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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PHOTOGRAPHY Lisa Flood