The Owens Valley has been home to cowboys ever since Samuel Bishop drove a herd of about 500 cattle through the valley in 1861.
The Eastern California Museum’s 2017 Calendar celebrates those hearty souls who made a living working with cows and horses, and helped shaped the culture and history of the Owens Valley.
The calendar features a broad array of photos that give a glimpse of the “cowboy way” from the earliest days to more recent times.
The cover photo shows a “young Johnny Lubken” decked out in some rather fine cowboy attire as he sits his horse and surveys a docile herd of cows.
Showing a bit more grit and reality are several photos of local cowboys branding cows, complete with taut ropes and plenty of dust.
Some of names old-timers might recognize include Fred Burkhardt and Chappo Bellas, in one photo, and Sam Lewis and JD Callaway in another.
Then there is the photo of “Skinny Gates” riding his horse down the steps of the Inyo County courthouse while holding a US flag. The Lacey clan is captured in a group photo from the 1940s in Browns Meadow.
A rare photo shows the famed Monache Meadow rodeo, with dozens of cowboys ready for action, and a small photo of not one, but two bucking broncs trying to toss their riders.
A classic photo shows a group of cowboys and a corral full of horses on the Mairs Ranch, outside of Independence, in about 1900.
Another rare photo shows a huge herd of 5,000 cattle and cowboys on the Ricky Ranch, a sprawling spread in the early 1900s that eventually became the Eaton Ranch, south of Big Pine.
Not to be outshined were the area’s cowgirls. Dressed in stylish western fashions including custom chaps and skirts with great hats, the women cut quite a figure. In a bit of Western marketing, an attractive cowgirl in a tailored outfit says, “welcome to the Benton Dude Ranch.”
Of course, a couple of mule skinners and their mules are included, as are Basque sheepherders who escorted thousands of sheep through the Eastern Sierra into the 1960s.
The 2017 Eastern California Museum Calendar is available at the Museum, 155 N. Grant St., Independence, for $10; if ordered over the phone at 760-878-0258 and mailed, the calendar will cost $14 to cover postage and tax.
The calendar is also available at the following locations: in Lone Pine at Boulder Creek RV Resort; the Lone Pine Museum of Western Film; and the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce; in Bishop at Spellbinder Books; Range and River Books; the Bishop Chamber of Commerce; Laws Railroad Museum; and the Mule Days Office.
The calendar is made possible by the ongoing support of the Eastern California Museum by the County of Inyo Board of Supervisors; a generous donation from the non-profit Friends of the Eastern California Museum, and a special donation from the Coso Operating Company – Terra-Gen Power, LLC, which operates the Coso Geothermal Plant, in Inyo County, and is one of the largest producers of renewable energy in the West.