Jack E. Reisch came to Wyoming with his parents, two sisters and three brothers when he was nine years old. It so happened that a March thaw was in progress with Dry Donkey Creek running bank to bank. The family camped on the east side of the creek and waited for the water to recede. When the three older boys (Jack included) were able to ford the creek they went to the Rozet Store. Jack was hired that afternoon to go to work at the Haight Ranch south of Gillette. Shortly thereafter, Jacks parents homesteaded on Olmstead Creek north of Gillette.
Several years later, Jack went to Sheridan County. In 1931 he worked for Lonnie Music; ’32 and ’33 found him working for Charlie Wyncoop and then the Collins Ranch. He was at the CC Camp on the Big Horn Mountains in 1937 when he was able to get a job with Leonard Masters. He attended the school of hard knocks along the way.
Uncle Sam came with a program that encouraged young men to enlist in the army saying that after a year of active duty, their military obligation would be fulfilled. Jack thought this was a very good idea so he enlisted in the 115th Cavalry (a National Guard unit). They were mobilized on February 24, 1941. He was a Master Farrier in the U.S. Army. He was in Seattle shoeing horses and mules in the rain when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on that fateful morning.
As luck would have it, the handsome young Jack Reisch in his military uniform was at a dance on Tongue River in 1941 when a lovely Marianne Yalowizer spotted him and told her sisters she was going to marry that man. He was home on leave in September 1942 for his mother’s funeral. He married Marianne Yalowizer on September 24th. She was 17 years old.
He was attached to the 10th Mountain Division and stationed at Camp Carson being trained as an infantryman on skis. Shortly afterwards he was shipped out to the front lines. When the troop carrier neared the Straits of Gibralter, he thought they were lost, since Africa was on their right hand side and there was snow on the mountains. Why everyone knew that Africa was a desert! Jack toured the boot of Italy, the Swiss Alps and on into France with his skis and rifle, all the while holding onto the lead shank of a pack mule.
Like so many other veterans, he told very little about his experiences in Europe. One of the few stories that Jack told about his war experiences was about the time bombers were dropping flares and bombs. The sky was lit up from the flares. Jack said that he kept trying to duck around a large tree to stay on the “dark” side. Running around the tree with him was a squirrel. He didn’t know which of them were the more scared. After being discharged on September 30, 1945, he came home to Sheridan to his wife and daughter. Thanks to World War II, the one year enlistment had lasted five years!
The next spring, Jack went to work at Tepee Lodge Dude Ranch on the Big Horn Mountains for Allen Fordyce. He and Marianne both worked at the dude ranch and left their child with Jack’s sister, Norma Leis and her husband, Carl. After the dude season was over, Jack continued to work for Allen Fordyce moving his young family to one of the Fordyce’s holdings on Dutch Creek east of Sheridan. It was while living here that he and Marianne welcomed their second child, a son.
Jack had grown up with unbroke horses so relished the breaking and using of the 7 and 8 year old geldings that Allen Fordyce brought to him. One of the oft told stories was about Jack riding up to the front porch and asking his young bride, “Do you want to see him buck?” Then he usually showed her whether she wanted him to or not. He used this type of saddle horse and pack horse to care for the cattle under his care.
While at the Weaver Place, Jack had help-some of his old army buddies needed work and a good meal. Fun was had by all in the evenings with playing cards and forgetting about the war.
One Sunday, Marianne and one of Jack’s buddies, Ernie Day, decided a batch of fudge would be mighty tasty. Ernie milked a wet mare and Marianne made fudge as only she could do! Everyone thought it wonderful until they found out the ingredients. Jack thought this was one of the funniest of pranks. (One man even went behind the house and vomited!)
Jack was at the Weadon Place near Leiter for a while until the purchase of the NX was finalized. The summer of of1951 found Jack moving his family to the NX on Big Badger Creek. Before moving his family, Jack told his wife that the house had neither electricity nor running water. “But, my dear,” he said, “There is electricity at the barn and back at the chicken house.” For all those years at the NX Jack’s lovely bride cooked three meals a day for a full crew at 6, 12, and 6. (Water and electricity were put into the house!)
