November 3, 1929 – January 11, 2019
Cliff Andre was born November 3, 1929 in Logan, Nebraska. He was the 4th of 7 children. At the age of 4, he rode his first horse when his 7-year old brother and he untied “Red” (a notoriously unpredictable gelding) that his dad tied up after checking cows. His brother and Cliff climbed aboard Red and went to riding him around the yard as his parents ran after them in an effort to save their boys from a wreck. Cliff was horseback ever since.
Perhaps it was this early connection with horses, but Cliff always had a “way” with them. He had an “eye” for a good horse, one that had the potential to be trained for ranch work. He enjoyed taking the time to start colts and finish green-broke horses into seasoned saddle horses. This was and still is his passion: to be horseback on a solid ranch horse.
At 16, Cliff ran away from home to work as a cowboy in southern Montana on the Crow Reservation on the M Bar Ranch and the SU Ranch (on land that is now the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument). Cliff rode with a couple different round-up wagons in Montana and Wyoming, and lived the life of a true cowboy. He wouldn’t see a house for 30 days at a time from April through October, making his bed roll out under the stars.
Around age 20, he returned to Nebraska. While working on the McPherrin Ranch located in the Stapleton, Nebraska area, he met the cook, Elyene Cumpston, from Arnold, Nebraska. The couple married on May 20, 1951. They had 4 children together.
Cliff always found work on various ranches in Nebraska and soon was sought after to be ranch foreman.
In 1962, Cliff worked for about 10 years as foreman on the Cody, Nebraska ranch of Elvin Adamson ( who later became the Senator of Nebraska). During that time, he served on the local School Board. Also, there was a nearby country Sunday School that met on Sunday evenings that was preparing to close. Cliff, Elyene, and their children stepped up to not only attend faithfully, but Cliff also gave financial support to ensure that this church would, indeed, thrive.
Also in the 1960’s, Cliff found himself competing in area team roping competitions as both header and heeler. The one and only trophy buckle he won in his lifetime for the Round Lake Roping Club was, unfortunately, lost in a fire in his home a few years later.
In 1972, Cliff went to work as foreman for the Moursund Ranches in Cherry County, and he remained in that position for 18 years. This was a large operation which ran approximately 10,000 mother cows.
One of the cowboys that worked for Cliff for several years on the Moursund Ranch in the 1980’s was Shawn Vineyard (Oshkosh, NE). Vineyard had just graduated from high school and got hired on the Moursund Ranch. He described Cliff as a fair and kind foreman. Vineyard said, “Cliff would give anyone a chance at a job on the ranch. If they worked hard (because Cliff worked hard at everything he did and expected that from his crew), they’d learn a lot and do well. If they didn’t, they were gone. He was an excellent teamster and preferred to feed livestock with a team of horses and a wagon.”
At age 67, Cliff retired from his foreman’s position at the Fawn Lake Ranch (Gordon, NE) and moved to McGrew, Nebraska. He discovered himself looking after cattle for his friends and neighbors when they needed his help as well as his own herd. During this time, he served on the Board of Directors for the Community Bible Church of Bayard, Nebraska.
During 2002-2005, Cliff was wagon master for a modern-day wagon train along Nebraska’s Oregon Trail. This tourist adventure was owned by Gordon Howard. For 4 days, tourists rode in one of the five horse-drawn wagons or could jump out to walk along in the footsteps of the pioneers. At the end of the day, the wagons were circled. Then the camp cook prepared chuck wagon suppers for up to 35 vacationers and crew every other week during the summers.
On March 27, 2006, on her birthday, Elyene passed away. Cliff later married a long-time friend, Claire Wise, on November 24th, 2007. He moved to her home in Morrison, Colorado, and immediately found a job as a wrangler at Bear Creek Stables. Each year from April through October, Cliff guides trail rides, drives the team for wagon rides, and teaches private horseback riding lessons.
In the month of January, Cliff works at the Bear Creek Stables’ booth at the National Western Stock Show where folks can have their photo taken while sitting on a Texas longhorn or Brahma steer and/or a Percheron or Clydesdale gelding.
To date, Cliff Andre, at age 88, maintains his ranching lifestyle and his connection to his roots with the Nebraska Sandhills. He still owns cattle in the Kimball area of Nebraska and returns for the annual branding every spring and weaning in the fall.
His story isn’t over. At any moment, he’s ready to ride horseback to teach a student to ride or to guide vacationers on a trail ride. He’s “on-call” to drive the team of Belgians for wagon rides in parades and special events. His snap-western shirt, Levi’s, boots, hat and wild rag are his daily attire setting him apart and identifying him for who he is: a rancher, a cowman. He says it’s all he’s ever known.
This lifestyle that he was truly called to live for his entire life all began for Cliff Andre in the midst of the Nebraska Sandhills…
…Where cattle are plenty and people are few,
Where windmills are scattered in pastures, you’ll view
A lone cowboy ridin’, his dog by his side.
He’s checkin’ the cattle; his soul’s satisfied.