Featured at the Bar-D Ranch

 

Mother's Day

Betty Jean Tippett
1921 - 1993
 

 

Below, Sharon Brown and Smoke Wade share words and photos in tribute to their mother, Betty Jean Tippett.

Smoke Wade has contributed many stories and photos to Picture the West and Western Memories, and there are relevant links to some of those stories included in his prose piece below.

Below:


[photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski]

Mom Was a Cowgirl (prose) by Smoke Wade
Mom Was a Cowgirl (poem) by Smoke Wade

 

Family Photos

 

Rimrock Sourdough ( prose and poem) by Sharon Brown
Hollyhocks and Four O'Clocks (prose and poem) by Sharon Brown
Night of the Rodeo Queen (poem and photos) by Sharon Brown





2010 Exhibit at Lewis-Clark State College

"On the Ranch" by Betty Jean Tippett

 

Mom Was a Cowgirl

A Mother's Day Tribute to
Betty Jean Tippett
1921 - 1993

by Smoke Wade
 

Mom was a cowgirl. Betty Jean Tippett was a cowgirl from the beginning to the end. She was born in Spokane, Washington as the second child of Jidge and Jessie Tippett of Joseph Creek, Washington. Her father was a homesteader, sheepherder and cattle rancher on his way to becoming a cattle baron. Her mother was a young teacher from the remote Rogersburg, Washington schoolhouse. Jessie was Jidge’s second wife after the loss of his first wife, Sylvia, to a drowning accident while moving cows across Joseph creek a few years earlier. [See "The Crossing"]

Betty Jean grew up in a remote area of southeastern Washington near the Hells Canyon of the Snake River. The closest town, Asotin, Washington, was a hard two-day ride away over very rough terrain. There were no roads during her younger years at the ranch. The closest post office and connection to the outside world was the small settlement of Rogersburg, some six miles away by horseback. Riverboats plied the swift current of the Snake River and brought supplies, mail and passengers to Rogersburg on a somewhat regular basis. Their ranch was self-sufficient and their way of life was isolated. And in this environment, Betty Jean lived as a cowgirl—born to the saddle.

She attended school through the eighth grade at the one room schoolhouse on Joseph Creek—the same schoolhouse that I would later attend for my first six years of school. [See "The Joseph Creek School."] During these years, her father’s ranch grew in acreage, as did the size of the family. Betty Jean rode the range punching cows and doing ranch work along with her four brothers and one sister. She was a cowgirl!

When she came of high school age, she lived part time with her grandparents in Spokane Washington, and attended high school there. After high school, she graduated with a teacher’s certificate for primary grades from the Idaho State Normal School in Lewiston, Idaho.

Betty Jean never gave up her cowgirl ways while attending school in town. She was a Princess of the Pendleton Round-Up (Oregon) in 1938 and Queen of the Lewiston RoundUp (Idaho) in 1940.

In 1941, she married Don Fouste, a young ranch hand who was working on the adjoining Dobbin & Huffman ranch. Betty Jean lived in town while Don served with the U. S Navy in the Pacific Theater. After WWII came to an end, they moved back to Joseph Creek to manage the home ranch with their two small boys—my brother, Donny, and I.

Shortly thereafter, she moved her family to the deserted settlement of Rogersburg as her father’s cattle business started to expand and take on more range land. Betty Jean turned the abandoned ranch house into a home—at time having to kill snakes that invaded the basement. During the years at Rogersburg, the ranch grew and prospered, and Betty Jean gave birth to three daughters, Sharon (Brown), Rachel and Jessica Joanne. Joanne died four years later of a childhood disease.

My first memories of riding a horse were with mom. She was often called upon to take lunch to a branding crew working in a remote area. Mom would tie the bundled food in pillowcase to the saddle horn and strap me on behind her with a large belt and we would go riding to take lunch to the branding crew.

Other times while moving cows up to spring or summer pasture, mom would have me strapped on the saddle behind her. When evening came and the work was yet to be finished, mom would unsaddle her horse and make a place for me to lie down on the hillside with the saddle blanket for a bed and the saddle for a pillow. Then she would ride her horse bareback as she finished helping dad and my older brother move the cows farther up the draw in the dark. I would look at the stars and feel frightened and abandoned until mom came back to comfort me. Yes, mom was a cowgirl.

Her demeanor was mild mannered and she taught us children how to be polite, respectful and dedicated to our tasks. She encouraged us to avoid conflict and seek resolution. She taught us how to be friends with other folks. Mom taught us to appreciate a flower garden and how to grow vegetables and be self-sufficient. She was strong and full of determination. Betty Jean would often tell folks who were emotionally down to "grab themselves by their bootstraps and pull themselves up." And, she encouraged us to ride, for mom was a cowgirl.

