Living history: Sommers shares memories of ranching on Horseshoe Creek, Sawmill Canyon 

By Lisa Phelps   
Posted 4/3/24

HARTVILLE – Lifelong Glendo area ranchers Sandra Sommers and her son Lloyd recently shared memories with an audience in Hartville. In an informal question-and-answer format she discussed some …

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Living history: Sommers shares memories of ranching on Horseshoe Creek, Sawmill Canyon 


Lloyd and Sandra Sommers shared memories of a lifetime of ranching in the Glendo-Hartville area in a question-and-answer format last week.
Lloyd and Sandra Sommers shared memories of a lifetime of ranching in the Glendo-Hartville area in a question-and-answer format last week.
HARTVILLE – Lifelong Glendo area ranchers Sandra Sommers and her son Lloyd recently shared memories with an audience in Hartville. In an informal question-and-answer format she discussed some of her family's history, beginning with some facts she learned from her own mother. 

Sandra's great-grandfather Christian Hauf came to the United States from Darmstadt, Germany and ran a meat market and had a real estate business with another man in Chicago. At one point, two properties came up for sale: one in Texas, the other at Horseshoe Creek near Glendo. They drew for who would purchase each property, and Christian drew the property in Wyoming – the other gentleman went to Texas. 

Christian built a home on Horseshoe Creek and raised his family there. On the ranch he raised purebred shorthorn cattle and draft horses. Christian had prize draft horses that he showed at the Chicago World Fair and some shows in California – the family still has some heirlooms in the prizes won by those horses. Sandra recalls they were very big and beautiful horses. 

At one point, Christian had an agreement with the government to provide fresh meat for the Indians on the Wind River Indian Reservation. In 1905-06 he and his son Charles (Sandra's grandfather) ran their cattle to Hudson, Wyoming where they butchered the cattle and sold the meat to the Indians on the reservation. During that time Charles and Arapahoe Chief Little Shield became friends. Sandra's mother, Violet (Thompson), and her sister Marsha (Johnson) were born there, and Chief Little Shield's wife made moccasins that were gifted to the family. Chief Little Shield gave several other gifts to the family during their time in Hudson, including many pieces that were ceremonial. 

Lloyd said anyone who would like to view the pieces can: simply go to the Wyoming Pioneer Museum in Douglas. “We feel these pieces should be preserved and appreciated,” he said. 

Sandra added they donated the pieces to the museum “with the stipulation, if the Arapahoe people have a museum rebuilt, they have the right to take them.” 

One of the pieces on display is a pitch-lined water bottle that Charles found while rounding up cattle “towards Glendo.” Sandra recalls, “I understand the Indians traveled the country to the reservation and someone was carrying his water jug and he lost it. Grandfather found it.” 

Sandra's dad was Bill Thompson – his family hailed from Nebraska. At one point he purchased the old Hayes place and bought the 7H, left hip, brand from Mrs. Hayes for Sandra when she was 10 or 12. 

It is still the brand that is used by the Sommers' corporation, Horseshoe Valley Ranch. 

For a couple years, Sandra lived in Sawmill Canyon outside Hartville. “My dad never thought anyone was beneath him... There was Tony Testolin and all the brothers and sisters of all of us would run up and down the streets. Grandma Testolin used to let us get a pickle from the pickle barrel. They were awfully good to me. I spent a lot of time with Ewana Knoposis – her family was up at Sunrise.” 

Sandra said she wished she had pictures to share, but “when we were kids and all running around, we didn't have a camera.” 

In some of that running around, they found caves with pictographs (since estimated to be 300 years old), crystal caves, and mysterious “chimneys” that have an unknown history. 

Sandra mostly went to school in Glendo, but in the third and fourth grades she lived in Sawmill Canyon. “My mother got an emergency teacher's certificate to homeschool me, then in fourth grade, they had a summer school. Then Ada Mae Roberts taught me.... that’s where we all got together,” Sandra said. 

She also said there was no well at the Sawmill Canyon homestead. Her mother had to “dip water and haul it to the house” from a hole the spring ran into. “Mom hated that,” Sandra recalled. 

Growing up, Sandra remembers the winter of '49 as one of the worst winters, though there were a few bad ones. During one of them her dad ran some yearlings on an old farm he rented outside Glendo. “I had a spotted pony – Dad tied a sack on each side of my saddle horn and both sides of his, and we'd go to town up the railroad. We couldn't go cross-country because the snow was so deep. When we got to town, he'd take my horse and I'd head to the drug store where my friend Eva Coffee worked, until he picked me up. I remember they had ice cream there,” she said, hinting she sampled some of it. 

