Donny was born into a ranching family on March 22, 1933 in the old Ivinson Hospital in Laramie, Wyoming. His parents Murl and Bess Robbins lived and worked on their isolated ranch in Marshall, WY located in Northern Albany County. Baby Donny was welcomed into this world not only by his parents, but also his older sister Rae and his older brother Bobby and soon settled into his new home and thus began his 85 years (and counting) on the ranch.
Growing up on the ranch, Donny spent decades in the saddle starting as a little tyke riding his Welch pony Scrappy. Fortunately, as he grew, so did his mounts. He and his brother not only spent many hours riding on the family ranch and working for other area ranchers including, Frank Dobson, learning to be good cowboys. Most of his years on horseback had to do with working, moving, and gathering cattle, as a young man he also enjoyed rodeoing. Donny primarily competed in bareback riding and bull riding but was also known to ride a wild cow or two.
Donny grew up learning every aspect of the family ranching operation including the less “romantic” skills necessary for success such as fencing, irrigating, and haying. He also became an expert mechanic and welder.
In his lifetime of ranching, Donny has seen many changes and improvements in how the work gets done. He went from haying and feeding cows with a 2-horse team to doing those same jobs in a 105-horse power climate-controlled John Deere tractor. That’s a far cry from when as a 10-year-old, he was tasked with raking hay with a team of horses. His father instructed him to simply “roll” off the back of the back of the rake in the event of a runaway team. This came in handy for Donny when that situation came up.
After graduating from Laramie High School and attending the University of Wyoming, Donny married his high school sweetheart Sharon “Jo” Smith on September 15, 1954. Jo joined Donny and his family on the ranch and was by his side for the next 53 years. In the late 1950’s Donny and his father expanded the family operation when they purchased the Dobson Ranch in Garrett, WY. Donny and his family ran a Hereford cow/calf operation selling yearlings in the fall. At that time, they ran a few sheep as well. Over the years Donny worked hard to build a quality cow herd consisting of black angus cross cattle and making many improvements on the ranch.
Donny has always felt the importance of being involved in agriculture and the ranching community in other ways by participating in and being involved with a variety of organizations, committees, and boards over the years. These include: Albany County and Wyoming Stock Growers, Farm Bureau, the local school board, Laramie Rivers Conservation District and the University of Wyoming Steer a Year Program
Donny and Jo have been well-known in the community for their generosity and willingness to help a neighbor in need. Donny is also known for his sense of humor, love of a good practical joke and other shenanigans. When Donny’s life and ranch partner Jo passed away in 2007 a huge void was created that can never be filled. But life goes on and the family continues to grow.
Donny is known for his work ethic, determination, and maddening and unrelenting stubbornness. He has always been and still is the first one out of the door in the morning, even to gather the neighbor’s cattle for brandings in the pre-dawn hours before the scheduled gathering time. The humor in it was not always seen by everyone. Many of these traits that he has passed down to his family members has a lot to do with his longevity in ranching. This might also explain why the family operation at MJ Ranches just keeps on going and will not doubt continue well into the future.
It’s now 2018 and Donny’s 85th calving season will be starting soon. He still gets up at dawn every day and goes about his work.