January 19, 1939
Ronald Elroy Sowders was born January 19, 1939 at Gordon, Nebraska. He is the only child of Wayne Alfred and Dorothy Mae (Hathorn) Sowders. Ron enjoyed riding his horse Trigger seven miles to attend the country school in the Gordon and Hyannis area. Following his graduation from Hyannis High School in 1956, he took a course in Engineering from Scottsbluff Jr. College in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
Ron’s dad Wayne, was the foreman for the JH Minor Cattle Company for over 20 years. When Ron was 13 years old, his parents separated and divorced. Ron stayed with his dad and was hired full time to work on the ranch located south of Hyannis, Nebraska. Ron’s summers were spent in the hay field, where he worked on the stack and averaged 28 stacks of hay a day. In those days, the stacks were six ton stacks, so he was in great shape when it came time to play football. At the age of 15, he calved out 250 first calf heifers while attending school. He loved the ranch work and enjoyed breaking and training horses.
In March 1958, Ron and a couple of his cowboy friends, John O’Donnell and Charles Haskell of Tryon, became restless and decided to attend the dance at the Soddy located west of Tryon. Ron met Maudene Haskell at this dance and a friendship developed and romance ensued. On June 14, 1959, Ron and Maudene were married and then made their home twenty five miles south of Gordon and on the Minor Hull Ranch, the same ranch, which Ron’s parents lived on when he was born. Maudene taught school at District #57 in Cherry County and Harry Minor hired her to cook for the men at the ranch.
In October 1960, their oldest son, Ronald Edward was born. In April of 1961, Ron and Maudene bought a café and service station in Burwell, Nebraska. In 1962, a second son, Roderick Wayne, was born in Burwell, Nebraska.
Ron and Maudene became members of the First Christian Church at Burwell. In 1964, Ron and Maudene sold the Blueberry Hill Service Station and Café in Burwell and moved to Tryon, where Ron worked for George and Rose Kahoe. In July of that year, they moved to the Ralph Vinton Ranch south of Whitman, where Ron would once again get to do some cowboying.
In June of 1966, a new chain of events took place for Ron and Maudene. Ron was hired as a Sales Representative for Moorman Manufacturing Company based in Quincy, Illinois. Ron rented his warehouse, which had been the old Methodist Church, from Eddie Waits. In 1967, Ron was promoted to District Sales Manager and was transferred to Wall, South Dakota, where he had fourteen counties, including a portion of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to organize and develop. In 1970, Ron was transferred to Alliance, Nebraska, where his district ranged north to the South Dakota border, west to the Wyoming line, south to the Colorado line and east to the Logan County line. During the six years the family lived in Alliance, they became members of the First Christian Church. Ron served as Deacon and later became an Elder and Chairman of the Board.
In 1977, Ron and Maudene purchased land in McPherson County, which had previously belonged to Maudene’s grandfather, Ed Winters. There were no buildings or services on the ground, when they moved to the property. The family lived in campers and a tent for six weeks while digging the basement, preparing for the house, and getting a well and electricity to the property. On September 14, 1977, they were ready to move into their new home. Ron received many awards including Beef Specialist and Professional Feed Counseling. He had some of the top salesmen in the nation and enjoyed working, traveling and meeting all of the ranchers and farmers. After twenty years, Ron retired from Moorman’s Manufacturing Company and continued his ranching.
In 1985, Ron and Maudene decided to invest in an old storefront building in Tryon and together they built the business, of which consisted of a western store, café and grocery store. In 1991, Ron decided that there was much to offer in the community and the whole of the sandhills area of Nebraska. In an effort to preserve his western heritage, he started a little newspaper, “Voices of the Sandhills.” Ron began with just a little western history of the sandhills and the early day cowboys and how the sandhills became an oasis from a desert. Within a very short time, people were coming from many states to view the sandhills and see what beauty they had to offer. His paper tells of the old west and the hardships of the early day pioneer from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. Ron’s life as a cowboy gave him first-hand knowledge to tell of the working ranches, the breaking and training of horses, the calving, brandings, doctorings, and the hard winters and dry summers.
Ron suffered a debilitating stroke that paralyzed his right side in 1996. After his stroke, he and Maudene decided they could work together as a team and they began with the issue that commemorated the 150 year Celebration of the Mormon Trail, which later grew into the Trails of the West. From here, they decided there was a need for people to know of all the western history from border to border from Canada to Mexico along Highway 83. The paper is now the Canada to Mexico via Highway 83, and Ron and Maudene travel eleven states with their business. In 1998, they closed the store, but their newspapers, Voices of the Sandhillls, Canada to Mexico via Highway 83, and Trails of the West, continue, distributing almost 120,000 issues of their papers over the course of one year.
Ron enjoys meeting people, traveling, and being active in community affairs. He has worked to keep the story of the Old West and the cowboy alive through his publications. His passion for the cowboy and the Old West is evident and he continues to bring the past alive. Ron is a true cowboy and he strives to promote the cowboy way of life in everything he does.