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Z Bar U Dude Ranch

Page history last edited by Clint Gilchrist 8 years, 10 months ago

Shangrila at the Z Bar U Dude Ranch 

 The Story of Sid and Amie Reynolds
Published in Sublette County Journal October 3 & 17, 1997
 Judi Myers


From the east coast came the dudes and dudeens, ready to spend a month at the tranquil, primitive, and exceptionally beautiful Z Bar U (Z-U) Dude Ranch. Located above Willow Creek north of Cora, its special friendliness extended to neighbors, guests, and the entire county.


The Z-U sits on a beautiful hillside of sage and quakies growing into the black timber of the Wind River Mountains. On a little creek named Dead Horse Sid, Spike and Jack Reynolds built a dream. Sid took up the area homesteaded by Bill Rema and began building cabins. His brother Spike built furniture and father Jack helped around.  With the help of neighbor Paul Pape, Sid broke horses and the dude ranch opened.


Amelie deBlanc Zell came in 1938 as a green dudeen on her way to California, spent a week at the Z-U and immediately fell in love with the ranch and with the auburn-headed cowboy, Sid Reynolds. The couple was married the following autumn in the midst of a hurricane - one of the worst storms ever to hit the New England coast. "Sid WOWed his in-laws," said Gina Pape Feltner "by wearing cowboy boots with his suit. Amie's mother took one look at Sid and said to her daughter, 'And WHAT are those THINGS on his feet?'" Sid and Amie returned to Sublette County and lived in a sheepwagon that first winter with the new bride enthusiastic and positive about her new life.


"The Z-U was wonderful. Simply wonderful," remembers Susan Pape Riggs. There's hardly a native Sublette Countian over 40 who doesn't have a Z-U story. Louise Miles first visited in 1945. "It was absolutely fabulous to be a dudeen there. I stayed 3 weeks. We rode everyday and I told Sid 'Don't let a string of horses go out without me. I'm not sitting here on this porch!"' On pack trips Sid was the cook and a good one. He'd try to bring just the exact amount of food but he'd usually run low.


Louise recalls Sid saying "Guess we'll have to leave - we're out of Bull Durham and preserves". But he did have a few eggs and one last trail breakfast to make. "So," said Louise, "Sid made scrambled eggs and mixed them with split pea soup to make them go farther. I had the original 'Green Eggs and Ham' - not bad either".


Sid was a cowboy who started out cooking for cow camps and for the DC Bar. His experience was the seed for the Z-U. He had red hair, a big mustache and bushy eyebrows that he'd twist. He was not a large man, only about 5'6", 140#, and always wore high-heeled Blucher boots and a silver Indian bracelet. Walt's son Irv remembers "Sid loved Old Charter Bourbon Whiskey and water back. That's what they call a water chaser now."


Sid and Amie's mode of dress was long-sleeved western shirts, new levis that had to be rolled up 5 or 6 inches "and could probably stand by themselves," laughed Irv, "mufflers around their necks - that's a cowboy scarf - even when it was hot," sometimes cowboy cuffs to protect their shirts from getting dirty and jingling spurs. Irv goes on to say "those spurs were the flavor of the day. They even wore them in the kitchen. Sounded good."


From all reports Amie herself was simply incredible. She was a renegade with a twinkle in her eye. She loved this country and never complained about the hard work or harsh weather.


Young Gary Wilson thought she was beautiful. Gina Pape grew up on the next ranch up the creek and remembers Amie as "very much a lady, outdoorsy. She was able to cope with any situation. She'd work alongside any man - cutting wood, wrangling horses - and hold up her end. She wore plain gold earrings. Had her ears pierced! That was something, back in those days." Amie always said grace before meals and went to church at St. Andrew's in the Pines in Pinedale. She was generous, happy and delightfully alive.


In winter she and Sid traveled throughout the east to visit family and recruit guests. They were welcomed wherever they went.  Amie's enthusiasm and color permeated every household, especially when she would visit the homes of wealthy New York families and pull out her Bull Durham to roll a cigarette like it was a natural occurrence, which it was for her. She was just herself - open, honest and full of integrity. Her niece, Mary Anne Hittle said, "She was always a lady. Nothing crude about her." To Gina's sister, Susan, Amie was practically another mother. "Amie was kind, round-eyed and we thought she was gorgeous. She was as neat a person as I'd want to know in my life. She wore her cowboy hat tipped and held with a stampede strap - which was a real dudie thing." Susan also remembers one of Amie's favorite saying: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's horse".


