From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 33 - November 13, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online


Ray A. Wardell

Ray Wardell, 66, died Saturday, Nov. 1, 2003, at his home after a courageous battle with cancer.

Ray A. Wardell was born on Aug. 5, 1937, the son of John and Mae (Roth) Wardell. He was raised in the Green River Valley of western Wyoming around Pinedale and Big Piney and graduated from Pinedale High School. He attended Ohio State University for one year, majoring in animal science. He then attended and graduated from Colorado School of Banking.

He married Mame Isaacs in 1961, two sons were born of this union. They were later divorced. From 1965 to 1975 he was employed at the State Bank of Big Piney, eventually being promoted to vice-president/loan officer.

While in Big Piney he raced cutters and chariots, rode horses (bareback and broncs), and announced and clowned at many rodeos. He was president of the World Chariot Association in 1975 and local vice-president from 1965-1974, president of the Big Piney Lions Club from 1973-74, president of Big Piney Jaycees in 1969, and a member of Chuckwagon Days Committee from 1965-1975.

In 1975 Ray moved to Moorcroft to become the president of the new Moorcroft State Bank. He was in that position until 1982, when he left the bank to pursue the horse business full time.

Raised on a ranch, horses had always been his primary interest. He attended his first cutter race in 1949. In 1954, he bought his first registered quarter horses and ran them on the cutters that winter. While in Ohio attending school, he rode colts for Stretch Bradley and Dale Wilkerson.

Ray worked for about a year for J.O. Hankins in Texas, where they stood Silver King, and there he acquired his first experience with A-I breeding techniques.

His involvement in chariot racing led to the desire for faster horses and better bloodlines. He purchased Reed's Tonto and Whizz Blitz, who in turn were sires that produced many successful race and arena horses, some becoming the foundation of his breeding program. His most recent stallion, Dashing With Cash, has the second-highest percentage of stakes winners in the nation, with many AAA runners. He also stood some Foundation-bred stallions for some of his friends. Having his own breeding program gave him the opportunity to do what he loved best - raise, race, train, breed and sell quality quarter horses.

He was also an auctioneer and read pedigrees at many horse sales around the country. He was the organizer and president of the Diamond Classic Futurity and manager of the Diamond Classic Yearling Sale for many years. He served as race director for the Wyoming Quarter Horse Association from 1975-1992. He organized and was two-term president of the Wyoming Horse racing Association. He served on the race committee of AQHA from 1988 until 1996. He enjoyed golfing, reading and, most of all, watching his son, Kelly, participate in rodeos.

In 1977 he married Cheri Miller and they made their home north of Moorcroft on the Half-Fast Ranch.

Ray is survived by Cheri, his wife of 26 years; a son, Kelly Wardell and Barb Patterson of Bellevue, Idaho; his mother, Mae Wardell of Gillette; and his father, John Wardell of Pinedale.

He was preceded in death by a son, James Wardell in 1989.

A celebration of life for Moorcroft resident Ray A. Wardell, was conducted at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, at Moorcroft High School with Mike Morrison of Mike Morrison Ministries officiating. At his request, cremation has taken place.

In lieu of flowers a memorial fund for a scholarship at Moorcroft High School has been established in Ray Wardell's name.

Condolences and donations may be sent to the family at Stevenson-Wilson funeral Home 210 W. 5th Street Gillette, Wyo., 82716 or via the internet at

Tommy Astle

After suffering from a lingering illness, Tommy Astle, 93, passed away quietly at the Sublette Center on Nov. 3, 2003.

Tommy was born at a ranch, with the help of a midwife, in Montpelier, Idaho, on Jan. 9, 1910, to Matilda Jane Danx and Joseph Charles Astle. He was the ninth of 12 children born into a LDS family.

Tommy was born to love ranch life, experiencing its joys and sorrows at an early age. Tommy lost his younger brother, Reynor, in a horse accident when he was 10 years old. He saw his father bring home a new Model T Ford that he immediately ran into a service-berry bush.

