This Wyoming native has weathered harsh winters, but hasn’t strayed from the land and lifestyle she knows best.

Dianne Boroff respects the ranching country in Horse Creek Valley near Daniel, Wyoming, and the hardscrabble pioneers who settled the area. She was raised on a ranch there, just down the road from the one where she and Joe, her husband of 43 years, have a stocker operation that was homesteaded by Joe’s grandfather in 1914. The mother of two grown daughters, Angie and Mandy, and a grandmother of five, Dianne still wakes up early and feeds cattle every morning, and she saddles up and day works on neighboring ranches. She also builds custom saddles, chaps and leather goods.

Dianne Boroff standing with horse and dog

MY DAD’S FAMILY came from Oklahoma to Wyoming during the Great Depression because they heard you could get work haying on ranches. My dad and mom met at Teton Valley Ranch, where they both worked. They later moved to this country, and raised me and my five brothers and sisters.

WE HAD A COW-CALF operation, and Dad had an outfitting business. I was never too much into hunting. Dad said the guys came to get away from women, and he didn’t think it was the right place for a girl to be.

WHEN I WAS YOUNG, you started at the bottom and worked your way up to roping [in the branding corral]. We started out as “tar babies,” swabbing pine tar on calves after dehorning them to keep the bugs off and help stop bleeding. It was the messiest job, and we would hide in hope of not having to do it.

DAD WINTERED HORSES out on pasture and sent us kids to bring them in to feed when it was really cold. The warmest shoes I could find were leather slippers with sheepskin lining, and I wore them under my overshoes. It was a 3-mile ride one way to get the horses, and Dad told us not to run them because it was sometimes 40-below zero and we might freeze their lungs.

WE STARTED OUR OWN COLTS, then started breaking horses for Miller Land and Livestock. They’d bring us five or six head, and us three older kids would get them going. We’d get $50 a head and use that money to buy new hats, boots and school clothes at the Cowboy Shop in Pinedale, Wyoming.

I BELIEVE YOU have a better understanding and appreciation for what’s here if you look back and see how people struggled to get to where we are today.

JOE AND I OWNED this ranch and took care of cattle for some folks on a ranch we used to own down the road. Joe decided he didn’t want to take on the other cattle. My daughter Mandy was still living at home, so I thought she and I could handle things there, but Joe said we could not. You know how it is when someone tells you that you can’t do something? Mandy and I ran around 2,000 head of steers for the outfit. Then Mandy got married, and I did it myself. I was too proud to ask Joe for help most of the time.

MOST OF WHAT I learned about cattle I learned from the cattle themselves and working by myself.

COCKY COWBOYS, even little ones like my grandson, have self-assurance from being raised on a ranch and knowing they can handle things. A lot of kids don’t get that chance. 

THE WINTER OF 1986 to ’87 was one of the snowiest. We had 54 inches of snow within a few days. We fed with a team and a sled, and had to shovel 14 inches of heavy, wet snow off the sled. Neighbors told stories of trying to work cattle in minus-60-degree temperatures and not being able to get the cows to move.

I DON’T REALLY THINK I have a domestic side. I can cook enough to get by, and I do only enough housekeeping that I can stand to live here.

RANCHING IS A GOOD WAY to raise kids. I had never thought about that until my oldest daughter, Angie, came home and said that people ask her, “How do you know so much?” She knows about flowers, birds, repairs, and to think and improvise. You learn a lot about a lot of things on a ranch.

This article was originally published in the July 2014 issue of Western Horseman. 

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