He saw work horses replaced with pickups and fancy haying equipment. He kept a crew of men doing the everyday ranching labor. He always had time to teach young men who were ready to learn the art and skills of ranching and horseshoeing. He could even show them how to ski and ice skate! His mechanical skills were pretty much limited to a shoeing hammer and a pair of pliers but he got so he could fight a Briggs and Stratton engine with the best of them. It was common practice for him to be called back to Tepee Lodge for two weeks every summer to shoe dude horses.
Always a part of Allen Fordyce’s forward thinking, Jack was involved with the development of the Fordyce Game Farm. Jack was involved with caring for the elk, ibex and yak that were brought in to graze there. His granddaughter enjoyed being able to tell class mates that she had personally seen these exotic creatures but since the teachers didn’t believe her stories, pictures had to be sent to school for show and tell.
He put together grazing lands doing the dealing for the ranch. The bunkhouse may not have liked it but he got a lot of work done with very little help. When the call came on Wednesday for 2 semi loads of 400 pound steer calves to load out on Saturday, the cattle were in the corral ready to load. Fordyce also ran two bands of sheep. They wintered on the NX and summered on the Big Horn Mountains. Jack tended sheep camp and shipped lambs from the mountain before the ewes were trailed home.
He was foreman here for 29 years and 8 months. He liked to say that he hadn’t quite qualified for the 30 year pin.
He and Marianne bought a house in Sheridan but he found that his plan to live there and grow raspberries was very boring. He went to work at the Wagon Hammer Ranch north of Gillette for Ike Fordyce. He was back in his element!-horseback and visiting with friends from his younger days. The only machinery was a pair of wire pliers!
After a couple years, Jack and Marianne moved back to Sheridan and retired again. It didn’t take long before Jack had gotten enough “rest” and was drawn back to ranch life. He went to work for Malcolm Hutton at the OTO Ranch on Badger Creek. He was at the OTO Ranch on Badger Creek in the summer and the cattle wintered at the Hutton Ranch on Prairie Dog close to Sheridan so he was able to be home at night. One summer, Malcolm brought an artist, Verne Tossey to visit the ranch and he did a painting of Jack drinking his morning coffee. The picture was so expressive that it was sold to Leanin’ Tree Card Company and used as a greeting card.
During this time, Jack had quadruple heart surgery and four hip replacements and treatment for prostate cancer. Marianne did not like Jacks being at the OTO Ranch in the summer by himself. After 14 years at Hutton’s, once again Jack retired in 1989; coming back to Sheridan to stay but only for a short time. Again, Jack got restless so he and Marianne spent several summers working at the Foley Ranch above Sheridan on the Big Horn Mountains. It was one lovely morning when he went to wrangle dude horses that life changed. Jack was bucked off and there was a spiral fracture of the tibia around and below the hip replacement. After over 6 months of healing, Jack was back on his feet but only worked in an advisory position for Malcolm Hutton. He did a lot of driving even as far away as the Canadian line on the Milk River where he inspected the care given to Hutton’s cattle out on pasture during some dry years.
In addition to everything else that people admired about Jack Reisch, he was first and foremost a husband and father.
Jack was also an animal lover. He always had a good dog that would follow him horseback or in the later years sit in the cab of the pickup with him. He used to joke that he would put Marianne in the back of the pickup before he would his dog. Was it a joke? We were never sure! From Jiggs to Joe to Jody to Tinker, they were all part of the family.
It was the morning of August 6, 1996 that Jack came into the kitchen. He kissed his sweetheart on each eyelid as he did every time he left the house. This time he said, “Take care of yourself, my dear. I am going up to the Fort this morning.” Two hours later he was dead. Jack E. Reisch was buried in the Municipal Cemetery in Sheridan Wyoming on August 9, 1996 with full military honors. His dog, Tinker, hid her head and cried.