WINNEMUCCA — Three buckaroos from the Great Basin will be inducted into the Buckaroo Hall of Fame. Brothers Ray and Herman Vowell, Malin, Oregon and Loui Cerri, Paradise Valley, Nevada will be honored at a banquet Friday, August 30th and induction ceremony Saturday, August 31st at the East Hall Convention Center in Winnemucca, NV
Feb 1, 1916 – April 28, 2008
Dec 27, 1913 - Feb 14, 1999
Art and Myrtle Vowell started out in Robert Lee, TX where Art was the cow boss for the 7F ranch. After their first child Faye, was born the family moved to southern Oregon for a better way of life in 1910. They found a homestead on the Lower Klamath Lake near Merrill, OR. The couple built their ranch and could raise potatoes and grain that would sub irrigate from the lake. Art and Myrtle had five more children besides Faye. Ina, Ray, Herman, Rex and Dorothy.
A diversion dam was built in 1918 which turned their ranch into a dust bowl. They couldn’t make a living there without irrigation. Art moved the family to Klamath Falls where he started a business hauling logs by horse drawn wagons while still working for area ranches as well. Ray and Herman would watch the powerful work teams pull the wagons at the wood yard, hoping one day to drive those teams when they grew up.
The family met tragedy in 1912 when Art passed away from pneumonia. Now, Myrtle with 6 children decided to sell the teams and wagons to buy train tickets back to Texas.
Once the family got back to TX there was no way to make a living there. Myrtle had just enough money left to travel to Bakersfield, CA. She and the children worked picking cotton until they had enough money to travel back to Klamath Falls. Myrtle done everything she could to keep the family together.
Ray and Herman 9 and 7, got jobs delivering newspapers before school in the mornings to help out. They also worked delivering milk for a dairy. Both boys still wanted to be a horseman like their father.
Herman graduated from Klamath Falls High School in 1933 while Ray chased wild horses and didn’t finish High School. In 1934 Herman talked to the Carpening and Donovan outfit about a buckarooing job helping drive 300 yearling cattle from Tule Lake, CA to the Meiss Ranch at Butte Valley. The drive would take four days and camping out on the trail. Though he didn’t want to ruin his chances for the job he mentioned he had a brother that could ride too. Mr. Donavan hired them both. They had to shoe their own horses so they learned on the job. They loved every moment of the four day cattle drive realizing then they wanted to be buckaroos.
The Meiss Ranch had a lot of fence to fix. Ray and Herman helped Leo and Ed Donovan cut posts and built fence. The old cook ground all their meat into hash so they never got to eat a good steak.
Ed Donovan was as good a buckaroo they could learn from at the time. The two brothers rode horses daily breaking wild horses they caught in the area. They used Leo Donovan’s saddle to ride these bucking horses. It had a high back cantle which would hit them in the back, so they remodeled it by cutting it down an inch or two. Leo was upset about that and told them he would take the cost of the saddle out of their wage which was $30 per month so the deduction knocked a big whole in their pay.
In 1935, Herman wanted to ride saddle broncs and entered the rodeo in Dorris, California, he won the bronc riding at the age of 19.
In 1936, Herman went to work for W.C. Dalton at the Steel Swamp. Frank Pratt was the cow box and decided to quit. Dalton asked Herman if he wanted the cow boss job. Even though Herman was only 21, Dalton liked him and his honestly. So, that was Herman’s first cow boss job. He was told he could hire whoever he wanted. So a year later his brother Ray joined him at Steele Swamp. The ranch was 75 miles by dirt road from the nearest town in the middle of the Devils Garden area of the Modoc National Forest. Cattle could graze for miles without seeing a fence. Only one gate to go through from Tulelake to Alturas. Herman continued to ride saddle broncs, he entered a rodeo at Madrone, California where he won the saddle bronc riding. He met rodeo queen Betty Torrens an accomplished horsewoman. They kept in touch writing to each other and they were married in Reno, NV on August 12, 1942. Betty’s introduction to ranch life riding along with Herman and other buckaroos was all new for her. They all accepted her and always gave her the utmost respect and courtesy. They gave her the best and gentlest horses to ride.
