Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame announces Class of 2020 Inductees

Bertha Hamilton Landers, as a young woman, sitting astride and ready to ride and handle ranch duties. COURTESY PHOTO.

When it is springtime in Wyoming, and the calves and lambs start falling from the cows and sheep, Wyoming celebrates its western heritage and the men and women who made Wyoming their home as they worked their herds.

It is an appropriate time for the state to honor these men and women, known for their ranching abilities and “Cowboying Up” as the contribution these families have made in the state.

This proves to be the time when the Wyoming Cowboy hall of Fame (WCHF) board makes its selection for the latest inductee class. The state is divided into 10 regions and Region 9 is the area of Uinta County. Three people were selected from Uinta County for Region 9. This year’s selection includes Bertha Hamilton, Bridger Valley, and Don and Claudia Proffitt, Evanston area.

The Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame, billed as honoring “the real cowboys of the cowboy state,” was the brainchild of Russell “Pinky” Walter. Years ago Walter realized cowboys and cowgirls across Wyoming deserve recognition for their work and influence in the state’s history. The Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame was organized to honor “Wyoming’s working cowboy and ranching history.”

Many Valley residents will remember Bertha Hamilton as Bertha Landers as she roped and married Dave Landers in 1931. Landers had been married before and had four kids. The kids, when given the choice of going to live with their mother or staying with Bertha and their dad, chose to stay on the ranch. Bertha and her husband raised his kids and added one together, Earl.

The WCHF State Board of Directors voted on the nominees the first weekend of May, and selected the members of the 2020 inductees.

The induction ceremony will be at the Little America of Cheyenne, Sept. 19-20, during the annual Wyoming Cowboy & Cowgirl Legacy Week.

Bertha Hamilton

Bertha Hamilton, a cowgirl at heart, was born Dec. 24, in 1904 or 1905, to CB and Roda Hamilton. She was born in a 2-room cabin on the Hill Ranch, which her father purchased from mountain man Amos Hill, joining her older sister, Allene. Although Allene enjoyed helping her mother, Bertha was her dad’s right-hand on the ranch as she rode and roped from an early age.

She helped tend and care for her father’s cattle and her mother’s sheep. As time marched on, Bertha’s father died. He left some ground to her brother John, but he also took care of his two girls and left Bertha some good land, which she continued to ranch after her father’s death.

Her property included two parcels of land, which were a few miles apart with several wire gates. As she aged, her vision deteriorated, but she still mounted her horse and went out and checked her cattle. The story was, “She’d mount up ‘ol Mouse who would carry her to the first gate, which Bertha couldn’t really see. Mouse would ease to a stop, signaling Bertha to get off and get the gate. Mouse would stand patiently while Bertha got the gate and remounted.

Don and Claudia Proffit

Don and Claudia Proffit have a cattle ranch in the Bear River Valley, south of Evanston, and also have hosted an annual horse sale on Labor Day weekend for nigh on to 20 years. According to Claudia a couple of years ago, the fall sale had turned into a social with returning buyers and equestrians attending to rub shoulders with each other and to learn from experienced breeders. The showcase of the sale are fine quarter horses the Profitts have spent many years in refining their bloodlines and breeding.

Don died on Feb. 23, 2019. Claudia still lives on the ranch. Don’s obituary read, “Don, one of the last true cowboys, (or buckaroos, as he would have preferred to have been called,) was a trailblazer…Don always knew he would be a cowboy, it seems, judging from scenes from his youth: him choosing to ride a horse while his brother rode a bike, and making sure to brand his stick horses with a car cigarette lighter.”

Claudia Hamilton graduated from Mountain View High School in the late 1950s. Don first saw Claudia, his wife, at a 4-H activity when she flew by him riding a horse bareback, and ripped off his hat, hooting like a wild thing (so he said). The two married on Dec. 26, 1963. Shortly after their marriage, they lived in Nevada, where Don taught Vocational Ag. He returned to the Evanston area and went to work for Deseret Land and Livestock, Broken Circle Cattle Company, and finally to own and run his own cattle. The Proffits were a team as they cemented their lives together.

After Don and Claudia met at the 4-H event, they both attended the University of Wyoming, where Don got a degree in agriculture and a certificate to teach Vo-Ag. Claudia got a degree in nursing and when they returned to the Evanston area, she also worked as a surgical nurse at Evanston Regional Hospital.

However, she always said she used her nursing skills more in doctoring cattle, sheep and horses for more years than she did at the hospital.

Their love for horses, good horses, also morphed into continuing to improve the bloodlines of their horses. Their nomination material stated, “They really got into the horse breeding business with Poco King Prom, and have launched a horse sale held annually during Labor Day weekend.” This is the one Claudia referred some time ago as a social with returning buyers and equestrians attending to rub shoulders with each other and to learn from experienced breeders.

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