December 23, 2010

Happy Trails Clark Wheeldon - Godspeed

Clark Wheeldon and his dog Rat, hunting in the Gros Ventre Mountainsat
Clark Wheeldon and his dog Rat, hunting in the Gros Ventre Mountains.
My friend Clark Wheeldon died the other day, a western character like no other! He will be missed but he gave us many memories hundreds of us will treasure forever.

Clark was my first friend in Jackson Hole; he rented me a house on his ranch and was immediately accepted into Clark's world, a world of horses, rodeo, hunting tall tales and family. It wasn’t long before my wife Sharon, and I felt as though we were a part of the family. We were soon friends with a great extended family of true western characters.

Clark always had a pot of coffee on the stove and a story to tell, and his stories were always good. A revolving door of characters were always stopping by, and he never had to worry about emptying that pot of coffee alone.

Many old cowboys are colorful characters, but Clark outshined them all. He’d start weaving the story and that twinkle would come out in his eye and that mischievous grin would cross his lips, and you knew you were in for a good one. He used to tell us about 25% of something and left the rest to our imaginations. Clark was a man of mysteries, and he would almost tell you some of them. I firmly believe all that Clark left to my imagination about deeds he hinted that he may have done.

Clark and Granddaugheter Sadee Wheeldon horseback riding in the Gros Ventre Wilderness
Clark and Granddaugheter Sadee Wheeldon horseback riding in the Gros Ventre Wilderness
In the 1956 film Jubal starring Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine, and Rod Steiger Clark was the stunt rider for Glenn for a two minute bucking horse ride, a ride that makes all those eight-second riders look like pikers. Hearing Clark was in it I rented it while sill living on the ranch, Clark stopped by the house while my wife and I were watching it and he watched the riding scene with us. He claimed that he had never seen it. This rodeo tradition continued until his progeny took over the Jackson Hole Rodeo.

Clark knew I was pretty good about keeping my dog secured and didn’t let him run abound, but one day he got through a cracked door. Spot, the dog went chasing sheep and bit up about ten of them, a week later one of them died. I promptly went over and tried to pay for the sheep.

Clark says: “ You ain’t paying for the sheep”

Me: Yes I am, my dog killed your sheep and I’m paying you for him.

This went back and forth for a bit until Clark concluded.

It ain’t your fault that sheep died, you know how those sheep are, their head gets a little bit to close to the ground then they are dead. You ain’t paying for that sheep!

clark Wheeldon, hunting client Bruce and I on hunting trip in the Gros Ventre Mountains
Clark Wheeldon, hunting client Bruce and I on hunting trip in the Gros Ventre Mountains
Sitting around the fire in hunting camp with a hunter that was a doctor from Pennsylvania, chat got around to college, and the Doctor said he went to Penn State, Clark replied, “ I want to Penn State too, or was that State Pen"?

Most ranchers have a cow dog, not Clark; Clark had a dackusaund hound named Rat that rode on his horse with him. It was something to see. He had a piece of carpet tied onto the back of the saddle so Rat would have a place to ride. He did make Rat walk a lot but when it was time to ride he would tell Rat to load.

I happened to be out of town when my moving truck came, and I had hired some young movers to move the stuff into the house, Clark stopped by to find the two movers sitting on the front steps while putting off carrying my safe into the house, Sharon said Clark was pissed these workers were sitting on their ass and he went over to the moving truck, and 63 year old Clark picked up the safe and took it into the house; the embarrassed movers jumped back to work.

Our friend Harry Taylor was known to overindulge in the booze more than he should, well one day after retirement age Harry went out and got a job, all was well until he up and died. Visiting with Clark shortly thereafter we were bemoaning Harry’s demise, and Clark said, “ That’s it – I’m quitting."

Me: I asked, “ What are you quitting Clark” expecting him to reply “ Drinking”

Clark: Working, I’m gonna quit working, look what it did to Harry!

About ten years ago Clark got a hip replacement so I decided I would drop in on him and see how he was doing.

Me: It looks like you are getting around on that new hip pretty good.

Clark: Yep, pretty good, pretty good.

Knowing that what a good sense of humor Clark had I replied.

Me: Well when are the going to get around too replacing you rest of you?

Clark: Ha, ha, ha, I don’t know but it better be soon!

I knew Clark would have a clever response :D

My times on the ranch are treasured memories and one of the highlights of my life.
Clark wasn't a big fan of the government and I would like to share a couple of his poems he wrote on the subject
Capitol Hill National Anthem by Clark Wheeldon
Rejected from Hell - a poem by Clark Wheeldon
Clark Wheeldon hunting the Gros Ventre Mountains
Happy Trails Clark - Godspeed

If anyone has any Clark Wheeldon Stories please share them below

December 01, 2010

Jackson Hole Wyoming's National Elk Refuge

When the sun peaks over the Gros Ventre Mountains east of Jackson Hole, and its light creeps slowly across valley, light creeps over bundles of fur and antlers starting to stir from a cold winter night. As the sun reaches the base of the Grand Teton, orange and yellow light bathes the landscape and 6,000 wintering elk. By ten o'clock, adventurous visitors braving the winter cold venture out on the refuge in horse drawn sleighs to get an up close view of these majestic animals.

In the pre Columbian area elk ranged from the eastern states through central and western North America. They grazed the open prairies, mountain valleys, and foothills. As settlers pushed slowly westward, the distribution of the elk was rapidly reduced to the western mountains. By 1900, elk had disappeared from more than 90 percent of their original range.

When settlers arrived in Jackson Hole and homesteaded the valley in the 1880s, there may have been as many as 25,000 that wintered here. Establishment of farms and ranches displaced the elk from the traditional wintering areas and livestock competed for winter food, and hungry elk raided haystacks. The ranchers had to kill the elk if they wanted to stay in business.

In the early 1900s, severe winters with deep, crusted snow also took a serious toll on the wintering elk. In 1909 the ranchers and town folk of Jackson Hole appealed government to fund some land and a feeding program too save the diminishing elk herd. The refuge was created in 1912 as a result of public interest in the survival of the Jackson elk herd on about 1200 acres. The government has added to it over the years and today the Refuge consists 24,700 acres and is some of the last remaining elk winter range for the Jackson Hole Elk Herd. Prior to1916 Refuge was dotted with over 44 homesteads.

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