Big Sky Cowboy

When John Scott moved to Montana, his vision for a ranch was as vast as the skies above him. Undeterred by harsh weather and wavering markets, John built one of the largest cow-calf operations and most reputable remudas in the state.

Harsh conditions can either break a man's will or chisel more definition into his character. Growing up on a cattle ranch in West Texas, John Scott knew some of the old cowboys who scratched out their living when much of the American West was still uncivilized. Pushing into strange new territories, battling hostile Indians, gathering wild, free-roaming cattle and surviving natural disasters takes a hard-nosed and sometimes hard-headed disposition.

John still likes to tell stories about those old-timers, and the walls inside his house display many old, black-and-white photographs from that era. Some of them are portraits of his relatives, sitting in stoic poses and looking straight at the camera. Others depict large cattle drives and brandings carried out during the decades that John ranched in Montana. But however faded they may be, those photos offer more details about John's life than does the man himself.

Seated in his home near San Angelo, Texas, wearing pressed khakis and a starched, light-blue shirt, John sipped coffee and offered simple, matter-of-fact answers to questions about his 83 years of life. But the pictures hung on the wall and the photos and news clippings neatly organized in the family album told a much grander story. Two of his children, John III and Maggie, along with his granddaughter Amanda, joined the conversation to elaborate on the photos and add to John's short-winded comments.

To read the complete story, pick up the June Issue of Western Horseman.