Born to be a cowboy in 1927, Hugh Maller grew up on the family ranch near Burlington. From his parents, Fred and Marie, he learned ranching, farming and the cowboy trade. His best friend was his horse. His sister, Inez, ran a close second. He rode horseback to a one-room country school all through grade school and helped with the fall roundup and wild horse roundup. In the 1930’s, every horse had a value, either for the buggy, farming, haying, saddle or whatever. Hugh learned how to distinguish the best fit for each horse and how to help that horse do his best. He also learned how to handle and doctor cattle and that the fastest way to move a cow is slow.
Hugh’s first job after graduating from Burlington High School was working for Smokey Grabbert taking care of 200 head of heifers and a band of sheep on Sheets Flats. In 1947, Hugh’s parents sold their ranch, and Hugh went to work punching cows for the Phelps Bar TL Ranch near Meeteetse (now known as the Pitchfork Ranch). One day, Margaret Schultheis showed up at cow camp to help gather cattle. She was the best lady cowboy he ever saw and also the prettiest. Hugh had found someone who liked horses and cows as much as he did and married her the following year.
In the fall of 1948, Hugh and Margaret moved to her parents’ ranch in Sunshine Basin near Meeteetse. A year later, their son, Scott, was born, and their daughter, Gloria, came along in 1952. Margaret became ill with cancer and passed away in 1966 at the age of 36. Hugh saddled up and gave Margaret her last ride across Buffalo Basin, scattering her ashes on the ranch she loved. Hugh and his children continued running the ranch, often trading work with their neighbors at the Pitchfork, Antlers Ranch, Larsen Ranch, 91 Ranch, etc. In 1969, the Maller Ranch was condemned to become Lower Sunshine Reservoir. With heavy hearts, the family moved their operation to Lost Cabin, leasing part of the Spratt Ranch in Fremont County for five years where they ran 1,000 head of cows and 1,500 yearlings until 1974.
Hugh then bought a place near Burlington, across the river from where he had grown up. He worked for the Smokey Grabbert Ranch again and continued raising horses and cattle until 1988. After recuperating from knee and hip replacements, he moved to Arizona where he worked as livestock supervisor for Rainbow’s End Ranch until 1996. While doctoring cattle there, he got a bone spur and torn rotator cuff, ending his roping career. He then took up the sport of team penning and won the Open Team Penning World Championship in the National Finals in 1997 at the age of 70.
Hugh continued raising horses and running a few head of cattle on his place in Arizona until his death from renal cell carcinoma in 2005. His children gave him his last ride across Buffalo Basin, as he requested, scattering his ashes near his beloved Margaret on the Wyoming ranch they both loved.
Hugh excelled at many different aspects of cowboy life. Besides being an outstanding horseman and cattleman, he was an accomplished rodeo announcer, horse judge, calf roper and team roper. His skills as a farrier and braiding horse tack were remarkable. He could do anything with a cow or a horse, sing you a song or write you a poem about it. Throughout his life he received numerous honors and awards but was the most proud of his family. His legacy lives on through his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who continue to ranch and rodeo using the skills that he taught them.