• Last modified 761 days ago (Aug. 22, 2019)


Longtime cowgirl shares ranching memories

Staff writer

Jackie Hett of Marion lived on a Flint Hills ranch 10 miles southeast of Marion for 53 years and has been involved in ranching for 66 years.

At age 91, she has memories that go back to the days of horses and buggies.

“It was a great life,” she said.

She will be featured in a video showing of “Tallgrass Tales” at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Pioneer Bluffs near Matfield Green.

She grew up on the outskirts of Peabody and took pleasure in milking a couple of Jersey cows and some chickens.

In those days, parents often helped their children get a start on a farm of their own by giving them livestock.

When Jackie married Walt in 1946, she got the cows. Walt had a team of workhorses, a milk cow, and a stock cow.

Jackie helped her husband deliver calves when cows were having trouble. Walt attached a winch on the front of the farm truck to the back hooves of the calf. Jackie operated the winch from inside the cab to slowly ease the calf out.

Milk was picked up at the ranch, but on days when the driveway was muddy, Jackie hauled the milk to the road in a horse-drawn buggy. Walt would slap its rump, and it would take off with a start, she said.

She also raked hay using a dump rake pulled by two horses.

A few years into the marriage, the workhorses were traded for a tractor.

A filly Walt bought Jackie as a wedding present became hers to break to ride. Their three girls, Melanie, Melinda, and Melissa, learned to ride on Fatima, and she gave birth to many foals. At one time, the ranch had 13 horses.

The couple once had 50 baby chicks under an electric brooder when the power went off. They carried the chicks a half mile to her brother-in-law’s farm to put them under a gas-powered brooder.

The Hetts also raised pigs that were sold at weaning. They were farrowed in crates, transferred to larger pens, and fed to feeder size.

“Pigs were the moneymaker,” Jackie said. “They paid for the farm.”

She remembers driving country roads and spotting rabbits and quail for Walt and their son, Steve, to shoot.

She and her family often rode horses in the Old Setters’ Day parade.

Walt died in 1998 after 52 years of marriage, and Jackie remained on the ranch for 14 years before moving to Marion in 2012.

She remains CEO of the ranching operation. Her daughter Melanie and husband, Larry Ensey, operate the ranch along with Jackie’s grandson, Jeff Ensey and wife, Laura.

Pioneer Bluffs is on the historic Rogler Ranch south of Cottonwood Falls along K-177, on a section of highway designated as the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway. The historic barn on the property is used for special events. Tours are available.

Videos of Jackie Hett and other old-timers telling stories can be heard at

Last modified Aug. 22, 2019