Bringing back the wild, wild west

The Wild West holds a special place in American history, as it does at the Dan and Teri Winter ranch near Spring Hill. They love the Old West and have captured its essence on their 75-acre ranch, which they’ve named Bog Creek Ranch.

Dan Winter with some of his long-horned friends at the Bog Creek Ranch. He opted to have long horned cattle because that’s the west, they’re cheaper than regular beef cattle, and, he said, nobody wants them except him. “They’re the perfect setting and everybody thinks they’re wild and mean because of the horns. Them are my girls.” Each year, Dan and his wife, Teri, open their ranch up to visitors to celebrate the Old West. Photo by Bev Alquist

The Winters not only have long-horned cattle and some horses, but they also have a little town just like a town from way back when. It has a saloon, bank, blacksmith shop, doctor’s office, general store, school, church and cemetery, a jail, a barbershop and more.

There were also sheds filled with Old West memorabilia, including a stagecoach that Dan uses in his Wild West shows. Can you imagine for a minute riding in that stagecoach on a narrow and steep trail in the middle of nowhere, and all of a sudden, rustlers on horseback are stopping the stagecoach and demanding your valuables? Of course, the sheriff comes to the rescue riding his trusty horse, brandishing his gun.

It all happens at the Bog Creek Ranch during a Wild West show, a show that’s very realistic and exciting, not only for the kids but adults as well.

Dan said he came up with the name of the ranch when he was getting the cows home to the home place. “To get the cows home you had to run through the bogs and through the creek, so Bog Creek Ranch.”

Dan went on to say his Wild West show and large collection got its start when he was working at a cattle sale in Belgrade. From there he worked for several other men in the cattle business, and then worked at several horse sales in Iowa, including a horse sale he worked twice a year at Rock Springs, Wyo. Dan said he loved working horse sales.

“Then I started buying stuff and thought ‘I’ve got all this stuff, why not use it in a show — clothes, guns, hats, saddles — and that’s how I started doing the shows.” Dan said he always watched the old westerns on TV, and he got ideas from there and from old books.

The land he owns is part of the century farm. He purchased 41 acres from his mom and dad and inherited the rest of his acreage. “My brother and sister got the good land, and I got the dead land, meaning the pasture. I can keep doing this and cattle drives, it’s kind of like the Old West out there, rough.”

He was happy with the land he inherited, as it added to his Wild West themed ranch. Dan said he purchased the store front props after helping a buddy do a show in Litchfield. They were going to get rid of the building store fronts they used in the show, so Dan purchased them and moved them to his ranch. He added his sides and put roofs on and today uses them as windbreaks for his cattle.

This just keeps getting bigger and bigger all the time, he said, and he has a real love for his “girls” (long-horned cattle) and his horses. “I’ve been in horses since I was a kid.”

When Dan puts on his Wild West show his little town comes alive. “Every building, when I have the show, is fully propped and has two people in each show running it to make it alive. In the blacksmith shop the guy is pounding and making things out of iron. A lady runs the general store, and in the bank there’s a safe Dan made. “We painted bricks gold and then went to the saloon where we had big jugs that we filled up with root beer, and we had little shot glasses, and we’d give the kids a shot. They really thought it was something.” They gave the root beer away, he said, and everybody loved it. There was also a gunsmith shop run by a guy from Albany who showed people how to take guns apart.

The church had for its minister a man named Preacher Ramalon (Ramble-on). They had a teepee out there, with Native Americans, and there was a gold mine in the back of the town. “We painted little rocks gold, and we threw them all in there and buried them. Next to that we had a little tub in the ground filled with gravel. You couldn’t see the tub. There was water and sugar sand in there and the kids could pan for gold.” They’d come out with nuggets, he said, which they then took to the bank and cashed them in for silver dollars, which they took to the general store to buy candy with.

Dan Winter with one of his horses at the ranch. Photo by Bev Ahlquist

It was the same with the school, he said, they had a scavenger hunt, and the teacher gave them scavenger hunt questions. “If they got it all right they got a coin, and they could go to the store and buy candy with it.”

The barbershop is fully decorated to look like one from the Old West, with two women in the shop putting shaving cream on some brave man’s face and then shaving it off. These two women also give haircuts. “They had a good time in there.” There was also a motel with a bed set up for customers, and a woman running it just like the motels of years ago.

There was also a law enforcement office with Dan as the sheriff. He had the help of a deputy, the office had a jail, and they locked people up if they didn’t obey the laws.

