Joe Hickey was born on a ranch in Lonetree Wyoming in 1905. He is the son of Eugene Hickey who came to Wyoming when he was 16 years old then ranched there the rest of his life. His mother, Betty Hereford Hickey, was born in Burnt Fork, Wyoming. She was the fourth of seventeen children. Her parents were Robert and Lucinda Hereford who are buried at the foot of Chief Washakie in the Fort Washakie cemetery.
Joe grew up in southwestern Wyoming during the last era of the open range. Camping out with the cattle, branding, roping, breaking horses and chasing both wild horse and range cattle. He started riding bucking horses when they were still snubbed because there were no chutes or even arenas in those small-town rodeos. He learned to work horse teams putting up hay in the summer and feeding it off in the winter. Work teams were a lifelong love for Joe.
In 1925, Joe met the love of his life, Erma Early. She was a smart, beautiful, young woman who had grown up in Iowa, graduating from Iowa State University. She came west to teach school. Joe and Erma were married in 1926 and remained so for 57 years. They ranched together through the Great Depression, World War II, hard times and good times. They had three children; Dick, Jack, and daughter Zola. Dick was killed in a horse accident as a boy, Jack ranched all his life and Zola went on to become an educator as her mother was.
In 1929 Joe inherited a portion of his father’s ranch. From that point on he worked on expanding the ranch and improving the livestock. He participated in the government remount program supplying quality horses for the Calvary and had three different stallions in this program. Joe had a herd of purebred Hereford cattle that he raised bulls from to sell to other Bridger Valley ranchers to improve their herds.
During the 30’s and 40’s Joe supplied bucking horses for rodeos from the Bridger Valley all the way to Green River, Wyoming. These horses had to be trailed to those rodeos and the trip to Green River took two days each way across rough, dry country. Although he quit the Broncs at the rodeos, he would rope at every rodeo he could get to.
Joe the consummate horseman would enjoy showing his horseflesh at fairs and shows all over Wyoming. He won many trophies and ribbons at these events and later in life chariot racing was a perfect fit for him. His teams were well broke and always in top physical shape. During the 60’s and 70’s he raced them from Cheyenne to Elko, Idaho and Colorado. He qualified for the World Championships several times in the 1st division.
Joe was a traditionalist. He worked horses in the hayfield all he could. He roped calves at the brandings and put up his hay loose. The Hickey Ranch still puts the hay up loose and works the cattle horseback with a bunch of Joe’s prodigies doing the horseback work.
Joe served on many boards and committees including BLM, Local Banks, Irrigation Districts, Three Forks Cattle Association and the Wyoming School Board. He was a lifelong member of the Wyoming Stock Growers association. Joe’s influence on horses, cattle, horse racing, and cowboying will be felt for many generations to come in southwest Wyoming. Joe died in 1983 in the same house his father built in 1908.