Scrolling through Pinterest, a pin caught my eye asking, do you know your heritage? Now in my family, it was common to talk about the old days while my great grandmas were growing up. At that moment, I wanted to know what the different last names would say about my heritage. The three last names I typed in all came from families deeply rooted in agriculture. Adding more to my pride of the women that came before me.
Then towards the end of February this year, I lost my last great grandma and it made me take stock in the incredible opportunity I had knowing 3 out of my 4-great grandma’s for the past 20 years. Recalling the old stories reminds me why I admire these tough ladies.
My Mamaw, Alama Wells was a strong woman of faith and praised her Lord with all of her heart. She lived in the farming country of Indiana. For her 97th birthday she made one more flight to Wyoming, saying one last good bye to her family. A few years before, my grandpa, or Buddy as Mamaw lovingly called him, discovered her old side saddle stored away where weather and years of neglect had taken its toll. Gift wrapped in an old toilet box, she was delighted to find her old treasure of her younger years, given back to her once more. Right there at the dinner table she held the restored black saddle, remembering the days she rode her horse to the Mercantile for soda or candy. She made an off handed comment of horse race against some boys on dare, but of course she did not want to give us any dangerous ideas.
Grandma Ellen was the daughter of Danish immigrants, who purchased a ranch on Monument Hill, in the mountains north of Cody, Wyoming. She and her sister Martha worked alongside their parents to sustain their lives on Monument Hill. Aunt Martha recounts her days riding horses with Grandma Ellen, tending the cows while the other sisters worked inside the house. In my mother’s living room is a small black and white photo of Grandma Ellen and her siblings piled into a buggy that they drove to the one room school house. She was a career woman before it even became a title. Supporting her family through her cafeteria and catering business that she ran with a partner for many years. She was a part of the many Cody historical societies and lived through losing a son to leukemia and an alcoholic mountain man for a husband.
Finally my Grandma Jeane was a wild vivacious woman. Her father was the first sheriff of Jackson but with her mother’s death at an early age she was sent to live with her older sister till 18. She went on to beauty school and with some girlfriends opened their own shop in Jackson. Then one evening going out to a social event and she danced with a rancher from Big Piney Joe Murdock. It didn’t take long till Jeane was a rancher’s wife on the Green River. Raising eight kids and ranch work is no easy task for a lady. Joe gave her some cows from the herd that were her’s to manage. Later she was received recognition as Sublette County Cattle Woman of the year.
As these stories surround me I realize that not only the last names of my ancestors indicate strong agricultural background, but it was the women that also provided my backbone in my name. My country passion comes from heritage and carrying on tradition. It’s encouraging knowing their stories after years of hard work, that maybe I will survive and hopefully live up to the standards they set in their own lives.