Henry Ray “Hank” Brackenbury was born August 23, 1957 in Elko, Nevada to Don and Elaine Brackenbury. He attended schools in Nevada and Idaho until he began day working as a cowboy, a life he loved and shared with lifelong friends. Early on he worked at the San Jacinto Ranch near Jackpot Nevada. Hank spent time cowboying in Montana, Idaho, and Nevada. When Hank was in his 20’s he worked on the IL Ranch located about 80 miles north of Elko. Hank and Joi met in 1981 while they were each working on ranches in the Wild Horse Nevada area as ranch hands. Joi remembers having only a crank telephone with a long then short then long ring and a party line for communication. She was working for the Mendive family. One of her chores was milking the ranch milk cow. This was a time she met Waddie and Tootie Mitchell and their tow headed kids, Chaz and Sage, who came to get milk for their family. One winter she took the assignment of feeding about 200 head of cows for Randy Stowell by hand pitching it on and off loose style to the cows using a horse drawn wagon. Hank was working on a nearby ranch and she asked him about hitching up the team, he jokingly told her he had never used a team and wagon and couldn’t help her with that, but he had indeed used teams during his time at the IL Ranch.
They met during the fall gather of area ranch operations and were married where she was raised in Boulder City, Nevada on April 17, 1982. She describes the wedding party held in Mountain City, Nevada as a real shindig, we had music, the Strickland Brothers band, and dancing and lots of food, a real good time. They soon located at the Circle Ten part of the big Rancho Grande Ranch, and worked for Dick Mecham in north eastern Nevada. Joi said they moved about every 3 months so often she did not unpack their possessions from boxes. She describes it as “we were just like gypsies”. They spent time working on the Petan Ranch (known also as the YP). Several times over the years, they worked with Ken and Debbie Wynn and on one occasion Debbie and Joi were mothering and feeding 100 leppy calves night and morning, all the while Joi was pregnant with Jared. Their son Jared was born October 17, 1983 in Elko while they were again working for the IL Ranch. Jared was born in the same hospital building where Hank was born. In 1986 Hank and Joi started a lifetime of acquiring property. They bought 40 acres near Elko and added a few calves and of course good horses. They kept on doing day work on local ranches and named their business “Cowboy Day Work Service. Hank rode colts and they became interested in the reining horse contests during the Elko County Fair.
Joi and Hank have enjoyed many years as part of the large and diverse Cowboy Family. This includes many friends, family, people they had worked for, people they knew on neighboring ranches, all friendly and caring about and for each other. In the 1990’s Hank and Joi were working for Russell Ranches and Dick Mecham was their ranch manager at Fish Creek. They helped start the branding, reining, and cutting horse contests at the Eureka County Fair. They later worked for large Russell Ranches including the Warm Springs Place in Eureka County for Dan and Bobbie Russell. Joi says we would bring 50 or 60 head maybe a whole truck load from Fish Creek for the Fair horse events. Joi worked at the premier cowboy store Capriolas in Elko from 1985 to 1989. Going from Eureka and Elko to Boulder City one trip in about 1991, they took a side trip down Rainbow Canyon. As they came to the dip in the road near the Jim Tennille Ranch a wheel fell off their horse trailer so they were stranded. Mr. Tennille talked to them about the neighbor to the south in the Canyon (John Ballow) who might want to sell his place. They slept at Tennilles that night in their bedrolls, got the trailer fixed the next morning in Caliente and then stopped to talk to John Ballow, who was ready to sell. That’s when they met John’s family of Carla and Craig Christensen, Toby and Christie Rollins. Hank and Joi were spending time back and forth from ranches in Elko County and Boulder City taking care of her parents. Jared started his school years in Boulder City and finished here a LCHS graduate. In January 1997 they bought the Oxborrow Ranch and renamed it the Oxbow, along US 93 north of Caliente. Joi credits Hank as being a visionary on ranches they looked at, bought some, passed on others. Each decision a good one she notes. In 2005 they sold the Oxbow place and set up a ranch east of Yerington in western Nevada. It was Joi’s dream place but Hank loved the wider open spaces of Warm Springs, Nye County and Railroad Valley. In 2015 they acquired the Fleur de Lis Ranch outside of Beatty Nevada. Four years later they sold the property to the Nature Conservancy and have now leased it back. The dry years have caused them to reduce the number of cows and shorten the active grazing season most years April to October, or as winter range until the spring time. In May of 2019 Hank and Joi bought the Swallow property on the north edge of Panaca, owned then by Dylan and CaraLee Frehner to be closer to their grandchildren, Trinity and Clayton, Jared and Adriana’s children.
Hank spoke fondly of those who influenced his cowboy lifetime with horses including master horseman Ray Hunt and Jerry Pardue, of the IL Ranch where Hank did use teams extensively and was the cow boss. Jerry was a horseman and vacquero and is known for making nice horses. Hank enjoyed his time with Corky Prunty at Stag Hill running mustangs at the 7 S Ranch at Deeth that later became known as the Rafter Diamond east of Elko; Hank included Jim Koepke, Jerry Souza, the Kendall Boys especially Stan, and Randy Everitt as close lifetime friends.
Hank and Joi were friends with western singer and artist Charlie Daniels. Charlie once saw a picture of Hank in a cowboy bunk house setting looking at his pocket watch. On one of Charile’s vacation times he said I want to meet the man in that picture. Hank was located by Charlie’s manager David Corlew so Charlie visited for several days. He was unceremoniously bucked off Joi’s paint competition mare and took all that in stride, staying in camp and cooking for the cowboy crews that day. Some time later Hank was bucked off the same paint mare and then called and apologized to Charlie for asking what Charlie had done to make the mare buck. That was never answered but Hank made it right with Charlie.
Hank lost his life in Caliente Nevada to a short intense bout with cancer on February 14, 2022. He is survived by wife Joi of Panaca, son Jared of Oxbow Ranch Caliente and grandchildren Trinity and Clayton. Along with his Brackenbury Family members: brother Jesse and Sammy Thurman Brackenbury of Lebec California, sisters Debbie Brackenbury, Carrie Reyes, and Stacey Roundy of Dillon Montana, and Brandy Brackenbury of Mountain Home, Idaho and brothers Howard Brackenbury of Butte Montana and Ted and Audrey Brackenbury of Dillon. He is survived by three Aunts Gloria Hodge, Myrna Hathaway and Florence Rowe all of Burley, Idaho and Uncle Glen Olson of Bozeman, Montana, along with numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins, plus a host of friends and cowboy cohorts all over the western US. Joi and Jared and Family extend a very special Thank You to everyone in this community for their outpouring of love, support and lots of help from the entire community and every individual, just everything, especially the fire department and ambulance crews and the wonderful hospital staff. This was all out of this world and very much appreciated.
All of Hank’s Friends are cordially invited to a Celebration of his Life Party on Saturday, March 26, 2022 starting at 11:00 a.m. Pacific time at the Caliente Train Depot. Visiting, poetry, food, will highlight the gathering at Kershaw Ryan State Park, 3 miles south of Caliente in Rainbow Canyon.
Dale Jafek says
Really sorry to hear that, he and Jess were ine of a kind.He will be missed by many. Mt heart goes out youth family.