Henry Albert Scobee was born March 5, 1927, in Allen County, Kansas, the second child of George and Flossie (Faulkner) Scobee. In the spring of 1930, the family moved to a homestead in Converse County, Wyoming. Their house was a one room tar paper shack with a wooden floor built by Henry’s father. There was no electricity or running water. Henry and his brothers, Bill and Clarence, went to school in Verse, Wyoming. His sister, Georgia, was born on the homestead.
Henry was finishing fourth grade in the spring of 1937, when the family moved near Sheridan, Wyoming. His sister, Rosie, was born that year. In 1939, Henry’s dad leased a farm on Soldier Creek. On the farm, along with the horses and milk cows, they had chickens and about 300 sheep. Henry finished 6th, 7th and 8th grades at the Soldier Creek School. While they lived there Henry’s dad taught his sons how to break horses.
Late in the summer of 1943, Henry heard that Sam McDowell was in Sheridan looking for cowboys to work on the roundup for the SU Ranch, owned by Faddis Kennedy Cattle Co., which was located 15 miles east of Lodge Grass, on the Crow Indian Reservation in Big Horn County, Montana. Henry was 16 when he hired on at the SU Ranch. He started as the horse wrangler and found time to work with young horses. He was out with the wagon, working cows and branding calves for the next two months. Other than two years in the U.S. Navy, Henry spent the next 51 years working for ranches that were either wholly or partially on the Crow Indian Reservation (Big Horn County), including, the SU, EV, Antler, Belton Evans and Padlock Ranches. Henry worked at the SU until March of 1944, when he joined the U.S. Navy for the duration of the war as his brother, Bill, had in 1943. When they returned home at the end of the war Bill and Henry drove out to the SU Ranch and both went to work there. It was at this time that everyone at the SU Ranch started calling him Hank, instead of Henry.
In 1949, Hank was asked to help Jack Willey and J. C. “Junior” Smith get their 600 head of steers to the Billings stockyards. The steers were on Cow Creek in the Bears Paw Mountains. They trailed the steers to the Missouri River, swam them across at the McClelland Ferry, trailed them on to Winifred and put them on a train to Billings.
In 1949, while working at the SU, Hank met his future wife, Lauretta Bradley, a cook on the N Bar Ranch. The N Bar Ranch was owned by the same company that owned the SU Ranch, so they used the same cowboy crew for the roundup. Hank and Lauretta married in May 1951, at the foreman’s house on the SU Ranch. They moved to the Long Tail Camp on Rotten Grass Creek (west of Lodge Grass) to work for Bill Greenough, manager of the Antler Ranch. In the summer time Hank rode on the steers. In the winter time he fed cake to the steers. Hank worked for the Antler Ranch until they lost their lease on the land on Rotten Grass Creek.
In 1953, Hank took a job at the EV Ranch, working for Barbara and Joe Hope (Sam McDowell’s daughter and son-in-law). It was located off Highway 314, between Busby and Decker, Montana. In 1954, Hank took a job for the Belton Evans Ranch on Pass Creek near Parkman, Wyoming, just south of the Montana state line. They stayed there for 1½ years.
In January 1956, Hank went to work for Farris Barnett on the Padlock Ranch, headquartered at Dayton, Wyoming. They moved to a Padlock camp called the Tucker Place, located on Old Highway 87, one mile north of the Montana/Wyoming state line. The camp was used for calving out the two-year-old heifers. Hank spent the first winter there feeding cows in the morning and building a calving shed in the afternoon. During calving season cowboys stayed at the calving shed 24 hours a day to watch over the heifers, two on the night crew and four or five during the day.
Each summer the Padlock cowboys moved steers to the top of the Big Horn Mountains above Dayton, Wyoming for summer pasture. Hank’s job was to ride on the steers there. So each year in June Hank, Lauretta and their children Karen, Donna, George and John moved into the Padlock Ranch mountain cabin for the summer. Hank spent the next seven summers riding the mountain.
The Padlock Ranch leased the Little OW Ranch from Kendrick Cattle Company. It was located on Tullock Creek, 20 miles east of Hardin, Montana. In February 1963, the Padlock offered Hank the opportunity to be foreman of that part of the Ranch. It had five cow camps along 10 miles of Tullock Creek. The headquarters of that ranch was called the Ceded Strip. Hank was the foreman there for the next 15 years. They ran about 3,700 head of cows. They branded about 3,300 calves each spring. During the first few years Lauretta cooked for the branding crew. Then Hank hired a cook, set up a chuck wagon, a cook tent, fly and a bed tent for the men so they didn’t have go back home each night.
In 1978, Homer Scott, the owner of the Padlock Ranch asked Hank to transfer to the main ranch near Dayton, Wyoming, to be a foreman there. Hank and Lauretta moved to the Padlock’s Five Mile Camp. (Their children had already left home.)
Hank was not only known as a good cowboy, but also a good judge of livestock. And he had a reputation for riding the horses that no one else would ride. Because of his lifelong knowledge of horses Hank became the horse buyer for the Padlock for a few years. In the late 1970s and early 1980s he went to the auction yards in Billings to buy horses for the Ranch. In 1989, during the State of Montana Centennial, Hank was designated a “Montana Centennial Cowboy”.
Hank was a foreman on the south end of the Padlock Ranch until he turned 65. He continued to work for the Ranch for two more years. In 1994, living in Ranchester, Wyoming, he retired from the Padlock and took a job as a part-time brand inspector for the State of Wyoming. In 2011, at the age of 84, he retired from brand inspecting. He then wrote a non-published collection of his life experiences called “Hank Scobee a Cowboy’s Life Story.”
Sources: The Western Horseman March 1981 vol 46 no. 4 The Padlock Ranch Story, The Outfit in Winter
National Geographic October 1973 vol 144, no. 4 Cowpunching on the Padlock Ranch page 478. Hank Scobee Family Memories.