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Eaton's Horse Drive: Three days, 100 miles, almost 200 horses

Eaton's Horse Drive: Three days, 100 miles, almost 200 horses

*Feature photo: Frank and Kathy Eaton on their family ranch in Sheridan County. / Pitchengine Communities photo* (Sheridan, Wyo.) — Three days, 100 miles, almost 200 horses. Within those numbers lies the great story of the annual Eaton's Ranch horse drive, which takes place over three days in May. This year, the horses will pass through Sheridan on the morning of Sunday, May 22, and, barring rain, people will line the streets in droves. But the drive wasn't always the attraction that it is today. It started like any great Wyoming tradition: out of necessity. During the drive, the Eaton family moves their horses from their winter pasture to their summer home on the ranch, nestled at the base of the Bighorns in Wolf, Wyo. They stop over in tents, trailers and chuckwagons at Leiter the first night, and Wyarno the second. "Horses eat an awful lot," lifelong rancher Frank Eaton explains. "In the winter, the grass just isn't here to sustain them, so we winter them to the east." But for tourist season, the horses come home, and the event has become an official marker of summer for Sheridan for years. Frank says, though, that the family has driven the horses through rain, snow, sleet and sometimes, if they are lucky, sunshine. The brothers Eaton started their ranch in Medora, North Dakota, in 1879, but soon found themselves taking groups of cityfolk—dudes—on pack trips to Yellowstone and the Glacier area. And then in the 1970s, many years after the original brothers started the drive, Frank adn his wife Kathy started riding with what they called the "Over the Hill Gang," a group of seasoned riders who went along on the drive, adding their years of wisdom to the camaraderie on the trail. Today, Frank and Kathy are retired, and the younger generations of Eatons will run the drive. The ranch still runs cattle, and opens up for tourists in the summer. Recently the family started offering its grounds for weddings and events. Frank's daughter Mary Eaton, who now runs the guest ranch, says the ranch books up for tourists and events months in advance. The ranch is 17,379.74 acres, and has been the family livelihood—it's past, present and future. Mary's three-year-old daughter Olivia can be seen riding a stick horse outside the ranch on a sunny day, and maybe one day, she will run the drive herself. [image: Inline image 8] *Entrance to Eaton's Ranch, nestled at the base of the Bighorn National Forest since 1904. / Pitchengine Communities photo* [image: Inline image 1] *Two of the original Eaton ranchers, Alden and Willis, and Frank's grandfather Bill Eaton in the middle. h/t Eaton's Ranch / Pitchengine Communities photo* *[image: Inline image 2]* *The Eaton brothers. h/t Eaton's Ranch / Pitchengine Communities photo* *[image: Inline image 3]* *Photos of the annual drive and the "Over the Hill Gang," which Frank spearheaded from the 1970s to the 1990s. See Nan (Eaton) Wertman, Frank Eaton's mother, preparing food for the ranchers. h/t Eaton's Ranch / Pitchengine Communities photo[image: Inline image 4]Frank Eaton shares more photos of the "Over the Hill Gang." See Kathy Eaton in the top and bottom right photos in white. Pitchengine Communities photo[image: Inline image 6]Horses on Sheridan's city streets. h/t Eaton's Ranch / Pitchengine Communities photo[image: Inline image 7]* *The annual horse drive in Sheridan County. h/t Eaton's Ranch / Pitchengine Communities photo* #dally #news