The Z-U Ranch started taking dudes in 1935. Spike and his wife, Peggy, who was also from the east, soon had a young son Spence ('Penny'). In 1939 Spike had an accident with a runaway team, and was taken to the Rock Springs hospital.  Mike Noble remembers that Peggy was in the east at the time and had to be called back. In the hospital Spike gestured to Peggy and she figured he wanted a cigarette, so she rolled him one. He got a contented look on his face. It was his last Bull Durham. The local paper said Spike died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Peggy later married Paul Pape, who built her a 2-room cabin known as the 'Hill House' and for awhile they lived at the Z-U.


Amie was one of the few people who could get away with giving nicknames to everyone. Sid was 'Skipper', Walt Lozier was 'Waltie', George Pape was 'Gee Oh', and Mary Anne was 'Neicy'. Gina Pape was 'Puddin' and Patsy Lozier was 'Patches'. Susan said, "I can just see Sid out in the corral yelling at us to make our horses mind. "Swear at him, dammit! Swear, Puddin!"


The dude ranch wranglers and the neighbor kids had nicknames too. The Loziers called Sid 'Uncle Stinky'. Janie Lozier Mickelson said it was because of his feet.  Her brother Irv said Sid was not aware of the nickname and thought the 'stinky' part was from the cigarettes he would roll and always be smoking. Sid had the initials SOR on his saddle and the Pape girls remember the wranglers teasing that it stood for 'Sour Old Reynolds'.


An overwhelming sense of family, friendship and comraderie permeate memories of the Reynolds' and the Z-U. George and Texas Pape lived one mile up creek while Nancy and Walt Lozier lived two down. The Reynolds, Pape and Lozier men were all local cowboys and their wives had all come in as dudeens. "We really neighbored on the creek" said Janie. "We went to each other’s houses for holidays. We'd check on each other. It was survival. We'd share the fruits of our labor. If one had chickens and others didn't, we'd share." Her brother Irv added, "Sid used to make jerky for everyone. We'd supply the meat and he'd make it for a share." Even though Amie and Sid did not have children, they felt education was important. One winter the Lozier and Pape girls rode to the Z-U for school. It was a central location and the Reynolds' gave free room and board.


Gina recalled their families working together, doing things together and having fun. "My dad would be in our yard and he'd hear a little noise way off and say, 'Sid's got his sawmill going. He'll be needing some help' and he'd be off." It was the same with getting ice out in winter - Papes, Loziers and Reynolds working together.


Irv remembers the time a bear got into Sid's meathouse through the screen window. Sid was in the main lodge and shot from there. The bear did not come out and Sid, not wanting to confront the bear alone, rode down to the Box R and got Walt to come check with him. They discovered that the bear had been shot right through the lung and was lying dead in the middle of the meathouse.


Another time barrels of rejected Fig Newtons ended up at the Z-U and Sid got some pigs to eat them. He woke up one morning to their squealing. Sid put on his carpet slippers and dressing gown, grabbed his gun and went out to find a bear had a hold on a pig. Sid was afraid to shoot at the bear so he shot the pig instead and let the bear have it.


In the early 1950s buffalo showed up on Willow Creek. The State Game Commission decided to round them up and enlisted the help of the local cowboys. "It was a BIG deal, a MEN deal," remembers Susan. "The women and children got to sit on a hill to watch, but all they saw was those buffalo stampede south, flattening fence as they went." Some miles south a rancher put an end to the roundup by shooting every one of those buffalo as they came through his place.


Gina remembers a runaway when she was 5. "Sid came to get us girls in the stagecoach for Penny's birthday party. Sid was riding up on top and breaking a 4 horse hitch - buckskins. Peggy was in with us kids and those horses took off. It was a wild ride and it took some doing for Sid to get them stopped."


