Harold Woods Scott was born September 29, 1907, the youngest son of Frank & Mollie Scott in Foster, Missouri. They moved to Campbell County, Wyoming in 1917 and filed on a homestead twenty miles north of Gillette on Wildcat Creek, which began the fulfillment of Harold’s lifelong dream at 10 years of age to be a Wyoming cowboy.
He spent many hours with his boyhood friend, Arley Butcher, riding all over the area surrounding their ranch. He started cowboying at a very young age, taking care of his dad’s cattle and working for Ray Gilstrap as a teen-ager. Ray bragged on what a good hand he was. When Harold was 12 years old, he led a milk cow to Midwest for older brother, Bill Scott who had sold the cow to a ranch in that area. Harold stayed with ranch families along the way there and on the way home, quite a distance and adventure for a pre-teen cowboy by himself.
One winter, one of their neighbors got real sick and he and a friend rode all night the twenty miles to Gillette in 30 below temperatures to get medicine and bring back for him, although Harold said it was so cold that they did more walking and running on foot just to stay warm, than riding horseback.
Harold started breaking horses at a young age and was hard to buck off, according to friends and neighbors who knew him. He broke many horses for area homesteaders, ranchers and for family use on his ranch. He built a round pen, about 40 ft. in diameter out of sucker rod from oil wells in Midwest. With the rods spaced at 8” and the pen being 8-9-foot-tall, even though horses tried to jump out, none were ever able to accomplish the feat.
He and his family experienced all the hardships of ranching and raising livestock and crops during the depression years of the 20’s and drought and grasshopper years of the 30’s. His parents at one time talked of giving up, but Harold was adamant about wanting to stay in Wyoming and continue his cowboy dream.
When he was legal age, he filed on a homestead a couple miles south of his father’s homestead. He built a one-room log cabin, and after proving up the required number of years, he sold the homestead to Babe Gupton, whose ranch bordered it. He then moved his cabin to his dad’s ranch to live in. He married Bertha Jane Anderson on January 31, 1932 and they lived in it until his father passed away in 1935. This original homestead cabin still sits on the family ranch and has been preserved as a family history museum. It is also featured in a mural with him, Bertha Jane and their first-born son, Marion Harold on the south side of a building on 5th Street and Douglas Highway in Gillette, Wyoming.
His dad’s passing left him at the young age of 28 to take over the family ranch, purchasing it from his mother, who then moved to Gillette. In 1936 after losing his wheat crop and selling his cows for 3 ½ cents a pound, Harold took a job as Deputy County Assessor, which he did mostly on horseback. The 40’s were much better with good moisture and better prices for both grain and cattle. Many ranchers gave up during the hard times, but Harold was determined to do what it took to continue being a cowboy on his ranch, eventually restocking the ranch through cowboy perseverance and hard work, while also acquiring several adjoining homesteads and a State School Section. He and Bertha Jane raised 5 children, Marion, Bill, Kay, Jim, and Doug on the family ranch.
In 1945, he and Bertha Jane were able to purchase a 7000 acre ranch on the Middle Prong of Wild Horse Creek consisting of deeded, BLM and State lands about seven miles west of their headquarters. Because Harold believed in doing everything horseback, he purchased several young horses that he and his sons broke as additional ranch saddle horses. All of the children were active with Harold in the cowboy traditions of using horses for their ranch work and all were accomplished cowboys and cowgirl. As they added land, this involved trailing cattle several miles from the home place to summer pasture to the west and back again in the winter, many times in severe weather conditions.
In 1946, he had summered his yearlings on the new ranch and in August, he, Marion, and Bill trailed two carloads of yearlings to the Echeta stockyards along the railroad six miles west and shipped them to Omaha, Nebraska by rail. Harold and Marion went with the train, riding in the caboose and Marion remembers it as a great experience for a 13 year old cowboy and his father. The next spring, they trailed 100 yearlings to Harold’s father-in-law’s ranch north of Moorcroft, Wyoming to summer them on grass before shipping again to Omaha. They trailed them the 20 miles south along the highway right of way to Gillette, keeping them overnight in the stockyards there, then continued on to Moorcroft. The railroad ran along the highway right of way, and a passing train blew the train whistle as it passed, spooking the yearlings through the fence and causing Marion’s horse to buck him off, injuring his shoulder. They gathered the spooked yearlings and finished the trail to Moorcroft, which thankfully was uneventful after that.
Marion remembers his dad always telling everyone that when a mad cow charges you, stand your ground and she will not hit you. They were working cows in the corral one day, when an old cow charged Harold and he scrambled up the side of the corral. He said that he tried to stay still but his feet wouldn’t let him.
