Joe Fordyce was born in Webster City, Iowa and came to Wyoming with mother, father and half-sister in 1927. Mother Margaret, from Scotland, and Joe proved up on the homestead dad Edward had filed on but needed money so Joe walked to the Merriott place which was one of the Barton Ranches, where Vern Barton headquartered.
Vern told Joe he’d pay him $5 a month more than his cowboys were getting if he could ride a little roan horse he had in the corral. Joe took him up on the offer. A cowboy front footed the roan and rolled him into the saddle. Crawford Fawcett was there and told Joe, “When he gets up, you be on him.” Joe rode the roan and started to work riding the rough string and milking cows morning and night for the Barton Ranch for $35 a month.
While breaking young horses for Barton he also started calving heifers, which they had between 400 to 500 head of. Bartons found out he could work a team of horses, so he started hauling supplies and feed with teams and wagon. Someone moved him to the upper ranch on Mason Creek, Big Bend and Wind Creek where his job was mowing and bucking hay and stacking hay.
Joe bought a saddle for $35 and went back to riding the rough string. Someone caught a nine-year-old stud that no one had ever touched. The guys helped him roll the horse into the saddle and he went out Wind Creek and the Big Bend to the Rochelle Hills east and south of Rozet. Joe rode him to a chalky knob in the Rochelle Hills, galloped to the top and stopped him, and the horse was ready. A cow was drinking below, and the horse blew up and jumped off the point toward the cow when she spooked into the water. Joe was a smoker and carried farmer (stick) matches under his chaps. When the horse jumped off the chalky knob the matches lit. Joe kept riding and wouldn’t give up his saddle. He wore that Sulphur burn the rest of his life.
Joe started helping people gather cattle to brand or ship and got started sorting cattle on whatever he was riding. In the branding pen Joe could heel calves out of a fence corner, maybe a 3-wire pasture fence, and never spook calves out thru the fence. Joe always gave a lot of credit to Walter Jenkins and Owen Morrison for sharing tips and teaching him a lot of things about handling livestock.
Joe would tie 2 or 3 horses together at the neck to take them to a job, then trail them where he would have more horses to ride. These might be broke horses or young started horses that needed riding. That worked good until fences and overhead phone lines came to our area.
Joe also worked for the Cowger brothers — Wilbur “Bill”, Francis and Halley “Bronc” – building stock dams and spreader dams while breaking teams to work in the harness. There was a demand for well broke work horses.
Joe’s skill in gelding horses was in demand. He gelded several for friends, as well as those he was breaking to ride. Joe was good with a rope whether heeling, back hand loops, front footing or heading. He was also very good at heeling calves for branding and drug yearling heifers to spay.
On June 20, 1935, Joe married a Weston County homesteader’s daughter Mary Noe when he was 20 and she was 15. They moved into a frame building on the homestead. With bits and pieces as they could afford it they turned it into the home they reared their family in and lived in until age and infirmity forced them to leave the ranch.