Susan remembers the time Sid got angry at Gene Isaacs for buzzing around in an airplane and coming down close to the Z-U horses before landing at the Pape Ranch. "Sid came riding up with his red hair flying," said Susan. "He knocked on the door which we NEVER did, tipped his hat to Mom and said 'Gene, can I see you outside?' Mom kept us girls inside but I knew Sid was out there turned Gene every which way but loose!"


At times the neighboring children would stay with Sid and Amie. Gary Wilson remembers, "They gave my brother red chaps and I got blue ones. The cowhands teased us. Sid carved toy guns for us too." The Lozier kids also stayed at the Z-U. Janie remembers that when Sid and Amie had a drink, she got a glass of canned grapefruit juice. "It was awful! But they did special things for me - braid my hair, read WILL JAMES books to me in the evening, make popcorn. Sid made a horsehair rope for my son."


In December, 1952, Sid and Amie reached out to the entire county and began an alternative 'newsmagazine' named SMOKE SIGNALS for the Native American method of communication. For 10 cents one could buy this weekly paper of 4-8 pages full of photos, news features, area activities, social visitings and history. Their office was above the old drugstore and even with the Z-U responsibilities, Amie would drive to town at least two days a week to put the paper together. After one year of operation SMOKE SIGNALS reached the 500 subscribers necessary to become a 'legal newspaper'. However 2 months later, with hints of financial problems, the paper came to an end.  Sid and Amie wrote, "This is the last issue ... the council fire is out. The smoke has blown away."


Although Sid and Amie no longer mailed out weekly news, they welcomed all of Sublette County to their home, right along with the dudes. It did not matter who showed up. They were invited to dinner. Father Bartek used to go there to fish and "let his hair down" remembers one of their wranglers. The Z-U rodeos were the hot spot to be and everyone in the county looked forward to them. "They were wild and crazy," recalls Janie. "Cow riding for the women, wild cow milking, steer riding, egg races, sack races; everyone participated. The cowboys would bring in their goosey horses for the bronc riding." One time George Pape rode over on his horse 'Goldie', put him in the bucking string and drew him for the bronc riding. "Got bucked off his own saddle horse," his daughter said. "Had to ride him back home, too!"


Other events included barrel racing for the girls, team roping and bull riding for the cowboys. Irv remembers some of the dude events like Cowboy Chairs, one of Sid and Amie's inventions. Eight dudes raced their horses across the arena to 7 chairs on the other side, jumped off their horses and sat down. Whoever did not get a chair or could not hold his horse, was out. It went on like Musical Chairs until someone won.


Another dude event was Potato Racing. A bucket of potatoes was at one end of the arena and an empty bucket at the other. Each rider had a sharp willow stick and loped to one bucket, speared a potato, raced to the other pail and pulled the stick out while leaving the bucket upright.


Without electricity or loudspeakers, everyone just yelled at these rodeos. Susan remembers "Sid was sitting on his horse in the middle of the arena and yelling. No one could hear him, but no one was listening anyways." Eight year old Julie Swain would stand on her bareback horse while it loped around the arena and she twirled hoola hoops. Sid and Amie gave rides in their Yellowstone Tour stagecoach pulled by Separator and Substance. John Miller who cooked at the Box R summed it up: "Sid and Amie would do just about anything to entertain those dudes and dudeens".


Towards the end of Amie and Sid's quarter century at the Z-U the rodeos were held once a year, right before haying season. There would be cars and trucks up and down the hill. "Of course we went to the rodeos up at the Z-U," said Janice Kanski. "A whole carload of us girls would go up. Lots of good looking guys were up there!" Gary Wilson said it was amazing how many people would come. "It was the biggest rodeo in the county, the kind you'd expect to see in Jackson. It was always a spectacle." Irv Lozier, Ross Alexander and Larry Ruland gathered up the bucking horses and calves for the last 3 rodeos in the early 1960s. "Dog and steers," said Irv. "Well, it was 'bull dogging' back then, but now it's 'steer wrestling'." The rodeo was followed by a potluck supper and dance at the 'The Playhouse'. Neighbors brought their instruments, someone played the piano or the victrola was cranked up. The community was welcomed and as Irv said, "It was a regular AFFAIR".