The nearest neighbors were Thelma and Ernie Archer who lived on the Willow Creek Ranch 17 miles away. Herman and Betty didn’t quite know where they were going to live as they were just moving from cow camp to cow camp after they were first married. The couple went to Weed Valley to ride, they had a small one room cabin there. Betty didn’t know a lot about ranch life, cooking or gardening but she was more than willing to learn.
She became a good cook, gardener, canned her own fruit and vegetables and became an excellent roper as well as an all- around hand. Not many other brides probably had to spend their honeymoon in a cow camp with four other buckaroos besides her husband.
After they gathered up the cattle and sorted them the Huffman buckaroos headed back to the Willow Creek Ranch with the 5X branded beef and the pitchfork branded cattle headed back to the Dalton Ranch. Once back at the Steel Swamp they learned Jerry and Ollie Stanton, long time employees were going to quit. Herman and Betty took their place running the ranch for the Dalton’s. Brother Ray took over as buckaroo boss. This seemed to be a good thing until Herman had to sit by doing the haying and had to watch Ray ride out with the crew to go work cattle.
Summers were really nice at Steele Swamp, but the winters were hard and long. They would have to get 6 mo supplies (groceries and kerosene) in to the ranch by October to last through the winter. The ranch was pretty self- sufficient but still needed groceries to make sure they had enough. They had a milk cow, chickens, beef, vegetables in the root cellar, made their own soap and the essential sour dough starter for making bread and pancakes.
They got the mail every four to six weeks. It was a special treat to read the mail. Ray would take a pack horse and ride cross country to the home ranch 27 miles to retrieve the mail. There was an old crank phone with a telephone line strung along the tops of juniper trees. It was temperamental and worked when it wanted to.
Winter’s were harsh on the livestock and the people at Steele Swamp. In 1949, it was a cold winter remembered still as one of the worst. It started snowing early and drifted over the fences and clear to the top of the hay stack on the crusted snow drifts. Temperatures dropped to -30 degrees below zero for weeks at a time. The lowest temperature was down to -42 degrees below zero. The winter of 1951-1952 was known as the winter of deep snow. Starting to snow in November and never quit. It took extra hay to feed the cattle. So, they had to drive some of the cattle out to the home ranch. Bill Dalton made a trail with a D4 caterpillar dozer. One morning the sent 330 head on the trail behind the dozer. The snow was 3’ to 4’ deep and crusted so the cattle couldn’t stray off the trail. Not much to do for the buckaroos just follow along behind and bring up the drag. The winter of 1937 was another bad one with snow and cold temperatures below zero. Minus 40 degrees in February for 3 weeks. Cattle froze to death on the feed grounds at Tulelake with no shelter from the bitter north winds. They were wintering 1400 head at Steele Swamp.
In 1956, Betty and Herman adopted a baby girl, Susie. She took to riding horses from the start, later on winning barrel racing events in Klamath Falls seven years in a row. Always well mounted on Vowell horses.
Ray and Herman always seemed to work together all their lives working on ranches. After working at the Dalton Ranch the Vowell brothers bought a ranch in Langell Valley, Oregon and moved there in 1960. They started having a few roping clinics for friends and neighbors. Something that would later grow into quite an event. The brothers had more time to team rope, the thing they really loved to do. They quit riding bucking horses and concentrated on raising and breaking colts for sale.
In 1963, the Vowell brothers found a place at Malin, Oregon. This place was more suitable to them with nice sandy soil for a roping arena and 80 acres to run their mares and colts. They still worked part time for the Pitchfork Ranch for Dalton’s daughter Betty Lou and husband Robert Byrne.
Betty Vowel passed away in 1966, at the age of 46 leaving a big void in the lives of Herman and Ray. Herman and Betty had been married for 26 years.
Ray and Herman won many trophies and awards at the rodeos, but they each won all around saddles. Ray won his at the Alturas rodeo in 1940 and Herman won his in 1968 at Klamath Falls. They both rode those saddles to use and break horses. Herman re-married in 1970 to widow Jean Mcfall. She was a big help helping the brothers organize their roping clinics.
— See HALL OF FAME, Page 27 —
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Ray and Herman competed in team roping together Herman heading Ray on the Heels. After turning 60 they competed in the senior circuit taking a lot of winnings. They helped many youngsters get started roping at their arena.