Betty Jean was also a writer and an avid reader. She joined a book club and developed a well-stocked library at the Rogersburg ranch house. Since we lived a remote wilderness life, mom would read books and poetry to us as a form of entertainment. And she loved to write short stories to share with us children. She started writing as a grade school newspaper editor at the Joseph Creek one-room schoolhouse and she continued writing all her life. It was in this fashion that I developed an interest in poetry and writing. Mom was a writer, but she was also a cowgirl.

After the formation of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area in the 1970s, cattle ranching of the region slowly ceased to exist, and Betty Jean moved to town. Still, she never gave up her cowgirl ways and she continued to maintain a small herd of horses on an acreage where she lived. And during the later years, she continued on as a range land manager.

After years of suffering from renal failure and faced with the looming prospect of having a foot amputated, she approached her doctor and referenced lines from the mini-series, Lonesome Dove. "Gus wouldn’t let them take his leg, and by God, you are not going to take mine either." Five days later she passed away without a whimper, her jaw set with determination. Betty Jean was a cowgirl— a cowgirl to the end!

© 2010, Smoke Wade
 



Mom Was a Cowgirl
 
She was young—small like a yearling,
Full of adventure, life and fun;
When she made her vows of marriage,
To the man whose heart she'd won.
 
As a cowgirl, she was a beauty,
She caught the eye of several men;
A horseman and several farm boys,
And a clerk that smelled of gin.
 
She said no to all that asked,
Though many wanted her as wife;
She married herself a cowboy,
And she lived a cowgirl’s life.
 
Often while doing ranching chores,
She’d slip into a woman’s dreams;
Of bright city lights and moonlit nights,
And places she'd seen in magazines.
 
‘Tis right for a woman to want,
Satin sheets and pretty clothes;
And romantic evenings with a man,
That brings to her a single rose.
 
But she was a ranching woman,
Lacking frills or a fancy fan;
Her life was given to children,
And the cowboy ways of her man.
 
Yes, Betty Jean was a cowgirl,
And, now her story has been told;
Of her life as we remember,
Though our memories now grow old.
 
 © 2010, Smoke Wade 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 
 


Photos

with captions by Smoke Wade

Mom was born and raised at the family homestead on Joseph Creek in Asotin County, Washington. Pictured here with her grandmother Wilson and her older brother, Jack Tippett in front of their Joseph Creek home. (circa 1923)

 

Betty Jean and her sister, Barbara, were cowgirls in the true sense of the word. Raised remotely in a region without roads, they relied on horses for all their travel, as well as, routine ranch life duties. In this photo at their Joseph Creek ranch, the two sisters (Betty on the right) are pictured in traditional cowgirl attire of the times. (circa 1935)

 


In this photo Betty Jean (on the right) is shown saddled up and ready to ride with other local cowgirls from neighboring ranches on Joseph Creek. (circa 1935)

 


(My favorite photo) Mom, about age 16, poses along the trail from the Joseph Creek Ranch to the post office at Rogersburg, some six miles away. At this time, there were no roads to town. The nearest town, Asotin, Washington, was a hard two day ride away. Rogersburg boasted a combined store and post office as well as a scheduled stop for river boats that connected my mother's family with the outside world. In this photo, she is probably dressed in her cowgirl finest including mail order trousers that she could grow into as was the custom then. In the back ground is Cactus Flats where the annual branding of the Hashknife cattle took place. (circa 1937)

 

Mother's family were cattlemen and horsemen. They were often photographed together on horse back. With four brothers and a sister, there were enough cowboys and cowgirls to operate a large cattle operation without hiring too much outside help. The ranch did support several seasonal hired men to help with breaking horses, irrigating the fields, putting up hay, feeding cattle in the winter and building fence. One such hired man that helped with breaking horses was well-known horse trainer, Tom Dorrance, California. Pictured left to right and youngest to oldest—the Tippett family—Doug, Biden, Barbara, Bob, Betty Jean (In all white), Jack, Grandma Jesse and Granddad Jidge. (circa late 1940s)


After mom was married, she and my father lived on the Joseph Creek home ranch for a few years. In the harsh winter of 1948-49, we moved as a family to the old town site of Rogersburg, Washington at the confluence of the Grande Ronde river where it joins with the Snake River of Hells Canyon. The ranch house had sat vacant several years and the old post office and general store had been abandoned for about ten years. There was now a road connecting with the town of Asotin, Washington, some 28 miles down river. In this photo, Betty Jean stands on the front porch of the Rogersburg ranch house, a ghost house that she and dad transformed into our family home for many years to come. (circa early 1950s)

Betty Jean during her teenage years at the Cold Springs cow camp in Wallowa county, Oregon. Her family would spend a portion of the summer at this high elevation cow camp before moving the cattle on to fall pasture and the livestock sales yard in Enterprise, Oregon.

