I’m Jo Lee Trotter Riley born to a ranch couple in the North Dakota badlands after WWII and raised on the family cattle ranch 45 miles from town and three miles from the nearest neighbor. Seven hard miles when the river was up. Went to country school with five to nine students from grade one through eight. All but one was a Trotter. Rode to school until we lost a saddle blanket, then bareback till Gramma reported our horses sweaty, then we rode three miles to the grand folks and walked the last mile. True we had been horsing around, literally, until we were going to be late so decided to take a cut across above the river crossing. Sparky went in first on his tall rope horse and in two steps his stirrups were touching the sand. By the time we got the horse out of the bog we were definitely, late and had to race to get to school on time. We didn’t dare plead our case because we had been warned from the time of birth to only cross in the crossing in early spring where it had been slowly packed till it was solid footing.
I’ve never been without a horse or a cow since I was born. My Uncle gave me a cow and my name (Lee) shortly after I was born.
Childhood on the Little Missouri was great and I’ll get more and more of it written down in years to come. Lots of my poems tell the tales.
My folks moved to Canada to ranch while I finished school and married in Montana. Ranches in Montana, British Columbia, Alberta, and now Oregon have been my home.
Tom M Riley, who was born and raised on a ranch in Nebraska and rodeo’d in College, has been my husband for the last 33 years. We have leased ranches and ran other’s cattle as well as our own. We are now in Oroville, Wa to be closer to my mother, after being on our son’s place while Tom was healing up from double knee replacement. We moved there after our last leased ranch sold. It was a 1500 acre place that ran twice as many cattle, as the 25,000 acre one we were on for 5 years before, so were still spending lots of time in the saddle. We were summering over 700 pairs and fall calving about 500 of them. These were registered so we tagged every calf shortly after birth and doctored lots as the Swamp was an old lake bed with all the bad bugs one could imagine.
My Grandfather rode broncs as well as roped and the rest of the family all roped, including my mother and I. My brother, Sparky and his wife, have won numerous saddles in calf and team roping.
Between our son and daughter, we are blessed with 8 terrific grandkyds.
Simmental cattle, the Fleckvieh strain, with milk, muscle, and calving ease, carried our XY- brand. The tall slab sided ones or hard calvers didn’t last long here. Yes we handle cattle with quarter horses, not 4 wheelers.