It’s Reno Rodeo time here in Reno and it has all of us thinking about cowboys, but what about the roots of our Basque cowboys? A disclaimer, this post is a lot about my family, but as I’ve been working on our massive upcoming 2-volume compendium Basques in the United States, family roots have been on my mind a lot lately. The Reno Gazette Journal posted a really nice article about my nephew, Trenten Montero, and in it I found listed at least one other Nevadan Reno Rodeo competitor with Basque descent, Victor Ugalde from Kings River, who will compete in the team roping. I was curious and looked up the entries for both of these cowboys’ immigrant descendants, and thought I would share with you all the entries that will be forthcoming in the Basques in the United States. Among the many striking things about these entries, the dangers and hardships, the hard work these ancestors put in and that their great-grandsons have put in to make it to the Reno Rodeo, what I want to highlight is that both of the ranches mentioned here, Leonard Creek Ranch on the Pine Forest Range, and 9 Mile Ranch in Kings River (both in my birthplace of Humboldt Co., NV) remain with these respective families. That says a lot about roots, Basque and cowboy, and how they’ve come together in our little corner of the West. Also maybe something about the central place of the Basque baserri in Basque culture (see for example, Zulaika and Douglass, Basque Culture) and how it relates to “Home on the Range.”
Trenten’s great-grandfather Ramon (from Volume 2: Iparralde and Nafarroa):
MONTERO ORQUIN, Ramon. Born in Oronoz to Antonio Montero and Ignacia Orquin. They were nine siblings and he sailed from LeH aboard La Lorraine, arriving in the US on Dec. 8, 1902 when he was just 18. While at the train station, Ramon was steered into the right train by a black woman, who noticed his tag attached to the jacket. Montero did not know how to thank her, but in his heart he did so, and profusely. Arrived in Los Angeles and herded sheep for Echenique, earning $25 a month. It took him six months to pay for the trip from Oronoz to California. At age 31 he married Fermina Frantziska Bidegaray. She was 21, from Eiheralarre and the marriage took place on Jan. 13 (or 16), 1918 at Our Lady Queen of Angels’ church in Los Angeles. The witnesses were Fermin Montero and Dominica Bidegaray. Frantziska’s parents were Juan Bidegaray and Juana Maitia (from Iparralde). Montero eventually came to Winnemucca and became a sheepman. He and Michel Bidart bought the Leonard Creek Ranch and for a time they ran 10–12,000 sheep. The ranch is isolated, so there was plenty of room for the sheep. They had donkeys, which are the best for herding sheep, and one day a fellow came looking for a jack donkey to breed his female. Montero had a jack and made a good deal when he exchanged the jack for five cows. That was the beginning of the cattle operation at Leonard Creek Ranch. Ramon’s son Albert (born in Winnemucca) in a memoir published in Herria in 2011, shares a detail worth replicating here. He told the interviewer Miel Elustondo that when his father was young growing up in Nafarroa, he smuggled contraband across the French-Spanish border (which by-the-way, cut the Basque Country in two). The interesting thing was that Ramon’s father was a border guard, working for the Spanish state.
And Victor’s great-grandfather, Antonio, who was born in Ea, Bizkaia (from Volume 1: Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa):
UGALDE CHACARTEGUI, Antonio. Born Feb. 9, 1889. Arrived in 1904. On Jan. 2, 1915 he married Paula Erquiaga (native of Natxitua) in Winnemucca. In 1917 he was a rancher and a stockman and worked the 9 Mile Ranch in Kings River. He was living there with his wife and his first 2 children. In 1930 he was living in Summit Lake. He died Nov. 3, 1933.