Kruse family carrying on the Hereford cattle tradition
Original owner sets the tone for future operations.
by Jeanne Peterson, Lusk Herald Staff Writer
Born in Philadelphia in 1890, Bill Kruse filed on his homestead in 1912.
Having severed his relationship with his stepfather and mother in Ardmore, S.D., when he was 16, he became a working cowboy. Though he had no desire to ranch, he did need a place to winter, since working cowboys were laid off during the winter months.
He had spent a previous winter in a cabin with friend Sourdough Ike Baker. They were so short of provisions that their horses were starving, and they were eating beans for every meal, the preparation only limited by their imagination. He and Baker climbed trees to cut the top branches to feed the most tender to the horses. Not only that, but Baker was learning to play the fiddle and the only song he knew was "Little Red Wing. Every time he made a mistake, he'd cuss, chew, spit and start the song over again.
Kruse told his grandchildren it was the longest winter he had ever spent.
He spent the first winter on his homestead in a sheep wagon, freezing to death. He had enjoyed the life of a cowboy, a time when he said he owned silk-lined kid gloves and a white shirt, he never wore out - a time he contrasted starkly with his life as a rancher, during which he said, "I couldn't even afford gloves."
His wife Jennie followed one of her brothers to Wyoming, where he operated a pool hall and bar and played cards - very well, it seems - to earn enough to purchase the ranch he dreamed of. According to Jim, he purchased and lost more than one ranch.
She was a milliner by trade and selected a homestead on the Cheyenne River. She and Bill met at a dance on what is now the Allen Slagle ranch southwest of Newcastle. The ranch was owned at that time by Jennie's brother, Del Flores. They were married in 1917 at Thermopolis.
They began their cowherd with Longhorn cows they bred annually to Hereford bulls. For 80 years four generations of Kruses have continued the Hereford tradition. At one period of time, Bill traded for several work horse mares and raised them himself. that period ended, when a big horse outfit, the CBC with land from Canada to the Colorado border trailed through them, the Kruses came up missing the work horse mares.
Bill and Jennie's only child, A.D., operated the ranch with his father, then independently, and finally, in concert with his son Jim until he semi-retired in recent years.
A.D. enjoys the Hereford cattle his family has selected; the current trend toward cross-bred cattle does not tempt him. "We spent 80 years trying to breed away from the crossbreds. Why would we want to go back to them?" Jim quoted him as saying.
Bill loved the draft horses and acquired them as soon as he was able. "Granddad liked teams, and he always had them," said his grandson Jim. Though he enjoyed saddle horses throughout his life, A.D. feels differently about the draft horses, saying, "I always had to drive them."
A.D. met his future wife, Haxel Rowse, in Riverton when they were both working for the Soil Conseration Service. Hazel, the oldest of six children, was born in Wheatland. Her father's family had come to Wyoming in a covered wagon when he was a child.
After serving as captain in an Army combat engineering unit laying bridges for armored tanks, A.D. married Hazel in 1946 and moved to the family ranch.
Their three children, Kathy, Jim and Paul - were raised in Niobrara County. Kathy and her husband Dave live in Casper and Paul serves in Gov. Jim Geringer's administration in Cheyenne.
Jim and Linda's sons - James, 18, and Joe, 15, are students at Niobrara County High School, and are (the) fourth generation to live on the Kruse ranch.