Subletter Examiner | Swain named Ranch Woman of the Year


This ranch woman was born in 1957 to Earl and Thelma (Jensen) Steele. His parents purchased the family ranch in the early 1940s and continued ranching until they purchased the Boulder store in 1949.

She graduated from Pinedale High School in 1969 and enrolled at Stevens Henegar Business College in Salt Lake City. She and her friends had a lot of fun in the big city like firecrackers, as she puts it. But, she left college early to come home and marry her high school sweetheart and the love of her life on February 14, 1970. She packed all her things, which didn’t consist of much else only newly acquired wedding gifts and her cat. Fuzz Buzz, and she moved to the ranch where her newlywed was raised.

She spent the first 21 years of marriage as her husband’s first hand. She had grown up riding in Boulder, learning to ride as soon as she could crawl up to her horse’s leg. She preferred bareback but soon learned to work cattle and ride like the “real cowboys” as she would say. Her husband was her biggest confidence builder; he always encouraged her. He often told her that she should wear a cowboy hat, which she refused to do until she realized that neighboring cowboys such as Bud Sommers and Doug Price thought that she deserved to wear one. She looks great in a cowboy hat and has had one for as long as I can remember.

She raised four children while working alongside her husband on the ranch. The oldest son was born in 1970, followed by another boy in 1972. Thirteen years later, in 1984, the twins arrived. She and her husband had always joked that good workers were expensive and hard to find, so their solution to this problem was to train their own crew. But when they started bringing in litters, they decided it was up to the next generation to supply the ranch team.

She worked all day alongside her husband on the ranch and came home to the work of a wife and mother. Apart from the normal mother and wife duties, she liked to do everything herself. She went all out for birthday parties, inviting the whole class out for a sleigh ride and a party. And everything was times two when the twins were involved. The party usually had a theme, like Ghostbusters or Hello Kitty, with not one but two homemade birthday cakes and matching hand-sewn, hand-painted birthday bags and party favors that she had made.

She is also a wonderful seamstress and loved to make clothes for everyone. A popular hit were outrageously patterned and colorful parachute pants for the three boys. They were so popular that she ended up making parachute pants for several of her sons’ friends. A pair of her parachute pants even made an appearance at a high school graduation, when they were thrown under the graduation gown on stage. Needless to say the manager wasn’t very impressed as they didn’t follow the dress code. She has also made the best Halloween costumes for her children, herself and her spouse. Some of the most memorable were My Little Pony, Puff the Magic Dragon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a couple costume for her and her husband to go to a costume party as Raggedy Ann and Andy.

In 1991, when her eldest son finished college and returned home to the ranch, she took a part-time job as a typesetter at the Pinedale Roundup. Over the next 10 years, she rose through the ranks, was promoted to business manager, and eventually became editor. Much to everyone’s dismay, Roundup was sold to the competing newspaper shortly after this promotion in 2001.

After the Roundup sale, weeks passed and there was an overwhelming response from the Sublette County community stating, “You girls should start your own newspaper.” It was already a plan that four Roundup ladies already had in the works. A startling attestation for the fledgling newspaper was that over a hundred subscriptions had been paid for before they even had a legitimate office space to work from. The Roundup sale took place in February 2001, and on April 5, 2001, the first issue of the Sublette Examiner rolled off the presses of Jackson Hole News and Guide, featuring a front-page photo of a newborn calf born that spring on his family. ranch.

She was an editor, business manager, accountant, and proofreader extraordinaire at the Sublette Examiner. The pages were packed with fantastic news and countywide coverage. If something was going on in Sublette County, you could bet there was an Examiner employee there to cover it up. Very often, agricultural problems were highlighted and its way of life and its breeding in the county of Sublette was always promoted. Although she was no longer at the ranch everyday, her connection and love for it was often seen and read about on the pages of the Sublette Examiner.

Although she maintained a full-time job in town with extremely demanding weekly newspaper deadlines, she was still an integral part of ranch operations. When she was not at her job in town, she could be found in the meadow dredging fields or as part of the tagging crew in the spring. Or on her favorite horse Nifty, wearing that cowboy hat she won, pushing the cows to summer pasture and again in the fall, herding and sorting the cows to come home. She was a hay hand on summer weekends, operating the coveted 910 windrower or raking, piling or whatever work was needed. All of this she did seamlessly, alongside the duties of wife, mother, business owner, and ranch lady.

After several years of meeting the paper’s grueling weekly deadlines, she decided it was time for a change. A very difficult decision was made and the Sublette Examiner was sold in August 2006. She soon found employment as an office manager and accountant until her recent retirement in May 2020.

Now we all know ranchers don’t retire. She spent the first summer of her “retirement” in the saddle moving cows to summer pastures. No longer riding his favorite horse Nifty, but right behind YoYo, one of Nifty’s descendants. She also found herself in the hay field picking up hay for her husband, who was ‘hot on his tail’ chasing her in the baler, and she was back at the drift fence at the fall to sort out the cattle to bring home for the winter.

One of his greatest qualities is his generosity and altruism. She enjoys doing things for others, especially her family and friends. She always thinks of others before herself. She cooks a hallmark meal almost entirely on her own each year, as she knows her daughters would rather be with the team in the hallmark paddock than in the kitchen. She would also drop everything to watch a grandchild so their mother could go help the guys. She has been an impromptu taxi service when the grandchildren need to be picked up from school because both parents are busy with work. More than once she was called upon to haul a load of cattle at the last minute and she would always rush in and help when needed. She is always there, and always ready to help.

She really likes to make other people happy. We’ve learned that you don’t get too excited about something you really love because with the help of Amazon Prime shipping, in two days you’ll have a 20 pound bag of those gummy bears you have really loved the other day! Just ask her favorite son-in-law about it! Now, with her free time, she spends more and more time in the kitchen. She has made many truly amazing dishes from recipes she finds online, a few that were politely suggested to her to lose this recipe, and a whole binder full of recipes she has yet to try on we.

She has held many titles in her life. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, painter, bartender, typesetter, office manager, accountant, proofreader, editor, cook, seamstress, ranch lady and, little known, actress. She was in a Busch Beer advert in the 1980s – but her most treasured title is probably Grammie, to which nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren call her and her whom she loves and spoils rotten.

Surely you’ve already guessed who our nomination for Ranch Woman of the Year is, and we’re more than proud to present Rhonda Fay Swain to receive this year’s award.


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