parents married in Council Bluffs, Iowa and moved to Butte, MT.

Jim Nelson was born on July 26, 1884 in Butte, Montana and had two sisters and three brothers. One brother died at a very young age. Two sisters and a brother died of diphtheria between 1890 and 1900.

Jim was orphaned at age 14 and went to work for the Con Kohrs Cattle Co., near Butte. His first winter with the company was spent with 10,000 yearling while he was living in a tent. After he had had enough winters in a tent, he went back to Butte and became an apprentice black smith.

Jim came to Wyoming in the mid to late 1920’s.  While Jim was eating at the bus depot on his way to Mexico, Fred D. Boice, Sr., who owned the P.O. Ranch north of Cheyenne, came into the cafe and asked if anyone was looking for work. Jim went to work as a ranch hand and soon became foreman for the PO Ranch.

Nellie Ridley Pennington, a widow with three young children, was the ranch cook and brought her baby daughter with her to the ranch. Nellie’s two boys stayed with their grandparents until they were old enough to do chores at the ranch. Jim married Nellie Pennington on May 4, 1926.

In the years Jim was at the PO Ranch, all of the work was done with horses. Jim broke and shod all of the horses at the ranch. All of the work horses were broke on a “breaking cart.” Jim would take a three or four year old and hitch it up to a two wheeled cart with an older well broke horse. Most of the time he put a hobble on the bronc. The hobble had a long rope on it and someone sat beside him so if things got out of hand, they could pull up a front foot.  Jim shod both saddle and work horses in the shop and made most of the horseshoes. If the horse was hard to shoe, he either tied up a leg or laid them down.

In the spring Jim did all the branding of the calves. During the winter, Jim fed the calves in the meadows and made sure everything ran smoothly on the ranch. On really cold afternoons he repaired and greased harness and saddles.

Haying on the ranch was done with horses. Jim’s stepsons drove the “broncs” on the mowers and he worked with the main crew and always drove a sweep. Jim fed loose hay from a hay stack. He would lay a rope on the ground and put hay on it and then loop the rope over the hay and pull it out with his horse.

In the fall after dipping the cattle for lice, they trailed two year olds to the stockyards south of Cheyenne.  One fall while Jim was helping gather and work cattle his horse fell on the railroad tracks and broke Jim’s leg. He got back on his horse and rode to the ranch. The doctor put a cast on, but he took it off way too soon and Jim’s leg healed shorter than the other one.

Jim spent 43 years on the PO Ranch. All his adult life was involved with cattle and horses. He always said the years on the PO Ranch were the best years of his life.

Jim died at the home of Ervin and Verle Mueller, north of Cheyenne, WY on June 10, 1965.

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