The everyday affairs of the ranch were not quite as spectacular as the rodeos. Sid, in his high-heeled boots, would get up early to rope the horses that were going to be used that day. "It was a big deal for the guests as much as a necessity," said Irv. There would be a morning ride, fishing and relaxing in the afternoon and perhaps an evening ride and picnic on Flat Top Mountain to watch the moon come up. Guests would get a feel for the country life and the majestic land.


Beneath the aspens, the Z-U had a dozen or so buildings. The main house had a kitchen, dining room and an area to sit in front of the fireplace. On the porch was a swing. The single and double cabins had chamber pots and small woodstoves. The closets, wall hooks, door handles and furniture were homemade. The 'Weaning Pen' was the girls' bunkhouse. The boys' bunkhouse was above Sid and Amie's bedroom. The 'Playhouse' was a library, game room, and dance hall. Weddings, and church services were held, and many a teenage romance blossomed there. There were many outhouses but only one 'Wash House' for all the guests. Irv said Amie had to keep watch on the wranglers or they'd get to thinking they had to help the dudeens draw their bath water. Laundry was done once a week in the Wash House. Everyone threw in their dirty clothes and sheets and then it was sorted, washed and line-dried. Closer to Willow Creek were the corrals, tack room and stud barn. Having the run of the ranch, was Sid and Amie's special Cocker Spaniel 'Blondie'.


One summer morning a woman wrangler was saddling horses alone when an 'arrogant' doctor dude came in. He could not believe a woman was doing all the work so she said, "Why don't you help?" He did. Later he told her it was the greatest vacation he had ever had. "I felt a part of it," he told her.


Many guests came year after year, stayed two to four weeks and felt especially close to the country. They went on 3-day to week-long pack trips into the mountains. One of Amie's favorite horses on these trips was 'Brown Jug'. Sid was familiar with Indian life and had written an article on Chief Washakie that was published in "American Heritage". Up in the mountains he would tell his wonderful stories about Indians or spin tales about the 'Ninimbys'. "They were a tribe of little people as I remember," said Susan "...mummified people who lived up in the mountains."


There is fact behind these stories as a curled up 6-7 inch desiccated body was found in Wyoming's San Pedro Hills in 1932. Anthropologist Charlie Love remembers that his father David Love, Indian expert Tom Barber and the Reynolds' sat down together at the Z-U in 1947 and wrote down 17 pages of Ninimby information. The 'Pedro Mummy' itself was owned by Ivan Goodman and loaned to Leonard Walter for 'scientific' research. It instead went to a side show and was never returned nor found. On pack trips Z-U guests would be enthralled by Sid's stories and legends. True or embellished, Irv Lozier remembers Sid's stories, "Sid was a showman. He could tell windies all day."


On one pack trip a woman broke her pelvis and had to be hauled out on a travois. In the 1940's a nine-year old boy was lost on a fishing trip. Food and equipment were moved up the trail and a call was made for bloodhounds from Colorado. Peggy Reynolds Pape Kvenild wrote, "Just the call ... had alerted the whole rural telephone line and before four in the morning men were streaming in." The bloodhounds arrived and had to be placed in panniers for the 8 mile ride to the area where the boy had been lost. Before the dogs got there Carroll Noble and Lee Thompson found the boy alive and safe.


As Sid got older the neighbors helped on the Z-U pack trips if they got overloaded. In 1955 Sid contracted with the American Forestry 'Trail Riders' to do a 12-day trip with 30 people. "It was a brave undertaking," said Irv. "Sid didn't have half enough tents or supplies so Dad and Kelly Wilson came in to help. There were 88 head of livestock and 8 or 10 wranglers."


Louise Miles went on a pack trip in 1959. Sid had emphysema. "As we got higher and higher his lips and face turned purple. The guys had to help him off his horse." Mary Anne went on her Uncle Sid's last pack trip in 1964. They were in Big Rock Park and her Aunt Amie came to meet them. "I knew the altitude didn't help his emphysema. I heard him tell Amie 'I'll never be back' and I realized how hard it was for him. He loved the mountains."


In January, 1965, the Klarens bought the Z-U and ran it for 5 more years. Sid died 10 months after selling and Amie died in July of 1996. Weeds have overgrown the paths between the cabins, the sundial is gone, bats live in The Playhouse but Sid and Amie still live in the hearts of those they touched.


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