Hugh & Mary Vass
Hugh and Mary Vass began their ranching life together on August 5, 1949. They lived at the mouth of Prospect on Cottonwood Creek until 1959 when they moved to their ranch on Owl Creek 34 miles west of Thermopolis where they raised three children. They lived there together until 2007 when Mary reluctantly moved to Thermopolis for health reasons.
Hugh visited Mary frequently, running errands for her. Hugh continued to live on the ranch until 2009, when he moved to town for health reasons.
Hugh G. Vass was born on January 27, 1928 to Hugh and Jennie (Mayfield) Vass (MacKenzie) of Thermopolis, Wyoming, who ran sheep in Hot Springs County. Hugh was the youngest of three children.
Hugh’s childhood was spent in sheep camps from one end of Hot Springs County, in Kirby, to the other end near Washakie Needles where his father homesteaded on the South Fork of Owl Creek. During his adolescence, as well as working sheep, he also helped his mother start a herd of cattle using milk cow calves as starter stock. After Hugh came home from the Navy, serving 1945 to 1946, he took over running the cows. To improve the herd, Hugh began culling heifers and keeping the best as replacement heifers. This was upsetting to his mother, as you always kept all of your heifers to grow your numbers. Throughout the years, Hugh continued improving the cattle herd using registered bulls and any other way he could. Hugh always looked for ways to be more efficient and improve productivity.
Mary S. Nichols Vass was born on May 5, 1932 to Lee and Susie Parm Nichols of Holt, Wyoming where they homesteaded and ran cattle. Mary was the youngest of seven children. Mary was happiest when she was horse back. She would spend hours riding to gather for branding, trail or weaning, then go to the house and cook for her family. She would cook meals at the ranch house, pack them up and take them to the branding corral several miles away or meet trail hands where ever they were on the trail.
It would take three (3) days to trail the cows to and from the winter range on Spring Creek of Cottonwood Creek and the summer range on the South Fork of Owl Creek. Hugh would ramrod the trail hands while Mary pulled camp and cooked in a sheep wagon. One time while on trail, some out-of-staters stopped to visit. When they heard what was for dinner, (roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad and
chocolate cake), the out-of-state lady said she had no idea such delicious meals would be eaten on cattle drives and would come out of a sheep wagon.
Hugh and Mary exemplified the Wyoming ranching way of life. Their husband and wife partnership lasted 58 years. Mary passed away March 23, 2007 at age 75 and Hugh passed away September 15, 2009 at age 81.