William B. “Will” Jones
Will Jones is the second child of Harold and Sue Jones, born May 24, 1933, in Buffalo. His dad was an industrious laborer, ranch and farm hand, teamster and logger. He was horse savvy and had farrier skills. Young Will shadowed his dad, watching and learning of his many talents from early childhood.
Will’s greatest fascination was the sight of a horseback cowboy. Many rode by the Jones home, and he always followed them if possible . . . even sometimes aboard the neighbor’s milk cow! Sue Jones tethered her son to the clothesline to prevent such antics but he quickly discovered that shucking out of his britches set him free, off to follow the herd – whether cattle or sheep. While poor mother fretted over his truancy in the company of itinerant drovers, Will Jones was eagerly learning enduring principles of honesty, industry, and respect from them.
He absorbed a lot of practical knowledge in Buffalo’s traditional classrooms as well – until he was 15 at which time he took his father’s advice to either go to school or get out and find a job – of course choosing the latter option. That was December 1948.
Will’s life savings took him to Gillette by bus, where he was unloaded in front of the pool hall. His life plan started unfolding right there when a rancher named Mankin stopped in, saw a kid with a “deer-in-the-headlights” look and asked him if he was willing to work.
Will’s affirmative answer got him hauled 15 miles to the country. He soon had a team and sled full of corn and was headed west, looking for a sheep wagon and the band of woolies that went with it. By the time the last spring snow melted the sheep were on green grass and Jones had begun building his reputation as dependable and hardworking.
He worked for his first boss’s son Lee Mankin at the 4J Ranch and then a number of other ranches. Over the years Will Jones pretty much covered every square mile of the Little Powder River country – working for J.D. and Jeanne White, Cletus Johnson, Rusty Holler on the 60Bar, Frank Ray, manager of the Wagonhammer and Laurel Leaf ranches owned by Harris Grain and Cattle.
He served in the Wyoming National Guard and U.S. Army, spending two years in Korea. After his military service he rode the rough string for Kendrick Cattle Company for a while, training reining horses on the side. Then he took a job with Jack Reisch at the NX Bar out of Sheridan. Reisch’s blossoming horsewoman daughter Cherry caught Will’s eye, as his notable horse skills had already caught hers. Jack read the handwriting on the wall and fired him, but he swore he’d be back for her. From the E Bar U for Bob and Doris Watts on to the Padlock Ranch and their camps on the Crow and Cheyenne Reservations Jones carried thoughts and memories of Cherry Reisch. While wintering bulls with teams, packing feed and chopping ice, he wrote her weekly letters. The next summer he worked for Wilcutt Land and Livestock and on June 3, 1963, he married Cherry Reisch. Their daughter Jacquie came along in December of 1964.
Will worked for more ranchers, and began a cowherd of his own. He moved to the Verne Barton Ranch on Louse Creek west of Newcastle, where the family remained for 20 years. Pastures allowed Will’s cattle to run separately at the Barton Ranch, and he bought the best black bulls he could afford, proving his well-learned stockman skills by annually weaning and shipping some fancy, heavyweight calves.
His “way with horses” was proven repeatedly as he bought the “fouled up” ones and turned them into perfect cow horses. The Jones cavvy was talented and well-blooded, with Will preferring lines like Sabre Twist, Vandy Hug, Mijack, Try Six, Rapid Troubles and others of the same ilk. Along with good horses, Jones always had good dogs, like one he called Pete.
Even though in his seventh decade, Will was constantly starting young horses at Barton’s. Still riding when he was around 75 years old, a broken spur strap got him unloaded off a rank bucker and he decided that pursuit wasn’t as much fun as it once was.
Will finally sold out, retired, and moved to a few acres at Caddo Mills, Texas where their daughter resides. He keeps busy with dogs and odd jobs.