How does someone who is not a rancher, isn’t an irrigator, hasn’t spent much time in the hay field and has never been very handy with a pair of wire stretchers make a name for himself as Western to the core? He proves that he “knows what the cow says to her calf … and how to make the horse he is riding watch her.”
Doing cow work for decades in six states, including in northwest Wyoming, is the most important qualifying factor for the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame, and Kent Snidecor of Cora, the man who knows horses and cattle, was inducted in 2022.
As a youngster growing up near San Bernardino, California, Kent and his friends labeled themselves the Flying Five and spent their free time getting into mischief on horseback. The more serious offenses got the attention of the law, but instead of fast cars to elude the police they rode fast horses.
Kent left California when he was 17 the day he graduated from high school. He hitchhiked around, working on ranches in Idaho, Oregon and Nevada. The following summer he went to work for Arlington Cattle Co. near Buckeye, Arizona, as a feedlot cowboy.
When he heard heard of a job in New Mexico with the Mescalero Cattle Association, he headed east and began working with a crew of 15 cowboys – half of them Apache and half white. They ran 10,000 head of mother cows, used a chuck wagon for support and slept in tents or out on the ground.
On To Wyoming
In November 1963, Kent headed north to a new job in Sublette County. He was 20 and worked as a packer and guide for Mary Faler, who owned Faler Hunting Camp. He stuck with that job even after Mary’s death when the camp sold to Boulder Lake Outfitters.
After four years as manager of three hunting camps and more than 120 head of horses and mules, Kent took a job working in Fremont County. But soon Kent returned to Sublette County and found work with the Hoback Stock Association, which had 10 permittees and 3,000 head of cattle that used the rugged, steep country of the Hoback.
During winters, Kent worked on the James ranch near Daniel, spent time in San Inez, California, exercising racehorses, did feedlot riding near Schaffner, California, and found cowboying jobs in Jeffery City for two winters and the Mojave Desert for another.
Kent returned to the Hoback Basin in the spring of 1988 and found a job with the Little Jennie Ranch doing the night calving, checking the cows as they birthed their calves during the middle of the night.
When the cattle went to the forest in the summer, Kent rode with the herd to Granite Creek, where the Little Jennie had a private allotment. He spent summers cowboying on Granite and the winters feeding with a team of horses until calving started, then again going on night calving duty.
After he left the Little Jennie Ranch, Kent went to work for the Fish Creek Cattle Association in the Hoback Basin. He worked for Fish Creek for four years, and by then had punched cows in the Hoback Basin for a total of 16 years.
The Horses Are A Little Rough
Wintertime during these years he went to warmer climates and cowboyed on ranches.
He remembers one that tested his abilities. The Ellison ranch in Squaw Valley, Nevada, was out in the middle of nowhere and Kent had been told that the horses were pretty “broncy” and the cowboys were as tough as nails.
Stanley Ellison owned six ranches and at that time had the largest Bureau of Land Management grazing permit in the state of Nevada. When Kent showed up for work, the boss was on crutches. The man opened the closet in the bunkhouse and it was full of crutches from all the hands before him who had been bucked off some of those “broncy” horses.
He told Kent, “The horses are a little tough here.”
True Test Of A Cowboy
The horses proved to be as rugged as expected. Horse trailers weren’t used; the cowboys went where they were going on a long trot or what they referred to as the “Ellison Stretch.” The vast country meant there was a lot of mileage covered horseback on a daily basis.
When Kent headed back to Wyoming in the spring, he hadn’t had to borrow any crutches out of the closet nor had he been fired, so he did alright.
Another large ranch that Kent worked on one winter was the Diamond A out of Seligman, Arizona. He rode with a wagon this time, which gave him another good experience and a few more nasty horses to add to his resume. In one case, a tough horse ride left Kent with some broken ribs, so he ended up washing dishes for the wagon cook while healing up.
He and his son Boone, who had been riding from the time he was old enough to sit on a horse, found jobs in Texas one winter, but Wyoming called, and Kent returned to work for the Grindstone Cattle Company near Daniel as the cow boss on the Duke Place.
At the time of his induction into the WCHF, Kent was 79 and still riding good horses and working cattle. Through the years he has been a great mentor to a lot of young people.
“I was a half-assed bronc rider,” Kent said. “I never spent much time in the arena roping, but I rode and roped pretty good in the real world, amongst the brush, trees, and badger holes. I was pretty good with young horses. I tried to make my living a horseback for over 50 years, which wasn’t easy. I have always felt better about myself when I was horseback.”