"We had to get a team of horses to pull it off."

Tommy loved the farm. He worked the farm, plowing and harvesting wheat with his brothers and sisters. Tommy made it to the eighth grade, throwing his book in a ditch the day of the exams because he knew that ranching and farming were going to be his life work.

When his father died, his family moved to California, but Tommy changed his mind on the journey, got on his horse and headed north to Wyoming.

Tommy worked at numerous jobs. He worked at cowboying for Charlie Noble in Big Piney and at a lumber yard; he gathered cattle for Old Man Lloyd of Cottonwood, and at various outfits in the Hoback area.

He and a friend lived in a cabin that his friend homesteaded. They trapped in the winter, mostly coyotes and marten, and sold the skins to fur buyers for $12 to $20 each. They were able to make enough to sustain themselves for the winter.

"The spring ran outside the cabin. We'd take our Saturday night bath in a round tub. We read a lot and got around on wooden skis."

During the summers of the Depression years, he was hired by the government to poison squirrels in the Hoback Basin.

He lived this routine until he was 26 years old. He met a gal up in the Hoback and they were married.

Tommy said that he "didn't know what in the world he was thinking" when he decided to settle down. However, they headed down to the Red Desert and South Pass country, where he began his career of trapping coyotes for the government.

Tommy and his wife lived in a cabin in South Pass. Tommy said, "We were paid by the month. We made a $2 bounty on each skin. The first month, I had 49 skins."

Tommy and his wife led a rugged life, living in a tent with spike camps along the way. They packed all their supplies in by horseback. He spent the next 12 years mostly in the Wind River Range with a year in the Grey's River area. His wife decided that she wanted to live in the city and Tommy could not leave his lifestyle. He raised bear cubs while he lived in the wilderness areas.

After many years, Tommy quit trapping because he couldn't make a living at it any more. The experiences that he had in the Winds and the Hoback led him to start a bear- and deer-hunting guide service. He did this for four years and really enjoyed it.

Tommy lived with Harold and Dorothy Taylor for 27 years until they sold their house, becoming part of their family. He worked for Harold as a dry-waller, but escaped to the Winds every chance he got which is where he was the happiest.

Tommy fed elk at Soda Lake for eight winters. Tommy said of the Winds, "You can't know them all." However, few knew the west side of the Winds better than Tommy.

In 1994, Tommy was at a friend's house when he was asked to model for "Cattle Kate's" clothing catalog. "Cattle Kate picked me and Doc Foster to make pictures. It was fun-not a lot of money. We went to Jackson and, boy, were there a lot of pretty girls!"

Of all the things Tommy Astle did in his life, he favored trapping and cow punching. "Neither one amounted to much, but I sure did enjoy it."

Until Tommy's illness, Tommy still sawed, chopped and cut his own wood. He tooled around in a pickup truck that was 20 years old, but his love was a his hot rod yellow and black Camero. Even in his 80s, Tommy would drive all over in his Camero to visit friends.

Tommy had a gentle and respectful nature that took him to places that most people only dream of. His mischievous and stubborn disposition was that of a teenager. His love of freedom, unconfinement, and the wildness of Wyoming, helped define who Tommy was. He could talk ranching and cattle with any seasoned rancher.

He was a man with a pioneer spirit, a curiosity about life, a man of honor, with a refreshing spirit and a zest for life. At his cabin in Cora, the wood stove was always stoked and his house open to his friends.

"I like having nice friends. It's a real shame when a man can't take time to help a friend."

Tommy frequented the Wrangler several mornings a week. You may have sat and had coffee with him. Raise a cup to Tommy and his life now.

At Tommy's request, cremation has taken place, and a memorial service will be held Saturday, Nov. 22, at 11 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 221 North Street, Pinedale. Bishop Alan Ziegler will officiate. Fellowship and a luncheon will follow the service at the LDS Church.

His family requests that donations be made to the Sublette Center nursing wing, where Tommy's life was made more comfortable in the end.

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