LAGRANGE – Following in the boot prints of his father, Frank, and uncle Ernest – Archie Johnson of the Broken Box Ranch near LaGrange will be inducted into the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame this fall.
The ranch holds a special place in Johnson’s heart – it is, after all, the only place he has ever lived and has served as his family’s home for the last 111 years.
“My granddad (Jelmer) moved up here in 1907,” Johnson said.
Currently, the ranch is all cows and calves, save one circle of alfalfa hay.
“Watching those calves be born and grow, and then selling them in the fall,” Johnson said of a few of the highlights of his ranch life. “This time of the year, we go help people brand, and they help us brand – it’s a good time of year. It’s a little more fun to get to see all of the people. But, I kind of enjoy the whole thing – you’re your own boss out here, outside. I just enjoy living on the land.”
The Broken Box Ranch prides itself on doing most everything on horseback, and Johnson particularly enjoys roping, heeling, and dragging the calves during brandings.
“We make sure everybody gets a chance to rope – it’s just kind of a fun time. Most everybody enjoys branding season,” he said. “This year, it’s been a little hectic. We’ve had to reschedule our branding (due to weather), the neighbors had to reschedule.
“It’s a good time of year, though. We had two fairly decent blizzards this spring, and one mini blizzard. Come this time of year, we’re usually not having any bad storms, the grass is turning green, calves are growing, and things are looking up.”
Johnson believes the WCHF serves an important purpose, in its goal “to preserve, promote, perpetuate, publish and document Wyoming’s rich working cowboy and ranching history through researching, profiling and honoring individuals who broke the first trails and introduced that culture to this state.”
“There are a lot of people who don’t realize where their food comes from,” he said. “Some people are just astonished we still use horses. Farmers go through the same thing … some people don’t know what goes into producing their food … the time and the effort, sometimes the headaches we have with the weather – people need to know where their food comes from.
“It’s kind of colorful, especially in Wyoming, with this Hall of Fame thing, it’s really good,” he continued. “You can go to any corner of the state of Wyoming and find dozens of older, and now getting to be a younger generation, of really good cowboys in the state.”
Johnson and his late wife, Kathy, raised three sons on the Broken Box Ranch: Andy, a teacher; and Matt, and Patrick, both of whom continue to work on the family ground.
“As far as being a cowboy, they’re probably better cowboys than I am – their granddad taught them a lot,” Johnson said, adding, “My wife died in ’08 … she was raised in Torrington … we met and got married and she moved out here. She adapted really well – she was a great ranch wife. She could fix a meal and feed a bunch of people in a hurry (during brandings, etc.).”
In 2016, Frank and Ernest Johnson were inducted into the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame, and Johnson said he’s proud to join them there.
“It’s nice to be in there with them,” he said. “Another uncle, Earl Marsh, from Laramie County … will be inducted in this year. He was quite a roper and a really good cowman.”
In addition, Johnson’s nephew, Dean Gorsuch, who teaches welding at Eastern Wyoming College, was named to the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame this year.
“We’re all in the livestock/cowboy-type of business,” Johnson said. “The whole family’s kind of tied in.”
Despite it being a busy time of year for ranchers – vaccinating, weaning and selling calves – Johnson said he plans to attend the WCHF induction ceremony at the Casper Events Center on Sept. 22.
“It’s hard to pass up,” he said.
He is one of 47 new selections to bring the WCHF Honoree total to 283 since the Premiere Induction in 2014.
“As long as I can still get on my horse and not fall off,” Johnson said of his plans to continue cowboying. “These boys – sometimes I just got to stay out of their way and let them do it … they can handle things pretty well. I’ll hang around as long as I can.”
Other Goshen County inductees include Bruce Laird and Gary Walker. Laird was profiled in the Wednesday, May 29 issue. Watch for an upcoming edition of the Telegram for a feature on Walker.