The Vowell Brothers used the Quarter Circle H brand on their horses and the 76 Bar brand on their cattle. They could go to almost any roping event and find Vowell raised horses competing. Ray and Herman talked about their days ranching, buckarooing and long days they experienced in their lives and called it a vacation. Everyone that ever met the Vowell brothers felt lucky to have made their acquaintance.
Loui Cerri was born on January 23, 1928 in Paradise Valley, Nevada to Giovanni and Evelina Cerri. He grew on his parent’s ranch. Like other ranch boys, he started working at an early age. He worked a lifetime ranching in northern Nevada. He worked as a buckaroo for the large ranches in the Paradise Valley area, including the William Stock Company 96 Ranch and Quarter Circle A, owned by Frank McCleary.
Loui was long known as “Ole’ Let’Er Buck”, by some of his close friends. In his day, he was one of the few remaining great basin buckaroos who could remember the range in Nevada before there were fences, stock trucks, pickups and horse trailers. His infectious laugh and love of a good story and good time endeared him to many. His trademark stogie he’d smoke was usually always present. Frank Loveland remembered Loui as a kid who would ride and work cattle till he was almost falling out of the saddle at the end of the day. Frank said Loui had boundless energy and was a top hand out on the range.
Loui would be taken out of school early each spring so he could join up with one of the wagons moving cattle off of the Valley meadows where they had been fed hay all winter to the spring range. The open range in the mountains and desert country where the cattle would remain until fall and the snow began to fly again.
As a youngster, Loui survived many an adventure. One day, while riding next to Joe McErquiaga out near Black Ridge, the two young buckaroos rode along, talking and tapping spurs back and forth. Then a bolt of lightning hit, and the next thing Loui knew Joe and his horse had been killed by the lightning strike, while Loui survived virtually untouched.
Loui survived some wild early years to start a family of his own when he married his amazing wife Elaine. The two raised three children, Ron, Anita and Suzie. His buckaroo and Great Basin ranching legacy lives on in his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Loui also inspired a multitude of young buckaroos and ranchers with his strong sense of buckaroo tradition, style, work ethic and love of the range.
In 1968, Loui and his brother, Leo, bought the family ranch from their father. They quickly began to expand it by buying several of the neighboring ranches. Leo passed away from a heart attack in 1970, but Loui continued to ranch with his family until 1978 when most of the ranch was sold. Loui and his wife, Elaine, continued to live in Paradise Valley until 1988 when he sold the remainder of the ranch and they moved to Winnemucca. Even though he moved to town, he still continued to help friends and family at branding time or just to move cows. In 1988, while helping his son Ron brand at his ranch in Orovada, his rope broke, coming straight back and hitting him in the face. The resulting accident left him with just one eye.
Loui was given the 100,000 Mile Award by the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association. His miles in the saddle were compiled based on his own work diaries and many days spent in the saddle working for Leslie Stewart at the Ninety-Six Ranch and Frank Loveland of the Circle A ranches. This special award is awarded to those few buckaroos who have amassed at least 100,000 miles in the saddle. Loui logged those miles by staying out with the wagon for weeks and months at a time.
Loui continued to influence today’s ranchers, starting with his son Ron to his many grandchildren and young friends. He enjoyed traveling and took his daughters on a memorable trip to Italy. He also enjoyed showing his friends and family how to make traditional Italian sausage and red wine.
Friends and family alike will tell you that Loui never met a stranger, he seemingly had a thousand interesting and often funny stories to tell. If you ever sat around a campfire and had a drink or cup of coffee with Loui, then you were fortunate enough to hear his old stories about running mustangs, cranky horses, as well as stories of some of the old buckaroos and characters he knew.
While Loui’s later success in ranching moved him beyond the life of riding long days in the saddle that we know as a buckaroo, those simple but distinctive roots defined him. He was always hard working, loved a good horse, slick fork saddle and could rope with the best. He loved nothing better than a day out on the range, followed by a little creek fishing and a supper around a campfire. Loui Cerri was a good cook and could fix many different mouthwatering meals. If you ever tasted Loui’s quail, chukar or sage hen in red sauce over polenta, you’d know what good buckaroo Italian cooking is all about. If you were lucky enough to have been his friend, you knew there was no bond more valued by this great man who was forever shaped by his early life as a Great Basin buckaroo.