When Sheriff Dan announced the show was about to start, he told everybody that those caught on their cellphones would be put in jail. “This one girl, who was probably 13, 14 years old, was on her phone, and I said ‘whoa everybody.’ We were in the middle of a show, and I walked up and I said ‘You’re on your cellphone; you’re going to jail’ and she got as red as red could be, and her mom said ‘Get her out of here, take her to jail.’ She had to do a good deed before she could get out of jail.” Dan said they keep the people involved and that’s what they like.

Then we went to the doctor’s office where Dr. McGillicutty was taking patients, plus it was an undertaker’s office as well. “You went in and came out one way or the other.”

The undertaker was a man who is now retired. The doctor’s office had two women running the office. “They were giving shots of lemonade and telling people that would help them with their ailment. They wrapped you up with bandages too. They involved people.”

The teacher in the school had a bell she rang when it was time for class to start. The school had desks for its students and books.

Dan said they had all kind of venders set up during the show, some that helped kids make necklaces. They also had a mechanical bull, they gave stagecoach rides and pony rides. He said the machinery dealers around his farm really supported him. They came out with their tractors and the car dealers with their trucks and they had 4-wheelers for the vendors to use.

Dan puts his show on once a year, on Father’s Day weekend, and it’s always a big hit with people coming from near and far to see the show.

“I put it on for the first two years all by myself and the third and fourth year I had a little more help and then it went from 600 people to 2,500 people. Just insurance for three days was $1300 and it was all taken care of with donations. He doesn’t charge for people to get in, but they always leave donations.

Dan said he really enjoys the people that come to the Wild West shows.

“You always meet different people and that’s what everybody likes. I had two buggies going, a trolley and a covered wagon, and pony rides. Had a guy come out with a cannon and he shot bowling balls into the woods. We had the world’s largest Winchester rifle one year, 36 feett long. We had four actors here, we had Larry “the Axe” Hennig (a pro wrestler), we had a bunch of guys here that were in a movie ‘Riding with the Devils’ made in Missouri, we had different actors from different clubs.”

Swift County Sheriff John Sanner even showed up for the show. “He come out here and said ‘Danny, my gun’s real.’” Dan said his guns just make a lot of smoke and a lot of noise. “When I started the club, I made a rule that this is the only gun they can use. This one you can’t even put a real shell in. John knows that and we have never ever gotten checked at a parade ever.”

In his show Dan does the Ned Pepper where he tells the story of the cattle drive from Wichita to Abilene and what happened in Wichita. “I tell them about the cowboys of the Old West and the heroes of the Old West. Then when Jesse Chisholm was done with the cattle drive he went to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and Wild Bill Hickok was there, and I talk about what Wild Bill did, what Annie Oakley did. I tell the story and do a little comedy with that.”

Dan said he used to stand on his old horse and crack the bullwhip off that horse. He never rode him in the parade, the horse just followed him. “I did my show, my gun spinning, my shooting. He just followed me. I went to the curb, and he followed me. I didn’t lead him; he just followed me. He was a good horse, and he was with me 30 years.”

Dan said he learned to do all this by watching the old black-and-white movies of Tom Mix and others of that era. He said he even dresses like Tom Mix when he does his shows or parades. “I like to dress like him.” Dan also likes Wild Bill, so he dresses like him, complete with wig and beard, then re-enacts a scene when he has his Wild West show. He has two sets of white guns just like Wild Bill. In the reenactment, Wild Bill is ready to shoot Jack McCall, but McCall told him no, he’d leave town instead. “We went back to the bar, he said ‘I’ll buy you one last drink,’ then I sat down, he shot me with his derringer, I fell down and he took off and then I got up and went in front of the crowd and told them the whole story about how McCall was captured later, and there was a trial for McCall. Calamity Jane is played by his wife, Teri, who runs upstairs to get the second set of guns after they took the first away from Wild Bill.

Dan loves storytelling and mentioned how back in the day after the cowboys put the cattle to bed, the naughty ones would go across the tracks to the bawdy houses to gamble and have a few drinks, and the women there had makeup on. While they were at the Calgary Stampede a lady in a little cabin invited them in for pie, looked at Teri and said ‘Oh, you’re from across the tracks.” She said that because Teri was wearing makeup and had fingernail polish on. She then told them the story, so Dan uses it in his shows. “I pick a woman out with makeup on and say ‘oh, you’re from across the tracks.’ Everybody laughs. I do my trick and that’s how the story is.”

The creek on Dan’s 75 acre ranch is named No-Name Creek. It’s a fresh water spring that’s constantly open. “That’s the original name. It’s hilly like the Old West.”

Dan said he plans to keep doing this as long as possible. He opted to have long horned cattle because that’s the west, they’re cheaper than regular beef cattle, and, he said, nobody wants them except him. “They’re the perfect setting and everybody thinks they’re wild and mean because of the horns. Them are my girls.”

#BogCreekRanch #Minnesota #WildWest

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