Willis “Bill” Ruby
The youngest of 3 children Willis “Bill” Ruby was born in Stapleton Nebraska on August 8, 1928 to Guy and Mabel Ruby. He was raised on the home ranch/farm which consisted of cattle, and putting up corn and oats. In Stapleton he attended a one room country school house, riding by horseback along with his sisters to school each day. He graduated from high school in Stapleton in 1946. In 1947 he married his high school sweetheart Ramona Hanna. Together they had two children Mike and Debbie.
Upon Graduation he continued to work on the family ranch for 2 years, but the thrill of competition would beckon him, and so he tried his hand as a rodeo cowboy off and on. He had all of his gear and a change of clothes in a gunny sack and would hitch hike to the rodeos getting there however he could. He competed in Bull Riding, Saddle Bronc Riding and Bareback Riding. One of his more colorful competitive adventures included his short stint as a jockey in California. He jumped a train from North Platte to Los Alamitos and experienced flat track racing as an exercise boy and jockey for a few months. But he returned to Nebraska because he was a cowboy.
After returning, he was offered a foreman position on a ranch in the sand hills of Nebraska owned by Harold Orr which was later purchased in 1956 by Tom and Betty Morrison. Tom and Betty grew fond of him and kept Bill as their foreman where he continued to work for them until in 1965.
In 1965 he decided to try it on his own and rented a ranch outside of Stapleton Nebraska. He ranched there for 2 years. He was then contacted by Tom and Betty Morrison to come to Lander Wyoming and manage a new place for them. In February of 1967 he and his wife moved to Lander Wyoming to manage the Morrison’s place north of Lander. They were allowed to run a few cows of their own, and thus began his Wyoming experience.
Competition once again enticed Bill to have some fun in his off time. In 1968-69 he enjoyed as a hobby running chariot horses on the weekends. Good horses, and healthy competition have always been a staple in his world. In 1978 he along with several other local cowboys started up the local membership of the National Old Timers Rodeo Association. Bill was also on the Board of Directors for the Lander Old Timer’s Assoc. and was instrumental in getting the indoor arena built. It was at this time that he started rodeoing again. At the age of 40 he decided to add a little more experience to his plate. Now he would not only ride bulls, and bucking horses, but added Steer Wrestling to his resume. Bill was and is a “true cowboy”, always up for a challenge.
In 1972 he and Ramona bought their own place on Snavely Lane from Shorty Veach. He ran about 300 head of black cattle, put up hay, and labored at his most favorite job irrigating. He summered cows with Benny Iterian on the Sweetwater. Ramona passed away in 1976 and Bill remarried his longtime friend from Nebraska, Lois Neisen. He and Lois continued to ranch on Snavely Lane.
In 1979 his son Mike moved home to Lander and they purchased summer pasture on South Pass to run cows. The allotment would run 600 pair and he and his son would work together to continue the cowboy way of life. In 1983 he sold his portion to Mike and bought a summer allotment on Beaver Creek. Bill ran a traditional 300 head cow/calf operation until 1995 when he switched to running yearlings. During this time he had the privilege to serve as President of the Fremont County Stockgrowers Assoc. for 2 years starting in 1986. This was an honor for the cowboy turned rancher.
In 2003 at the age of 74 he was still priding himself on breaking and riding colts. In May of that year, he was moving bulls to another pasture. The bulls started fighting with each other and hit his horse, his horse slipped while jumping a ditch and fell on top of him. He was a mangled mess with terrible head trauma, 2 broken vertebras and a broken sternum. He was transported by life-flight to Casper and spent 2 weeks in intensive care in the Casper hospital. The doctors told him he would never walk again. They were wrong and didn’t know that Bill was cowboy tough. He made it home and continued to run cattle, put up hay, and enjoy the Cowboy way of life, with a few minor aches and pains until he retired in 2007.