 

The Rogersburg ranch, circa 1950. The building with the white roof was the Rogersburg schoolhouse my father relocated to make into a shop. This was the schoolhouse my grandmother taught school at. The small brown building to the left of the schoolhouse was the Rogersburg saloon. And the large brown barn beyond was a warehouse left over from the steamboat days when river boats hauled wool from the canyon.
 

Rimrock Sourdough
 

My mother loved to cook and had a talent for it too. Cooking up a big, delicious meal was one of the many ways she nurtured her family and friends with love. When we lived at Rogersburg, our cattle ranch on the Snake River, my mother would cook three big meals a day, all from scratch, for a table full of hungry people including her husband, five children, hired hands, and anyone who happened to be visiting us that day. That's right, the hired men, or hands as we called them, would eat at our table with us. And if friends or family came to call, they were always invited to stay for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. There was always plenty of food, always room at the table to set another plate, and my mother never hesitated to offer an invitation to a visitor.

Sitting around the big, round, solid oak table in our ranch house kitchen was an opportunity to socialize and connect with one another, as well as to satiate our hunger. Mom would start early in the morning, before dawn, and cook all day long until the dinner dishes were washed and put away in the evening. I marvel that she had the energy and wherewithal to get up and do that every day, seven days a week. But it was the only life she knew at that time in her life. It was a ranch wife's way of life.
 
Rimrock Sourdough

She would get up early
Each morning before the crack o’ dawn
Didn’t need no alarm clock
To put her cowboy coffee on

Need to split more kindling
For the copper firewood box
And stoke the old cook stove
To get the morning fire hot

Crunch up wads of newspaper
Light ‘em with a match or two
Stand back and let the fire burn
Sneak a handrolled cigarette, maybe two

Well, it’s time to stir the sourdough
In Dad’s special sourdough crock
And add a little more flour and water
This was ranch life below the rimrock

She rolled out the biscuit dough
Her mother’s secret recipe
And wondered if he would remember
Their June 1 anniversary

Whisking up a dozen eggs
Gathered from the hen house way out back
She smiled every time she thought
Of wearing that satin blouse on horseback

She picked out the fabric
Especially with him in mind
Sewed on it for hours
Some said her love was blind

The cowboy she fell in love with
Was known for his roving eye
Still he always gave her a thrill
Every time he sauntered by

She daydreamed about Gary Cooper
The strong and silent type
He would cherish her forever
And hold her tight at night

She took off her wedding ring
Placed it on the windowsill
New Monkey Ward catalog will be arriving soon
Better get these breakfast spuds peeled

Slices of farm fresh bacon
Sizzling in the big iron skillet
Sweet butter churned out of fresh cream
Jam jar’s empty, time to refill it

The flapjacks are a’bubbling
Green plates warmed up in the oven
Hashbrowns are close to done
This ranch breakfast’s gonna taste like heaven

Time to call up the stairs
Come on sleepy heads, get out of bed
The hired hands have been up for awhile
In the bunkhouse, waiting to be fed

No, this was not the kind of fairytale life
Written about in dimestore romance novels
Yet still she felt a sense of immense pride
Living a cowgirl's way of life, below rimrocks near swift waters

© 2010, Sharon Brown
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


Hollyhocks and Four O'Clocks
 

I wrote this poem from childhood memories of my mother's garden on the ranch.

My mother was a hardworking country woman of many talents. Besides being a wonderful cook, Mom also loved to garden. She created what I remember as a beautiful, lush garden on the river bank where our ranch was located. As a small child, I delighted in spending time outdoors, playing amongst my mother's fragrant, exotic flowers, walking through her kitchen garden, and picking raspberries from her berry patch.
 

