By NICOLE DUGGAN/Montana State News
The plains of Wyoming are vast and cold. Between the rolling tumbleweed, the violent storms and endless ice, it’s hard to believe anything can survive here, let alone thrive. But tucked between the hills and valleys is an elaborate history of trials and triumph and family and a startling collision of the old and new.
This is something that Sabre Moore, 23, knows well. She grew up here.
Tall and slim with impeccable cheek-bones and intensely blue eyes, Sabre could be a model. But she is also fiercely intelligent. At age 13 she published her first novel, “Secrets at Sea.” She has since published two other works, and continues to work on several novels.
Sabre graduated from Montana State University in 2013 with a degree in history. Her undergraduate honor’s thesis chronicles the voyage of the USS Constitution, one of the earliest United States warships, on which her father’s ancestor, John Adams, served. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in Museum Studies. She has worked in museums in Bozeman and Ekalaka, Mont., and Istanbul, Turkey, where she lived for four months last semester with her boyfriend, Michael.
When she speaks she is slow and meticulous, her words thoughtful and calculated. She is fashionable, but she isn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty. Her pictures on Facebook vary in scenes depicting her dressed to the nines for a fundraising night at the Museum of the Rockies to casually napping after a day of sheep docking wearing a blood-splattered shirt.
She tells stories of the plains of Wyoming. The land is as much a part of her as her own last name; it is her heritage. She and her sister Stirling would spend their days playing far from home until their mother called them for dinner with a large bell. A rattlesnake once cornered her against the house, only to be shot through the head by her father before it could strike. The girls would pretend they were being bombed by low-flying fighter jets (their home is on a practice bombing range) and hide amid the rock structures.
The Moore family first came to Wyoming five generations ago, as part of a route in the Texas Cattle Trail. The annual trip, which moved more than 20 million cattle in the 20 years between 1866 and 1886, took Texas cowboys and their cattle through the plains of Wyoming, Montana and Kansas to stockyards in the East. One year, it seems, the Moore family just stopped. The homestead they established, covering some 100,000 acres, remains mostly in the family today, though it has been divided among many relatives.
One of the descendants of those homesteaders is Bill Moore, Sabre’s father, who owns the W I Moore Ranch. At 40,000 acres, the ranch houses roughly 2,300 sheep, 300 cattle, 35 longhorns, eight horses, three goats and three dogs.
Though generations have passed and Wyoming has grown, the ranch is still remote. The closest town is that of Wright, boasting a population of 1,800 people. The closest “major” Wyoming city is Douglas, a two-hour drive from the ranch. Growing up Sabre and Stirling traveled an hour and a half by bus each way to school.
It was a childhood unlike that of most children in the United States. Growing up in the place where her family has lived ties her to her ancestry in a way few get to experience. It’s impossible to find where the history of the family and the history of the land separate. Because of this, certain areas are tied to certain stories.
Passing by one pasture you are told that the piles of wood are the remains of an old Bozeman Trail stage station. Part of the Bozeman trail still goes through the ranch. Another cabin on the premises which has been restored is the original Hell and Back hideout, where outlaws hid from a local sheriff.
Her unusual childhood on the Wyoming plains gave her “wonderful stories to fuel my imagination,” she says. It also gave her work ethic, which she so values now.
“I was able to learn a variety of skills and strengths while surrounded by family and nature,” she said.
The ranch itself is now in transition. Sabre and Stirling are gradually taking over the ranch as her parents transition out. It’s a transition that has happened countless times in the ranch’s history, but that doesn’t alleviate the stress of it. New ownership means the incorporation of new technologies and ideologies, and neither girl wants to live full-time on the ranch to work there.
The collision of old and new extends beyond ownship, and is everywhere at the ranch. Sabre and Stirling can use online satellite imagery to check location of oil wells and keep track of their sheep population and movement from anywhere in the world. They are both pursuing pilot’s license so they can use their C-182 plane to monitor the entire property quickly and effectively. Though, Sabre points out, they still utilize horses on the ground. Their closest neighbors use all-terrain vehicles.
Sabre doesn’t know what she’ll be doing in the future, but the ranch will be a part of it. She wants to find work that she is passionate about and allows her to return to the ranch as needed for managerial duties, including the annual sheep docking and branding.
Though her parents will likely leave the ranch and are free to go anywhere they please, Sabre suspects they won’t go too far. “People and things have a habit of circling back to the ranch,” she says.
– Edited by Arina Billis.