Women of the West – Timmy Lyn DeLong
In Northern Nevada, the name DeLong is well-established in ranching and horse roping circles—even for a cowgirl.
Interview and photograph by JENNIFER DENISON
A FIFTH-GENERATION northern Nevadan of ranching and Basque heritage, Timmy Lyn DeLong lives and works on her family’s cow-calf operation in Imlay, where they raise Charolais-cross cows and DeBrukyer Charolais bulls. She not only is involved in the day-to-day operations, but also manages the records and finances. She has been on the winning team-branding team at the prestigious Elko County Fair 10 times, and she and her younger sister, Rita, are the only women to have won the Jordan Valley Big Loop.
ALL OF MY dad’s siblings still ranch. There are nine of us in my generation, and most of us still ranch.
THE ONLY TIME I left Nevada was for five years to attend the University of Montana in Missoula. The only reason I went there was because I could college rodeo as a walk-on.
I WILL DO about everything on the ranch except climb to the top of the windmill.
WE KEEP OUR cattle outside in the winter and summer them by the Humbolt River. We have to feed hay maybe once every five years if we get a lot of snow. We have a lot of cheat-grass in the high desert. I don’t care what anyone else says, where there’s good cheat-grass, there’s fat cattle. We run eight to 10 windmills with a submergible pump in the bottom of each. All we do in the winter is pump water, while in other areas of Nevada all the ranchers do is feed cattle.
WHEN MY SISTER and I won the Jordan Valley Big Loop [in 2004], she had just graduated from the University of Nevada’s law school on Friday, and we won the Big Loop on Sunday. It was a crazy few days. I hauled the horse trailer from Nevada to Jordan Valley, Oregon, on Thursday, so we’d have a place to stay. Then I flew to Las Vegas to watch her graduate. She, her husband and I arrived back in Jordan Valley at 2 a.m. on Saturday. Dad showed up Sunday morning with the horses. She’s an amazing header. She won on a borrowed horse, with her husband’s rope.
WINNING THE BIG LOOP was on our bucket list because of our family’s history there. My dad roped there for the first time in 1962 with his partner Stub Stanford. He went there every year until my sister and I started going to high-school rodeos. He and my uncle started roping together in 1963 and won it in 1978, and they won the team roping four times, in 1981, ’83, ’85 and ’87. My cousin, Will DeLong, has also won it.
MY DAD WAS proud of his daughters, and he was never afraid to take us girls anywhere. If he was invited to a branding, he showed up with his girls to help. One year, Dad branded 1,100 head of cattle with a kids’ crew made up of my sister and I and our cousins. There were six girls and three boys.
IN 1979, I lost all the fingers on my right hand in a meat grinder. I was only 4 years old. There was enough muscle left that the surgeon could stitch up my hand so I had a grip. I still rope and write with that hand. I’m always cracking jokes about if you know how to read shorthand.
THE COLLEGE RODEO team in Missoula brought in the strength-training coach for the Seattle Seahawks football team. I remember him running us through a battery of tests. I wasn’t too good on the physical conditioning part, but I was good at the strength part. One of the guys on our team was an amateur arm wrestler, and he was the only guy I didn’t beat left-handed in the grip test. I beat every girl with two fingers.
IN MY SPARE TIME I like to quilt, and my cousins and I set up trade-show booths at roping and rodeo events. Sewing is relaxing. If I could find a way to attach a sewing machine to my horse and saddle, I’d get a lot of stuff done.
JUST LIKE MY grandmother, I make a lot of denim quilts using worn-out jeans. She said she’d do one for the Jackson Mountain Homemakers in Humboldt County, Nevada. When she passed away, she had done 238 denim quilts.
A WOMAN HAS a better chance of being a header than heeler, because heeling takes a lot of arm and upper-body strength.
MY COUSINS AND I all learned to drive on the ranch. In the summer when the cattle went to the river Mom would drive a camper down there for us to stay in. We also had to haul around a camp trailer, a flatbed dump truck with seven or eight tiers of hay, and a couple of horse trailers. But we had only two legal drivers, my mom and dad, so some of us kids had to drive. I drove in Reno, Nevada, when I was 15½, pulling a stock trailer. One time, my cousin Jason took a corner a little fast hauling a load of hay. You never saw kids buck bales so fast before our parents got there.
COWGIRLS COME IN all shapes and sizes, but we all don’t let anything stop us from doing what we want. My parents gave me the confidence to do that.
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