Joe (J.W.) Buckhaults was a ‘cowman’ known throughout Goshen County, Wyoming. Moving to Wyoming in 1972 from the drought-laden plains of eastern Colorado, Joe and his wife, Pat, brought with them a love of the land, horses, ranching, but most of all, cows. Joe engrained this into his three children, J.R., Ross, and Kay, telling them, “Take care of your cows and the land and they’ll take care of you.”
Joe got his start in ranching as a boy, working alongside his parents, Joe V. and Virginia Buckhaults, raising cattle and dry-land wheat on their ranch in Lincoln, County, Colorado south of Karval. Upon graduation as class Salutatorian in 1960 from Crowley County High School in Ordway, Colorado, Joe attended Colorado State University for two years on an agriculture scholarship. He then returned to the family ranch and worked at Winter Livestock and Honey Livestock sale barns in LaJunta, Colo.
He developed a keen eye for cattle, became knowledgeable of the markets and became an accomplished welder, building his own gooseneck stock trailers, livestock feeders, gates and working alleys. In 1966, Joe had saved up enough money with the intention of buying a car for his young family, but instead came back from the sale barn with 25 head of old bred Hereford cows he bought for $195/head. As his wife Pat said, “Those ole grannies got us started in the cattle business.”
After surviving several years of eastern Colorado drought by bailing green thistles for cattle feed and harvesting only two crops of wheat in 10 years, Joe set his goals of greener pastures and a larger herd. In 1971 he and Pat bought 2,700 acres in Manitoba, Canada and moved everything they owned, including four pot-loads of cattle, three horses, and three kids, north. They endured a busy summer of putting up 90 stacks of loose prairie grass hay, mowed and raked by their 8 and 10-year old sons. Learning quickly that the foreign country, its government and cattle markets were not for them, Joe and Pat sold the place, left the cows and moved back to Colorado. They later bought 200 head of Hereford cows from a neighbor to re-establish their herd. Joe returned to work at the sale barn.
In the spring of 1972 Joe looked at ranches in western and central Nebraska and eastern Wyoming seeking good grass. Joe and Pat bought the Goshen County “Hacker” ranch with its 200 cows located seven miles northeast of Hawk Springs, Wyoming. This remains as the ranch headquarters today. In Goshen County, Joe found good markets, banks, grass and crops. Coming to Wyoming from Colorado, he was one of the first cowboys to haul cattle and horses in a gooseneck horse trailer rather than a truck with stock racks.
Over the years, Joe continued to add acres adjacent to the home place and expanded his herd, which became dominantly Angus-cross, by keeping back his own replacement heifers. He and Pat established a reputation cattle herd known throughout Goshen County to this day. He and Pat were Goshen County Stockgrowers Association members.
Joe always kept his three ‘hired men,’ J.R., Ross, and Kay, horseback checking cattle, water tanks, salt and fences. Pat said, “If his horses had had headlights, they would have never come in at night.” All three of the Buckhaults kids competed in 4-H and high school rodeo, enjoyed roping in the family arena, jackpots and gymkhanas at Hunters’ Arena, and drove teams of horses in the Cheyenne Frontier Days parades in the early 1980s.
Joe was also a horse trader and known for his large corral of roan horses. In the early 1980s he developed a new ‘recreational hobby’ of picking up bucking horses for the Bruegman-Parish Rodeo Company. This was where his string of hard-running, stout-pulling roan horses was put to work for the rodeo cowboys. Because of his size, strength and fearlessness, Joe was known among the bareback and saddle bronc riders as their “go-to get-off guy.” He, along with his pick-up partner Archie Johnson, was named Pick-Up Man of the Year in 1985 and 1986 by the Wyoming Rodeo Association. Joe was also named Pick-Up Man of the Year by the Nebraska Rodeo Association.
Since 1972, Joe Buckhaults was a fixture of the Goshen County ranching community. Sadly, on January 29, 2004 Joe died on his ranch in a four-wheeler accident. He died doing what he loved—ranching and taking care of his cows. He was 61. His legacy lives on through his wife, Pat, who still works the ranch with their two sons, J.R. (Shirley) and Ross (Dede), who have both established themselves as cowmen and cowboys in their own right. Pat continues her part in managing the ranch by selecting the bulls, feeding cattle and breaking ice in the winter. Joe is also survived by nine grandchildren, all of whom spent plenty of time in the saddle growing up with grandpa.