The infamous winter of 1949 started on New Year’s Eve and the Scott Ranch was snowed in for almost two months. Having no equipment to move snow, everything was done by horses. All the mother cows were still on the new place seven miles to the west as Harold had stored several tons of cake in an old granary there and wanted to feed it to the cows before bringing them home to winter pasture. As he needed more help, Harold made arrangements with the High School for Marion to go to school one day a week to get assignments, bringing the school work home and doing it at night. Every other day, they would ride the seven miles through the deep snow to cake the cows for about three weeks until the cake was gone. Harold arranged with neighbor, Ike Rogers, for a wagon load of loose hay and they trailed the cows a couple of miles to Ike’s ranch, fed the hay and rode home. They got up early the next morning, with temperature 10 below zero and a stiff breeze from the north east, rode back the seven miles to the cows, trailed them nine miles east on the Middle Prong County road to the winter pasture just north of the Scott Ranch headquarters. Once the cows were in the winter pasture, Harold started feeding cottonseed cake and alfalfa cubes every day to his cows. He rode a big sorrel gelding he called Jingle Bells, packing 100# of feed on him and leading a sorrel mare broke by his son Jim, Flicka, who carried 200# of feed, a combination of 150# alfalfa cubes and 150# cottonseed cake. It would take him or Marion all day to feed the cows, but he made sure they all got fed every day until the winter broke in mid-February.
A team of horses was kept and used until the mid-50’s when modern day tractors and equipment took their place. The horses were initially used in the farming and haying operation, along with hauling fencing supplies in the rough country of the ranch. During the winter of ’49, they pulled the ranch two wheel drive pickup to Bill Hensley’s ranch, next to the highway, leaving it there in order to go to town and get feed and other supplies. The team then pulled a wagon to Bill’s place where the feed and suppliers were unloaded from the pickup and hauled back to the ranch. The old harness is still hanging in the barn where it was taken off the horses for the last time. Although teams of horses may not be exactly pictured as part of the cowboy way, they were very necessary in the settling of cowboy country before 4-wheel drive pickups and tractors came along.
Harold broke and owned many good horses in his lifetime, but his favorite horse was “Buck”, and he often said he never owned a better one. Harold was selling some horses to a man from Buffalo, buying horses for the U.S. Calvary for $30 to $40. He offered Harold $100 for Buck, and with three kids to feed, he reluctantly sold him. He learned in later years, the buyer kept Buck for his personal use on his ranch near Buffalo. His last horse was “ole Mack”, and they were involved in the cattle gathers, sorting cattle and brandings until Harold’s health and hip problems finally kept him from active physical involvement in his late 70’s. Mack spent his last years enjoying retirement with Harold on his second home on the ranch.
In 1956, Harold and Marion leased the adjoining Ray Gilstrap Ranch, (who Harold had worked for as a young man) which blocked up the whole ranch. Ray was an old cowboy who homesteaded his home place in 1905 and built it up to 8,500 acre. Marion, his wife Mary, and small children moved to the Gilstrap Ranch headquarters in 1957 and still live there. This additional land made the Scott Ranch almost 18,000 acres of good cattle country. They exercised an option to purchase in 1965.
Harold was widowed in 1971 when his wife of almost thirty years, Bertha Jane, passed away. He remarried several years later, built a new house on the ranch, continuing to run the ranch and cowboy until he leased it to Marion and Mary in 1975, and selling his 50% interest in the Gilstrap ranch to them. He continued to help and live on the ranch for several more years before his age and health really made it hard for him to do much.
Harold’s love of cowboy traditions was handed down to his children as each went on to carry those traditions on in their adult lives. Many of Harold’s grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren are involved with horses in many areas and have gone on to win many events, trophies and awards in the cowboy arena. Although being a cowboy was his #1 love, he recognized the importance of community service and was involved in improving the lives of country folks by helping to bring electricity to rural areas through the REA and Tri-County Association. Taking care of the land for his cattle was accomplished through active involvement in the Intermountain Conservation District for many years and the land stewardship principles he followed.
Harold’s family ranch will be celebrating its 100 years in family operation in 2017. Currently owned by his granddaughter and husband, Marilyn and Dudley Mackey, it operates now as Harold’s Place, LLC in his honor. Harold’s cowboy legacy and the cowboy traditions of gathering and working cattle horseback, roping and dragging calves to the branding fire, doctoring sick cattle and the myriad of other cowboy chores on a ranch are continued today.