Ronald (Ron) H. Stoltenberg, the youngest of ten children, was born in 1937 in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He spent his childhood in Swan Valley, Idaho, where he learned the ropes of his family’s agricultural lifestyle, which included raising shorthorn cattle.
As a young man, Ron married his sweetheart, Marilyn, and started his ranching career working for the Conant Valley Ranch which raised purebred black Angus cattle. In November of 1960, Ron moved his small and growing family to Star Valley, Lincoln County, Wyoming where he was hired as the herdsman for the Star Valley Hereford Ranch in Thayne.
While employed at the Star Valley Hereford Ranch, Ron became involved with the Southwest Wyoming Hereford Association. This association was comprised of a group of ranchers from Lincoln, Sublette, and Uinta Counties who raised purebred Hereford cattle. They held annual fall and spring bull sales in Kemmerer, Wyoming, where yearling bulls were sold to other ranchers in the surrounding communities.
During the time that Ron worked for the Star Valley Hereford Ranch, he was also building his own purebred Hereford herd. After ten years, Ron was able to go out on his own. He moved the family to Auburn, Wyoming, and focused on raising and expanding his own herd. Ron has lived in Auburn, Wyoming since that time. Ron was elected president of the Southwest Wyoming Hereford Association in 1969 and he held that position until 1980. Eventually some of the ranches in the association started holding their own bull sales, and in 1981 the Southwest Wyoming Hereford Association disbanded.
Around this same time, Ron was approached by an area rancher who wanted to sell his forest and BLM grazing permits. Seeing a fantastic opportunity, Ron bought the permits, sold his purebred herd, and went into the commercial cattle business. The grazing permits were associated with the Star Valley Cattlemen’s Association and Ron soon became a member. After a few years of running his cattle on the grazing permits, Ron was elected president of the Star Valley Cattlemen’s Association, and he held this position for many years. In addition to running his commercial cattle operation, Ron also started a small purebred herd of red Angus cattle that he ran on private ground.
Ron was (and still is) a common sight at cattle auctions and on one occasion, he saw two poorly kept longhorn cows go through the ring. Feeling he could give them a better life, “Tex” and “Mex” became part of his commercial herd. Ron’s family often wondered if he bought them just to cause a bit of a stir as longhorns are an uncommon sight in the area. This pair became well known for marching up the road leading the rest of the herd to summer pasture.
In 1991, the Town of Afton in conjunction with the University of Wyoming held an “Ag Day” event to dedicate the newly remodeled UW research station. Classes and events promoting agriculture and the ranching way of life were held during the Ag Days. For this event, Ron was asked to organize old-fashioned cattle drive through the main street of Afton. Never being one to side step a request, Ron obliged and he, along with several other handpicked cowboys and cowgirls, completed a cattle drive through town with Tex and Mex leading the way.
Ron and Marilyn have three daughters who were involved in 4-H with horse and market beef projects when they were young. Ron became a 4-H leader for the market beef projects, and due to his many years of involvement in the bull sales in Kemmerer, he was an invaluable source of knowledge in clipping and showing cattle. He also took immense pride in teaching the kids how to make their own halters out of a length of rope. Ron supported his daughters with their 4-H horse projects but could never figure out why a good ranch horse needed “to go to town”. While he didn’t mind going to town to sit in the stands to watch his daughters compete in a rodeo, a horse show was an entirely different matter. Ron also volunteered at the beef show during the Lincoln County Fair, doing what he could to help, in addition to bringing some of his purebred herd to the show. He was asked to be the superintendent of the beef show and he held this position for a few years and then handed the position off to his wife, Marilyn. Ron also entered his hay into the hay show at the fair and received many awards for his alfalfa and grass hay. Ron was willing to help with the local rodeos where he ran the gates for the rough stock behind the chutes.
In addition to raising cattle, Ron is also an excellent horseman. He is well known for his skills in breaking work teams and many area ranchers would seek him out in their search for competent work teams. It was not uncommon for Ron to have a team of four horses harnessed up to the sleigh to feed his cattle. The winters in Auburn can be bitterly cold, especially early in the morning when the cows need to be fed. To keep warm, Ron used a propane torch and an old milk can that was cut on the side to make a portable heater for the front of the sleigh. For a period of time, an old barn cat realized that this was the warmest place to be, and Ron, being a kind rancher, would not kick the cat off the sleigh. Ron froze, his girls jogged behind the sleigh to keep warm, and the dogs were insulted that the cat was on the sleigh all warm and cozy, the only one benefitting from the heat.
Never one to allow disrespect and always looking out for the best interest of his cows, one day while Ron was moving his herd along a road, several teenagers in a truck made the unfortunate decision to hurry through the herd and in the process bumped several of the cows. In doing so, they witnessed the sound and sight of a 60-foot bull whip being popped across their windshield.
Ron raised certified alfalfa hay, some of which he contracted with the Wyoming Game and Fish for their elk feed grounds. Ron was asked by a local game warden if he would feed the elk on the feed ground in Alpine, which was 45 miles from his home in Auburn. Ron’s three girls were out on their own by that time, so for several years, he and Marilyn would drive to Alpine, harness up a team, load the sleigh, and feed the elk in the morning. When finished they would drive back to Auburn, harness up another team, load another sleigh, and feed their cows in the afternoon.
Ron is still an avid hunter and fisherman and in the early 1980’s was asked by a local outfitter to guide for him. Ron and his beloved red roan horse took many an out of state hunter into some of the most remote areas known to man looking for trophy game animals.
Ron sold his grazing permits to another permittee within the Star Valley Cattlemen’s Association. However, even at 80 plus years old, Ron can still be found riding with the association members (at their request) when they move units, helping when the cattle go out on the range, helping with roundup and back riding, and will still “tack” a shoe onto one of his loyal horses. Ron can outlast/outride anyone on a horse. It may take him a little longer to saddle up and get mounted, but once he is on, you need to be ready to ride because he doesn’t look back. Ron has the reputation of being “the hardest working man in Star Valley.” He keeps a small herd of cattle, too many horses, a few loyal dogs, the admiration of his family, and the respect of everyone he meets. As one friend who rode with him for years said, “I wouldn’t trust you with a water balloon, but I would trust you with my life.”