It was hard to come to the Beartooth Ranch and not leave with a life time of memories.  Do you have one that you would like to share with me?  Click here to tell your story.

Hugh Stafford's Beartooth Ranch Memory Lane

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Colleen, a friend of mine who now has a summer home in Nye, saw your poster in the post office (I think) and sent me a copy.  Our family as a long history with the ranch that goes back to the 1920’s when my father, Bill Stafford, attended a boys camp there for a number of summers.  His parents visited too and grew so fond of the area that they bought a ranch in the area and move there in around 1936.  Dad worked the  ranch after college (1940) and moved his new bride there in 1943.  I came along in 1944 and we lived on the ranch until 1946 (or thereabouts), when my grandparents sold the ranch and we moved into Billings.  From there we ended up in Iowa where I am at the moment.   We vacationed at the ranch over the years with Jim and Ellen and I wrangled there part of one summer when I was in high school.  Our last visit was in the mid 1980’s.

So that is my story.  Tell me what drives your interest in the place.

Hugh Stafford


Bettendorf, Iowa

Just a few memories of mine:

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My parents started going to Beartooth Ranch before I was born, around 1960.  I have enough memories to write a book!  Some include: riding Pablet the donkey, sitting on Piney for stirrup fitting, chasing Rad around trying to be friends (with no luck!), falling in love with all the horses, learning to kick ass at fooseball in the lodge, trying to swim in the ice cold water of the Stillwater, becoming a wrangler at 13, riding the same trails week after week and loving every minute of it, waking up every morning smelling the sweet cottonwoods, pine and sage, hearing the distant roar of Woodbine Falls and the nearer roar of the Stillwater River, having french toast and bacon EVERY morning after saddling the horses, dipping the enamel cup in the creek and drinking that ice cold water after a long day in the saddle, eating Edith Hudson's Squaw Bread, being stalked by a mountain lion while taking the kids on a picnic ride, being chased early one morning by a young grizzly while looking for my horse on a shetland pony, purposely screwing up at square dancing just to make Ted Wahl mad, wrangling on one of the big old kids horses just to get bucked off, riding all the way to Carters Camp just for a Tombstone pizza, all day rides to Sioux Charlie, sneaking into the kitchen at night to steal brownies for Knobby the Blackfoot Indian wrangler who I idolized, getting my first horse Sundance, going back to school in Minnesota and crying for months because I was devastated to leave the ranch for 9 months.  I am so blessed to be able to live in Red Lodge, just a short drive to the Stillwater Valley.  At 54, I am still riding my horse on the same trails.  I take deep breaths and smell the pine, cottonwoods and sage and I am 16 again.   

Memories from Joan E. (Herronen) Johnston

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I was one of the teenagers who lived at Mouat Mine and worked at the Beartooth Dude Ranch during the summers of 58-61 (I was 14 or 15 when I first started and worked every summer until after I graduated from highschool in 1961). It was truly wonderful. Jim and Ellen Langston were like Roy and Dale to us...we worked in the kitchen mainly but got to go on many trail rides and remember the good times teaching the "dudes" how to square dance in the Lodge...I would have paid to work there instead of the other way around ($75 per month plus board and room)...we girls were treated more like guests than workers...what a wonderful way to spend teenage summers...lots of memories...Am 71 years old now but still go back to those days in my dreams.

More memories...I remember a pinto named Chief, a beautiful mare named Ginger that needed a tie down because she was headstrong and would get away from you if you let her...Also remember on our afternoon breaks, we girls (Annette Wertanen, Laurie Howell, Georgia Madsen, Sherry McKinnon) and others, would go down to the river, shave our legs and paint our toenails...with the Woodbine Falls looking down from above us...and of course all we had on our minds were the boys...not the beauty of the place...but now the Falls are what I remember, and the boys I have forgotten.  

Now I am 71 years old and the boys are gone but the beautiful waterfall still my heart....


Some of the other girls who worked at the ranch over the 4 summers that I was there were Annette Wertanen, Sherry McKinnon, Laurie McClelland, Georgia Madsen...and several others...we shared cabins and one year we had 4 of us in the little cabin down toward the river (no bathroom...we had to run up to the showerhouse up by the kitchen)...Such fun...putting the garden hose in through the top vent of the showerhouse to spray people with cold water after they got dressed again! ...we did that to the wranglers once or twice and then ran like the dickens to hide from them... they were mad as hatters of course!


Pete Don’t Buck!

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Had a great conversation with David Russell who started working at the ranch when he was a freshman in high school.  He used to love playing tricks on Mark Soderlund who also worked as a wrangler.  Mark asked one day “can ya ride Pete the mule?”.  David said, “Yes!  He’s wonderful!  He’s smooth and really nice to ride!”, knowing that he was only a pack mule…never been ridden!  They put the pack saddle on him, Mark got on, and Pete started bucking up a storm!  He bucked to the saddle barn and every time he bucked, Mark would hit his head on the eave of the roof!  He was then getting beat up by the D rings on the pack saddle!  According to David, he got a “merciful beating”!  The standing joke was…”Pete Don’t Buck!"

Sheila Johns Wells, waitstaff 1978

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“It was the best summer of my life!”

Jim Noe, Red Lodge, Montana

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“I remember going to the Beartooth Ranch as a little pard and going on trail rides. My Dad helped Jim Langston set up “happy hour.” Good times!”

Jim Langston, owner

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“When we hear a plane fly over head, we cover our coffee cups…after people stay at the ranch, they all say they want their ashes dropped out of a plane over Beartooth Ranch…so when we’re outside, we cover our coffee cups!”


March 21, 2016

We have recently lost a great man, Jim Langston. He will be deeply missed by the many people he touch with his sideways smile and hilarious stories.  May he ride God's trails on a horse that don't spook, buck or kick.  He is now riding into eternity...he, his horse and God.  

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