Meet Fourth-Generation Wyoming Outfitters and Ranchers—The Linn Family

In 1905, when the Linn family’s wagon broke down in Wilson, Wyoming, they decided never to leave
Dispatch Blanket Copy

A vintage Pendleton, from Munro’s collection, makes a festive hay sled picnic blanket. | Photography by Lisa Flood

In 1905, the Linn family, driving a team of horses from North Dakota, stopped in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, because their wagon wheel broke on Teton Pass. While waiting for repairs, they found one of the last pieces of land to homestead in Wilson, Wyoming, and never left.

Dispatch Open Copy

Gene Linn drives the team, Norman and Handy, out for the daily chore.

I met the Linns—Gene, Ellen, Peter and Laura—when I moved to Jackson Hole in 1992. They are fourth-generation outfitters and ranchers, a family who knows every mountain and valley on either side of the Tetons. I spent many evenings in their home listening to Gene tell stories or singing cowboy songs on his guitar. Ellen was like a second mother; she offered me sound advice and, once I was old enough, red wine.

Dispatch Mtn Copy

After the hay has been distributed to the cattle, horses, rescue mustangs and donkeys, everyone enjoys the magnificent Tetons before Laura Linn takes the reins and guides the sleigh back to the barn.

When the opportunity arose to feed the Linns’ horses and cows from the back of a horse-drawn sleigh, I jumped at the opportunity to introduce my kids to this Western tradition. In deep snow, the Linns feed hay from a sleigh once a day.

Dispatch Hay Copy

The children and adults fling hay off the sleigh, making a series of piles for the livestock.

On a chilly afternoon we followed Dwayne (Laura’s husband) to the hitching rail, where we met Norman and Handy, the 23-year-old draft horses the Linns have owned for 13 years. Dwayne and his father-in-law, Gene, proceeded to tack the team up with black-and-silver harnesses from a shed crowded with old mounts, a bucket of moose feet and wooden branded panniers.

Dispatch Man Copy

Gene tacks up the team with tooled and silver-studded harnesses that have been in their family for years.

Next, they hooked the horses to the loaded sleigh. Laura took the reins, and the rest of us piled in the back. As the team and sleigh lurched forward and the harnesses jangled, we grabbed onto the orange twine securing the hay bales and set off down a snowy lane.


LEFT: Munro’s daughter, Sawyer, thankfully inherited her love for horses. RIGHT: A hot drink is a must for a winter picnic. Here Munro made hot apple cider infused with lemon and rosemary bundles.

From the moving sleigh, we distributed flakes of hay in piles to the horses. We didn’t need to be precise when we fed the cows, so we tossed the hay quickly, creating a tornado of loose green.


LEFT: Draft horses Norman and Handy have been part of the Linn family for over 13 years. They enjoy giving rides to the little ones. RIGHT: There’s always fun to be had on the grounds, like trying on a pair of palmate moose antlers.

In between squeals of delight and the crunch of the sleigh over the January snow, Gene told us stories about growing up on the ranch. The entire process took nearly an hour. We passed by the Tetons and along a semi-frozen pond where swans fed. The kids helped with the gates and took turns steering. Upon our return to the barnyard, everyone helped untack Norman and Handy and turn them back into their corral.

Dispatch Big Food Copy

Classic cast-iron pots transport easily and look stylish on a picnic table. Munro likes to use vintage enamelware dishes because they are practical and chic for a ranch-style meal. Blankets and leather layered together enhance the romantic ambience.

I knew we would work up an appetite, so I packed a pot of ranch beans, baking-powder biscuits, cookies and cider. When I was growing up, my mom simmered beans on the stove during the winter months, which inspired me to make this hearty dish.


LEFT: Steady and reliable, Norman and Handy respond to light reins and gentle commands during this daily feeding ritual. The strength, patience and docile temperament of these horses make them ideal for this work. RIGHT: Munro standing next to the tack shed chock-full of used outfitter gear and Western memorabilia, collected by generations.

Grandma Jackie taught me to make the baking-powder biscuits from the Doubleday Cookbook, first published in 1929. As the sun was setting and the air temperature cooled, we enjoyed our picnic with a crew of ranch pups gathered around our ankles.


Galloping Goodies Horse Treats
Ranch Beans

Categories: High-Country Communities