Lora Reynolds Johnson
Lora Mae Reynolds Johnson was born in Gillette, Wyoming August 8, 1951, the youngest of 5 children born to Ellis and Jean Reynolds.
She started riding at a very young age-as some of the elders say "she could ride before she could walk." She was always a horseback even if it was pleasure. Anything her brothers could do, she could do it too. She was fearless. When they started chewing tobacco, she did too. Rodeo was our entertainment in those days and when the rodeo was over, Lora was about 5 years old climbed into the back seat with a chew in her mouth. Her Mom told her to spit it out because she couldn't spit in the car and she wasn't going to swallow it, but it didn't really phase her much as she still chews today.
Raised in the country in the Campbell, Crook and Weston County areas, she was a happy child. Like most ranch kids, she had chores to do, but she wanted them outside. She wanted to clean the barn instead of inside doing dishes or "woman's work" as she called it. She started elementary school in a one-room country school that housed students from first grade through eighth grade at The Mondle School. There were only 2 families in the school with 5 from the Mondle Family and 5 from the Reynolds Family. Then in fifth grade she went to Moorcroft Elementary through her Junior year of High School. Mom and Dad bought the old Cossert place so she graduated from Upton High School. She begged to ride her horse to Moorcroft so she could still go to that High School, but the school bus came to the door to pick her up to go to Upton High School so Mom said, "NO." She could ride the bus to Upton and she got into all kinds of mischief with Kathy Watt and Emma Jean Ritthaler.
She got her first ranch job in the summer between her sophomore and junior year of High School. She was a young girl and was ready to prove her worth and she was not given any slack. She was expected to be at the breakfast table ready to go to work and she was. Not only did she work horseback, she knew all ranching is horseback. At brandings, she was allowed to rope, but also took her turn at wrestling calves. She is a good wrestler and has taught many young boys (men, as well) and girls to do it right. She doesn't take a back seat to any man. She built fence in the heat and never complained. She put up hay in the summer. It was a good thing Ellis had taught her to run machinery because her boss told her to take the swather out and get started. When she told him she had never run a swather before, he just told her to "get started" without any help from him. Somehow ranch kids survive and she must have had a sixth sense and/or common sense because she ran that swather all summer. When the hay was ready to stack, she just stacked it. She milked the cow before she came in to supper. She worked at that ranch for two summers and decided she needed her own wheels and she was able to finance a brand new Ford pickup.
After she got out of school, she paid her dues by waitressing and working in a gas station and then she found her niche with the City of Gillette as a meter maid, dispatching for the Police Department and finally working in the City Clerk's Office. She went in to pay a parking ticket and Mildred Huravitch, the City Clerk, hired her on the spot to start working right then. What a way to have an interview, right? She still worked weekends at the ranch and for anyone else that needed her. Ranch work is a way of life for her and it's still her passion.
Lora married Jerry Johnson December 29, 1972 in Gillette and they have a son, Walter. She is a cowgirl at heart and her passion is riding. Her greatest mentor was her Dad, Ellis, who was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2014. He taught her the ins and outs of raising and caring for livestock, about horsemanship, and operating machinery. They have been working side by side for 50 years and they both know what the other one is thinking (kinda like finishing each other's sentences) when they are working together. The highlight of her day was heading to the barn if she thought there was a chance to ride, but she was also taught other ranch duties as well. She drove tractors and during haying, she was the one to run the rake. Everybody knew that was her job. She ropes, rides, doctors cows and calves, feeds, pulls calves if she has to during calving season and does whatever else needs done. There is nothing she can't do.
Strong family ties were instilled in her from a very young age. She puts a lot of miles on visiting the older generation regularly. Everyone, young and old, are invited to her house at Thanksgiving. She is also known for her famous "ham and bean" night in late January for the nephews-in-law because her nieces don't cook them for their husbands. She always prepares something else for the girls because she says, "I'm not eating that crap so the girls don't have to either." No one gets left out. Lora is always in the right place at the right time whether it's in the kitchen, in the corral, or with family.
Lora has been Ellis's right hand "man" for all those years and even though he is in a nursing home in Sundance, she still takes him to the sale ring to watch cattle sell and to go to Deadwood since that is his favorite thing to do.
Since ranching is in her blood, she continues to ride and assist the neighbors with the gathering and working of their cattle. Over the years, she has worked with Ritthaler's, Grubbs, Materi, Rankin's, Bake'rs, Jespersen's, Shepperson's and others. Lora is there to help anyone that needs assistance. She knows no stranger; they are people she just hasn't met yet. She used to try to get out of school if she knew Ellis was helping anyone work cattle during the week. She even tried playing sick a time or two and then after the bus was gone, she felt so much better and was going out to help her Dad. It didn't work though. She had to go back to bed. Needless to say, she didn't try that again.
Lora has a t-shirt that reads: Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside totally worn out and proclaiming "wow, what a ride." That's how she lives her life and she lives every day to the fullest.