Hollyhocks and Four O'Clocks

She loved to grow flowers in her garden
Looked forward to it every spring
On the banks above the Snake River
Where her laundry flapped in the breeze

Beyond the garden gate of chicken wire
Grew a slope of cockle burrs and stinging nettles
Where magpies would gather to squawk and preen

In hackberry trees, perched like ebony petals

She couldn’t wait to plant new packets of seed
In the ground, but first she’d need to till it
The old ranch house needed a coat of paint
But her garden came first, and she would fill it

Her sons carved out roads with cattle guards
In her pretty iris beds
Her daughters built tent houses on clotheslines
Out of sheets and old bedspreads

The crimson climbing rose was her pride and joy
And oh, how she loved to smell the fragrant lilacs
While her children twisted lavender crepe buds
And fashioned cattle herds out of hollyhocks

The mound of baby’s breath in the corner
Was a rare and special delight
Nestled near fragrant carnations
And four o’clocks that only bloomed at night

The boys filled a mud puddle with water
Underneath the wooden swing
And the girls dangled their bare feet in it
While their mother hoed and daydreamed

You see, we lived in a world of our own making
In the land of Tickle Bridge and Tummy Sing Road
And The Place Where God Drinks Water every morning
Where we played in The Garden of Eden, the one my mother sowed

© 2010, Sharon Brown
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


Night of The Rodeo Queen

Well, my mother was a rodeo queen
When she was just nineteen
Before she met and married Dad
And had to cook and clean

Before she had five children
To sew for, bathe, and feed
Yes, my mother was a rodeo queen
When she was a mere nineteen

She danced one night with Bing Crosby
Back in those carefree, happy days
And led her courtly procession
‘Round the arena in a rodeo parade

And as bulls and bucking broncos
Queued up in the wooden chutes
Cowboys prepared to mount and ride
With rodeo clowns in hot pursuit

My mother presided over all of this
With dust kicked up everywhere
And bloodied lips and knuckles
Of cowboys who hoped to snare

The coveted silver buckle
Of a rough and ready ride
It was over in a matter of seconds
But thrashing hooves could decide

Whether a cowboy got up
And quickly walked away
Or swallowed heaps o' sawdust
While trampled in the melee

Now, those bull-riding contests
Were reserved strictly for the men
But Mom could rope and ride
And barrel race with the best

You see, my mother was a rodeo queen
And to royalty she was born and bred
Born to a cattle ranching baron
How could she have ever guessed

That one day she would put away
Her fancy saddle and spurs
And take on all the responsibilities
That marriage heaped on her

Years later while standing
At the kitchen window
With her hands soaking
In a sudsy bath

A stack of breakfast dishes
Towered before her
As she gazed out
At the garden path

And the world stopped
For a moment
As she remembered
That magical night

The night when the crowd roared
Just for her, and she only nineteen

The night my mother rode into the arena
And was crowned a Rodeo Queen

© 2008, Sharon Brown
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Sharon comments: I wrote "Night of the Rodeo Queen" in memory of my mother, Betty Jean Tippett, who was a rodeo queen at the 1940 Lewiston RoundUp in Idaho. She was also a rodeo princess at the Pendleton Round-up in Oregon.

I still have a satin shirt and corduroy gauchos from her rodeo queen wardrobe. She was very petite as a young woman, and later in life, after childbearing years were well behind her, my mother regained her girlish figure and was able to fit once more into her rodeo queen costume and wear it in the annual parade at the Lewiston Roundup on the float for past royalty.

Knowing that my mother had moments of glory and stars in her eyes as a young woman warms my heart. I think the poem says it all as to why I felt inspired to write it.

 


Pendleton 1938

(The photos above are also a Picture the West entry here.)

In April, 2011, Sharon Brown shared a clipping that a cousin had sent, of Betty Jean Tippett "...as Pendleton Roundup Princess in 1938, when she was just 17 years old. My brother, Smoke Wade, and I had never seen this photo or news clipping before...maybe this was published in The Oregonian."


 


2010 Exhibit at Lewis-Clark State College


Women and Horses, an exhibit at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, October 29-
December 23, 2010 includes a a display about Betty Jean Tippett.
The exhibit includes Betty Jean Tippett's handmade rodeo queen costume, vintage photos, a recently-discovered short story, and Sharon Brown's poem, "Night of The Rodeo Queen." Smoke Wade performs "An Evening of Cowboy Poetry" at the Women and Horses exhibit, November 12, 2010, 5-7 PM.

Sharon Brown shared these photos from the exhibit:

 

Sharon Brown also shared a recently-discovered short story by Betty Jean Tippett, "On the Ranch." Sharon comments, "We recently came across the attached short story our mother wrote as a young college coed (before her marriage to dad), circa 1938-1940, while she was working on her teaching certificate at the local Normal School (now known as Lewis Clark State College). Although the story is fiction, it is based on her childhood experiences living on a cattle ranch in the early part of
the 20th century." The story was provided by Betty Jean Tippett's daughter, Rachel Hossner.
 

 

 

  Read more about Smoke Wade and more of his poetry here.
[photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski]

 

  Read more about Sharon Brown and more of her poetry here.

 

Find a collection of poems and features for Mother's Day here.

 

Sharon Brown and Smoke Wade also contributed a 2010 tribute to their father, Donald W. Fouste

 

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