A. Wright Dickinson III
A.W. Dickinson III, known as Wright or Dick, was born April 30, 1931, in Rock Springs, Wyoming to A.W. Dickinson Jr. and Margaret Sparks Dickinson. He went home to the ranch south of Rock Springs that had been established by his maternal grandfather, Charles L. Sparks, in 1885. The ranch rested in the three-corner area of Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. Dick lived his infancy and early childhood immersed in the daily goings on of ranch life with his best friends being his dogs, horses, and above all his great uncle, Arthur Sparks. This closeness to his great uncle and the time they spent together is formative in the way that Dick has chosen to live his life.
When it came time for Dick to attend school, he reluctantly moved to Rock Springs with his mother, as was customary for many ranch families. He dreamed of being home on the ranch and waited for breaks so he could get home and get back to work. He attended most of his school years in Rock Springs with the exception of one year that he attended grammar school in California while his dad worked there. Dickinson graduated from Rock Springs High School in 1950. Although he was not a natural born athlete, by his own admission, he played football and basketball and earned his varsity letter. Dick recalled his coach telling him that despite the fact that he never became a star player, he never quit trying. This attitude of perseverance and persistence has carried him through many valleys and over several mountains throughout his life.
College years were spent in Fort Collins when CSU was known as Colorado A&M. He earned his DVM and graduated in 1956. Dickinson was a member of the college rodeo team, which consisted mostly of ranch or agriculture kids. His events were tie down and steer wrestling. He was a member of the 1954 National Collegiate Rodeo Championship Team.
While at college, he was active in ROTC. This enabled him to enter the United States Army as a lieutenant following his graduation from college. He was stationed in San Antonio, TX., Chicago, Ill., and San Francisco, CA. He served as a meat inspector. His time in the Army was cut short by the unexpected news that his father had suffered a heart attack and survived but would require his only child’s help to run the ranch.
Wright Dickinson returned home to begin his life’s work in earnest. During his college days he remembered one of his veterinary professors telling him that he needed to decide if he wanted to be a vet or a cowboy. He chose both but the majority of his vet practice was reserved for his own outfit and most of his days were spent doing everything on the ranch that was necessary. He could be found moving cattle, handling the sheep, baling hay, and even building reservoirs on the dozer.
Despite the fact that most of his school years were spent away from the ranch, Dickinson savored every moment that he was at home in the country. He learned a multitude of skills simply by being where he was and actively living the cowboy and ranch life. He was riding by himself at the age of three and because there were no other kids around, he went out with the hay crew when he was very young.
Work was his play. He learned to drive a team well and felt especially proud when he had earned Arthur’s trust and respect enough to be given his own mower and team somewhere between the age of 10-12.
If he wasn’t in the hay field, he and Uncle Arthur were on the mountain taking care of the cow herd that was part of the Spark’s Ranch. When the ranch began, sheep were the main focus but with the death of Dick’s grandfather in 1930 and the ensuing years of the Great Depression, the ranch began to evolve. As Dick grew in age and experience, the cows became his focus and passion. The years that he spent riding and working with Arthur are forever etched in his memory. When
Arthur passed away in 1954, his legacy of cowboy life was handed down to his great- nephew and was never taken lightly by the latter.
Cowboying and ranching didn’t leave a lot of time for socializing but occasionally Dick would venture out and at the age of 29 he fell in love with a Rock Springs girl who had ties to the Brown’s Park country. Pauline Radosevich’s grandfather had bought a ranch from Dick’s grandmother Sparks in 1932. They had known of one another but when it all came together, they were sure to be a pair for a lifetime. Dick and Polly were married in 1960 in Rock Springs. She moved to the country and the adventure commenced.
Together the two of them have raised four children, T. Wright, Jean, DeeDee, and Marc. Due to the isolated location of the ranch, the kids attended the one room schoolhouse in Brown’s Park, Colorado and then later Polly moved into Craig, Colorado for the schooling opportunities that were available there. Rock Springs would have likely gotten the bid because of distance but because there was no agriculturally oriented classes and no FFA Chapter in Sweetwater County, Craig won out.
All of the kids went on to graduate from college and return home to help run the ranch. Because Dick’s kids were in the school system, he somehow found himself as a member of the school board. He served for nearly 20 years. All the while advocating for rural schools and agriculture. Polly said that if he hadn’t been on the school board, they never would have left the ranch or had any family vacations.
Oh, there were vacations but most centered around something to do with the ranch business, agriculture advocacy, horse and cattle sales or dealing with three different states and their respective government agencies. Trips to Craig, Vernal or Rock
Springs for BLM meetings somehow qualified as family outings. Dick was also a great horseshow judge and traveled around with his judging so the family got involved or went along.
Dick is passionate about good horses and cattle and was instrumental in bringing the F1 cross to the south country of Sweetwater County. For many years the Hereford breed was king but through his education and progressive thought process, Dick realized the benefit of the hybrid vigor of the Hereford and Angus Cross. The females of this cross became the base of the ranch herd and increased profitability above and beyond what the straight Hereford cattle were capable of doing in the arid west.
With all of the miles he has had to ride, Dick has had lots of thinking time and it has served his outfit and others in the area well. He came to the conclusion that selling cattle from home rather than driving them to railheads, as he had done as a child or hauling cattle to livestock markets that were hundreds of miles away would be more profitable for the producer. He was one of the first to install a livestock scale at the ranch in the early 1960s. Dick also advocated for forward contracting with a base weight and an up-and-down slide in pricing that was fair to both buyer and seller because of the unpredictability of weather in the high mountain desert.
A lifelong desire to create a sustainable ranch led Dick to search out a cattle buyer without having to deal with a middleman. This led to a relationship with A.D. Davis and Cebe Hansen that lasted nearly twenty years. Dickinson started by selling his ranch’s calves to Davis and Hansen and at the end of the run, nearly all of his neighbors were pooling together to sell to one buyer. Although Dick was largely responsible for negotiation of contracts, he never took any commission from his neighbors. He felt that their work should be rewarded just the same as his family’s work was at the end of the year.
Wright’s greatest pleasures come from the simplest things. It can be getting the best price on calves to watching his grandchildren work cattle or compete in rodeos. He has lived life as he has seen fit. He is 88 years old and 85 have been spent in the saddle. Truth be known, he wouldn’t have it any other way. A day feeding cattle with his Hydrabed or horseback always beats riding in a Cadillac.