Four to be inducted to Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame at county fair

Four inductees to the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame were honored at the Big Horn County Fair this year, including Andy Gifford of Crystal Creek, Eugene Bischoff of Lovell, James Caines of Hyattville and Richard Skeen of Powell.

The Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame, District 6, which includes Big Horn, Park and Washakie counties, honored the four inductees during the grand entry at the Big Horn County Fair on Saturday evening. They will again be honored on Sept. 11-12 at the celebration of the 2020 and 2021 inductees at the Little America in Cheyenne. 

Andy Gifford

Andy Gifford was born into the lifestyle of being a cowboy. He grew up on the ranch at Crystal Creek with his six siblings. He rode his horse to school and chased wild horses on his way home with his brother, Art. 

Gifford married Lillian Jolley, and they raised their five children on the ranch. Horses were a big part of their lives, but cattle, sheep, bum lambs, chicken, turkeys, geese and even milk cows were included in the chores. They all worked together and looked forward to spring brandings with their neighbors. 

Gifford’s reputation of taking on difficult horses made him known throughout the Basin. If he couldn’t turn them around, he added them to his bucking string. He contracted bucking horses and some bulls to local rodeos, and by the 1970s he was contracting livestock to rodeos all over Wyoming and Montana. Andy started one of the best bareback bucking horses that ever lived. That horse, named Come Apart, performed at nine National Finals Rodeos and was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979.

The love of ranching, livestock and rodeo was apparent throughout Gifford’s life. He died at his ranch on Crystal Creek in 2009 at the age of 87. He had a great sense of humor and told great stories. He loved his family. He truly lived the life of a cowboy. 

Eugene Bischoff

Eugene “Louie” Bischoff was born in Lovell in 1913, and he lived all of his 73 years in the same home on Nevada Avenue. 

His father’s dream was to own a cattle ranch and upon Bischoff’s father’s accidental death, the dream was carried on when his five sons took over the responsibility of the ranch. Gene and Goad worked as the cowboys. The cabin at Cottonwood was built as a cow camp and would become Gene’s second home, every summer and fall.

His seven children were raised and given the responsibility of cattle ranching. They were taught by Gene’s example, working hard, being honest and kind, and above all else, taking care of their livestock.

Horses were of utmost importance to Gene, and he had excellent horsemanship. His horses were taken care of first. Daily 15 mile rides were common to gather or check on cattle. Gene started calling the pace of these excursions the “Bischoff Trot” as he would trot everywhere, except uphill.

The EO Bischoff family ranch today is operated by Gene’s children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and now great-great-grandchildren. His love of the mountains, ranching and rodeo is reflected in this continuing way of life.

James Caines

James “Jim” Caines was born on a small ranch near Hyattville in the mid 1930s. Upon his father’s death, his mother later married Berl Bader, a Ten Sleep cowboy who passed on a wealth of knowledge to Caines. Caines and his friends recall many adventures of chasing wild horses, which later led him to starting his horse-raising career. He broke many horses for area ranchers.

He obtained a teaching degree with an eye toward acquiring his own ranch. In 1978, after teaching and coaching for many years, he quit teaching and purchased a ranch in Hyattville and began raising good quarter horses and registered Hereford cattle, selling bulls to ranchers throughout the basin. He later switched to Angus cattle.

He once ran as many as 650 mother cows and 100 horses. As his children moved away, he cut his herd to 300 mother cows, and he actively ran the ranch until his semi-retirement at 70 years old. He continues to do the irrigation and helps with the hay at the ranch today.

Caines served on the Wyoming State Grazing Board for 15 years. He has also served on the National Forest Advisory Board for Big Horn County. 

He and his wife have two sons and a daughter, and at 86 years old he is active on the family ranch during summers while spending his winters in Wickenburg, Ariz. 

Richard Skeen

Richard “Dick” Skeen was born on February 12, 1928, in Hyattville. When Dick was 11 his father passed away while working in Yellowstone Park. Skeen’s mother took him and his brother back to Hyattville, later marrying Slim Greer. The family moved to Greer’s ranch where Dick learned the cowboy way of life, with ranch chores and responsibilities. 

He worked on various ranches around the country, including the Hayes Ranch, where he tended the herd while living in a sheep wagon. His artistic talent was shown there when, using the wall of the wagon as a canvas, he created an elaborate pencil drawing of a bronc rider. 

His endless passion of working cows and breaking horses led him to work on various ranches around Hyattville. In 1963 he moved his family to Torrington to become a brand inspector for the state of Wyoming. He transferred to Powell in 1967 where he found local ranchers could always use a willing hand to help move cows or break a colt. He purchased acreage near Powell and raised heifers, putting them on leased summer pasture where his family checked on them often, riding the brush and doing any doctoring as needed. 

He became a full-time cattle buyer, which kept him in touch with area ranchers and provided more time to be in the saddle, doing what he loved best.

Skeen passed away in 2006 at the age of 78.