Legacy Inductee (1931-2020) MCHF District 8
The late Wes Synness, a fourth generation Montanan, was a Man’s Man, and a Cowboy’s Cowboy. His great grandparents arrived in Montana in 1879 from Norway, and his grandfather land north of Helena in 1889 that became known as the Beartooth Ranch (which features the landmark known as the Sleeping Giant). The ranch was bequeathed to Wes by his grandmother when he was six years old.
Along with his five siblings, Wes was raised to help his dad herd about 50-60 head of cattle from the Lake Helena Drive Ranch to the 900-acre Beartooth Ranch in the spring, then gather and move them back again in the fall. In those early years, Wes watched his dad break and shoe horses at the Beartooth.
Growing into a man that was 6’2” and 195 pounds of sinewy muscle, Wes became an all-around sportsman. The countless hunting trips—and the tall tales that went with them—were his number one passion. On one of those hunting trips, at age 65, he was thrown from his horse, climbed back in the saddle, and continued hunting for the rest of the day, discovering later he had broken his arm.
When he was 67 years of age, Wes trained a new horse. It was a Roman-nosed Palomino, half Tennessee Walker and half Arabian, that his granddaughter had named Apollo’s Gold. The horse bucked him off when he was breaking him and stomped on his head. As a result of that incident, Wes’ hair fell out and never grew back again; thus, he appropriately called the horse Scalper from then on.
All cowboys love rodeos, and Wes was no different. His favorite was the Last Chance Stampede, at which he served as an LCS parade marshal for many years, including one term as Grand Marshal.
In 1956, Wes purchased his own business, and operated Synness Auto Wrecking for the next six decades, working 6 days a week well into his 70s. He also kept a small corral in a corner of the junkyard, for “breaking” colts.
He took part in the inaugural Chief Joseph Trail Ride in 1965, riding an Appaloosa horse the first 100 miles from the starting point at Wallowa Lake, Oregon.
In 1989, he rode in The Montana Great Centennial Cattle Drive, helping herd 2,800 cattle from Roundup to Billings.
He and his son, Trent, participated in a reenactment of Custer’s Last Stand in 1990 as soldiers with the 7th Cavalry, using geldings from the Beartooth herd as thier mounts.
He moved on to that roundup-in-the-sky on May 12, 2020.
“Wes Synness lived by the cowboy code,” related his longtime friend Kitty Ann Quigley Taaler. “He left this earth with his Norwegian name in good stead.”