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McKee, Eldon “Pete”

Eldon C. “Pete” McKee was born to Clyde and Lottie Miller McKee on July 10, 1925 in Pottersville, Missouri. He was the second of what would become nine children.

Missouri soon became crowded and Clyde and his family moved to the Grover, Colorado area in 1929. It was at Grover where Pete received his formal education, graduating from Grover High School in 1942 at age 16. It was also at Grover where Pete developed osteo meningitis, which seriously affected his right leg. When doctors said an amputation was necessary Clyde carried his son out of the doctor office and took him to another doctor. The second doctor opened the leg up and drained the infection and a remarkable recovery was made. Pete would favor that leg from then on, but at least it was his leg.

The family grew and continued to ranch in the Grover area until 1946 when an opportunity opened at Elk Mountain, Wyoming. Clyde leased a ranch on the Medicine Bow River and the family moved again. Clyde purchased the ranch in 1949 running cattle and sheep along with putting up enough hay for their survival. The sheep were phased out in the 60’s due to the bottom falling out of the wool market and depressed sheep prices.

In his younger years, Pete enjoyed the game of rodeo and rode bulls and roped calves whenever time permitted in the summers. He was a cardholder in the Rodeo Cowboy Association and although he never had a trophy room full of saddles and buckles he made many lifelong friends and many fond memories.

It is said that behind every successful man there is a good woman. Pete married Betty Hanson of Elk Mountain in Laramie, October 16, 1953. They took up residence in a bunkhouse on the McKee Ranch and continued their agricultural pursuits.
Pete was drafted into Uncle Sam’s Army in 1954 where he served in the Korean Conflict, being discharged in 1955. Betty had saved Pete’s military money which was quickly invested in cows upon his return to the ranch.

Pete and Betty were blessed with three children, Mike, Jackie and Pat all of whom are involved in agricultural interests of their own.
In the 60’s Clyde and Lottie and their sons, Pete, Bill, Bob, and Clyde Allen incorporated as McKee Company as they had acquired ranches in Savery and Dixon along with the Elk Mountain ranch. They operated McKee Company until 1973 when the corporation was dissolved, and the boys went on their own.

Pete bought the Elk Mountain property and, thinking of his own family, also purchased a ranch at Leo, Wyoming some 65 miles north of the home place. In 1985 Pete and Betty formed a family partnership with their children and managed to stock and pay for both places. Together they carried around 2,000 mother cows and supporting stock.

Pete and his family were far sighted and began crossbreeding their cows early in the game. They were one of the first ranches in that area of southern Wyoming to crossbreed their Hereford cattle with Shorthorn bulls. Eventually the family used Angus for a three way cross in the cattle. For a very short time Charolais bulls were tried. The McKee’s were the second people in the valley to have Angus cattle. First being Tommy Reece. In the 1980’s Pete gradually went to red Angus bulls, developing a solid red herd from his foundation. Herd production was very important to him. He also enjoyed raising and riding his own quarter horses, belonging to the AQHA. Cow work was all done horseback. The stock on the McKee ranch wore only one brand, the cross slash, +/.

Building barns, machinery shed, bridges and his own home was something he enjoyed. Lumber was expensive, so he solved that problem by running his own sawmill. The Elk Mountain ranch had close to 1,500 acres of timber. The mature timber would be harvested from and milled on the ranch. Corrals were built with poles from the ranch.

Pete enjoyed the ranching business and spent his lifetime in it. He claimed that was all he knew how to do and didn’t know what else he could have done and liked to do so well. Of his many accomplishments perhaps his most rewarding was to see his family continue in the agricultural business. Although his ranches have been sold his children continue to be involved in agriculture. After a five-year battle with cancer, Pete McKee rode over the Great Divide February 4, 2000.