In 1950, Sandra married one of her neighbors, Dave Sommers. (His family came from the Little Bear area near Cheyenne, then the 12 kids spread out throughout the region, including Hallek Canyon near the Flying X Ranch west of Wheatland, and Horseshoe Creek in Glendo). 

When the dam at Glendo was put in (1954 - 1957), the railroad was re-routed from where it was before with easy access for farmers to load their beets on the railroad cars. “Sad to say, but there was a lot of beautiful agriculture ranches it covered. raised a lot of nice crops,” Sandra said. Before the dam was constructed, there were a lot of sugar beets grown in the valley, along with corn Sandra remembers as very tall. “My grandaddy was not a tall man, but the corn was way above him.” 

There were also many rattlesnakes that showed up after the dam was built. “They were very bad, I had to warn the children to be careful. The rattlesnakes would come right up on the doorstep,” she said. 

Sandra said she remembered when electricity was first brought to the area. Electricity was put in wherever you wanted it, mostly – not like today. Lloyd said within the last couple years some of the lines and poles were replaced on their property, and they had the 1946 date tag on them. 

Lloyd said he remembers as a child having the “party line” form of telephone. “There were a lot of great conversations we had. We had a sort of self-designated operator, you had to interrupt her. She always knew what was going,” he chuckled. 

Asked if there were issues with fire or other pestilences, Sandra said there were some prairie fires – several started by the railroad, and a lot of flooding. Sometimes they were bad, since there is no flood control on the Horseshoe. 

For a time, Dave's aunt and uncle, Hal and Wilma “Tick” Sommers owned and ran the Venice Bar. It was a renowned bar and restaurant in the region with people traveling quite a distance to go there. The bar was upstairs, the food downstairs and they made a lot of spaghetti, fried chicken, other local favorites and even a seven-course meal, as discussed by those in attendance at the meeting in Hartville. 

“I remember being there as a kid it was so much fun,” Lloyd shared. “The parents were in the bar, and we could run through there every once in a while and get a soda. And then downstairs was wonderful, good food... there were a lot of fond memories.” 

Asked what they used to do for fun, she said they'd head to Hubbard's Cupboard to dance on the weekends, and sometimes on a Saturday night they'd “have a time of it just stirring up $5” for a beer at Pepperville. 

Throughout all those side stories, there was always a lot of horse riding and cattle ranching by Sandra and her family. Through the years they trailed cattle to a property she and her husband bought on the Laramie Plains. “It was a long, hard journey,” she said. To begin with it took nine days to accomplish, and each year they adjusted the route or method of getting the cattle there or back in whichever way they thought would make it easier or shorter. 

One easier way was to use trucks to haul the cattle during a particularly hard stretch. “They were old trucks, and there were always flat tires, or a cow would break the slats,” Sandra recalled. “It was interesting.” 

“Those were the best memories of my life,” Lloyd said. “We got to sleep in a tent with canvas walls and a dirt floor.” 

Today, things are divided up differently, Sandra said. Many of the old roads or trails are no longer there. They don't do cattle drives the same way they used to. They went from raising mostly Herefords, to adding black bulls and now run a primarily Black Angus ranch. 

After a lifetime of life in the saddle, 89-year-old Sandra said she was forced to quit riding horses because she couldn't lift the saddle anymore, “and no one else will do it for me.” However, she does still help with the ranch – just last week she was vaccinating cattle during branding operations on the family ranch. 

“My mom and I each own brand of our own,” Lloyd shared. “As we were putting them on the cows yesterday, I asked my mother how I ended up with an RE on the left rib – she said it came from Roy Elkins from Manville. His wife sold the brand. Mom's brand is a Lazy TK that belonged to Tony Knoposis.” 

Over the years Sandra has been on the school board, an EMT, belonged to the American Legion Auxiliary, the Cowbelles, and the rodeo club, was secretary on the fire board, and sponsored the Horseshoe Valley Chariot Races for several years. In 2017, Sandra was honored with a Centennial Ranch plaque by the governor. 

Lloyd said she has also been nominated for the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame, with winners to be announced this fall. 

Lloyd shared his appreciation to Sunrise Historic and Prehistoric Preservation Society for giving he and his mother the opportunity to share what they can with people about our local history. “Mom's memory is fading and mine doesn't go back very far,” Lloyd said. “There is a lot of neat stuff and a lot of hard times. There's also been a lot of wonderful times.” 

SHAPPS programs planned for the next couple months include information and stories from the great-great grandson of an Italian Sunrise miner who was murdered, Kathy Troupe will share information about the Hartville cemetery, local rockhound and lapidarian Bob Hood will talk about minerals and gemstones, and a chiropterologist (one who studies bats) will discuss bats, their culture, families and how they live. For more information, or to see videos of oral history preserved by SHAPPS, go to, call 307-331-8810 or write to P.O. Box 30, Hartville, WY 82215.