Francis “Bud” Orton
Francis Charles Orton or better known as, “Bud” was born on January 25th, 1924 to Charles and Nellie (Ellis) Orton in Laramie, Wyoming. Bud had a determined demeanor which was apparent from the start. He fought with sickness, as an infant, and spent a good portion of his first few months of life in Denver, Colorado at Children’s Hospital. When he was well enough to return home, he grew up on the 2J ranch near Elk Mountain, Wyoming with his parents and his siblings John and Ellen.
Being the oldest of three children, he had many responsibilities around the ranch. He was caretaker of the poultry which were his mother’s pride and joy. Bud helped his father extensively with the Hereford cow/calf operation. As a part-time job, he trapped and skinned any varmint living in the Medicine Bow River along with hunting game on the 2J Flat. He saved this money to help start his own commercial cow herd which would later become the ‘bread and butter’ that would support his family.
When he was a teenager, he met Dorothy Mae Charles who began working for his mother on the 2J Ranch. At the age of nineteen and eighteen respectively, Bud and Dorothy were married on November 14, 1943 in Elk Mountain, Wyoming at the Community Church. This era being the end of The Great Depression meant both bride and groom conserved whatever was needed to make their life together. Their honeymoon consisted of a bus ride to Ogallala, NE to watch his calves be shipped on trains back east. This was a testimony that although his wife and confidant were priceless, the work of a rancher was never done, and a person needed to complete a job to the end.
As a married couple they lived at the 2J, at the Orton Basin outside of Elk Mountain, north of Medicine Bow, WY on Difficulty Creek, and at his grandparent’s place, Bud Herman. They cared for cattle at all these locations helping with the whole family operation. The young couple was expected to move with the cattle no matter the season. Winter found Bud and Dorothy skiing into the Orton Basin with groceries in tow and a frozen tea kettle welcomed them each morning. Spring and summer meant flash floods on Difficulty Creek and making sure the cattle were safe. Fall summoned Bud to many hours of riding horseback to gather the pairs from the far-reaching corners of the Medicine Bow National Forest. Rugged and treacherous describe the long, hard winters at the base of Elk Mountain these build constitution in a man, especially a cow man. Bud kept close tabs on nature’s obstacles; the rise and fall of his trusty barometer got at least one firm tap each day.
Working constantly with Bud’s father, brother, etc. was beginning to grow wearisome for the dedicated rancher and owning his commercial Hereford operation, on his own domain, was his dream. In 1957, Bud and Dorothy bought their own operation in Albany County and named it the C Bar L Ranch. This being the life-long place where the couple would raise their 3 children: Dan, Lois, and Phyllis. Bud was a loyal husband, father, and steward of his cattle and the land. He knew each cow in his herd by name. He calved every cow through the barn, even old cows found themselves inside a nice log calving shed with their baby calf. The shed was cleaned every day with new wood shavings added to each stall. The cow/calf pair was not turned out into the meadow until he was assured they were both ready. If he lost a calf due to reasons beyond his control, he ALWAYS took full responsibility and could be known to make himself physically ill; people just knew not to talk to him until he accepted it.
After Christmas each year he anticipated a catalog arriving in the postal mail from his bull breeder—John Grassel in Artesian, S.D. That book became his ‘bible’. He read and studied pedigrees of each bull to decide which ones he could afford to buy to improve his bloodline. He raised solely Hereford cattle.
Each spring Bud called upon his neighbors for manpower to brand his calves. Teams of calf wrestlers were formed, and long hours of labor and laughter rang out along the Big Laramie River. Early summer meant time to turn the pairs out to pasture in the Medicine Bow National Forest. This also led to many days driving the forest roads making sure he could account for most of his herd. Bud relied on his trusty steed Snip, a bay gelding, who worked countless hours alongside him. Snip was known to read Bud’s mind and could work with or without him.
He was a dedicated 4-H leader in Albany County for 25 years. His focus was on livestock projects, mainly helping during the county and WY State Fair with beef cattle and hogs. He would make it a point to help at county fair on Saturday night at the livestock auction. When the 4-H member departed the sale ring with his or her animal, Bud walked with the 4-H member and animal back to the holding pens. For many members, this was the final good bye with the animal, and the culmination of months and months of hard work. Those good byes sometimes were emotional and heart-wrenching, Bud felt satisfaction knowing he was there to help, in whatever way that young member might have needed—a firm handshake or maybe a shoulder to cry on. Bud and Dorothy were recognized as Outstanding Leaders by members of Albany County. Annually the local 4-H club would hold a club fair, mid-summer, and he was always there to help. He never hesitated to congratulate winners, but he offered support and encouraging words for those participants who did not carry out the trophy, purple rosette, or the blue ribbon.
Bud had true compassion for everyone, especially his family and his animals. If anyone was ever falling on hard times he always made sure they were taken care of.
At the young age of sixty, Bud fell ill with Pancreatic Cancer and lost his battle shortly after finding out his diagnosis. However, he left behind a legacy of a deep love for agriculture and hard work which he instilled in his three children. He was also blessed with being a grandpa for a short time before his death. His legacy is now being passed to, yet another generation of great grandchildren. The successes of his cattle operation played significant roles in his life, while equally as important was raising a family that adhered to ethical and moral principles.
Bud strived to live every facet of his life according to the basic and timeless principles behind the Code of the West, or what has since been translated into Ten Principles to Live By, by author Jim Owens. He was a symbol of courage, optimism, and plain hard work. It has been said that cowboys are heroic not just because they do a dangerous job, but also because they stand for something—the simple, basic values that lie at the heart of the cowboy way and that was Bud Orton.