BLACKFOOT — A nearly 100-year-old man with a strong connection to Idaho has joined the ranks of great Montana cowboys.
Durl Gibbs, 98, has become a living inductee into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame. When Gibbs found out he had been nominated, he was happy but didn’t think there was a chance he would be chosen.
“I’m proud that I was nominated and won that honor,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs was nominated to the Hall of Fame by his grandson, Chance Merrill. He said he was excited “big time” when he heard that his grandpa was accepted.
Merrill said he learned about the power of hard work and a positive attitude from his grandfather.
“That’s how he’s been able to get to where he’s at. He’s always had a positive attitude mixed with a little bit of humor,” Merrill said.
The Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame exists to celebrate the contributions of individuals who helped shape the state’s western heritage.
“Most of the inductees in the Hall of Fame are not individuals who made headlines or would be considered famous,” said Christy Stensland, Executive Director of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Gibbs grew up in a time of good family values, Stensland said, when people sacrificed for each other and they took pride in a job well done.
“The spirit of the Montana cowboy defines Durl and he defines it,” Stensland said.
Gibbs was born in 1925 in American Falls, the same place as his mother, Lottie Gibbs. After he was born, his father, Tasman Gibbs, moved the family to his home town of Portage, Utah. Gibbs spent the first seven years of his life in Portage. After that, his family moved to Blackfoot, where he did the majority of his schooling and eventually met his wife, Lucille Hofer.
Gibbs discovered a lifelong love of horseback riding as he grew up. He started riding around the age of four and continued his whole life.
Gibbs and the other kids would ride horses through the dry Utah desert. But these weren’t tamed horses; they would ride mustangs — wild, free-roaming horses — with no saddle.
“I didn’t see a saddle for quite awhile,” Gibbs said. “We couldn’t afford a saddle. This was during the depression.”
It wasn’t until he was 10 that his father was able to buy him his own saddle.
Gibbs said they would often fall off the mustangs, but they had to keep working with them until they could successfully ride them.
When they rode horses, they did the actual work of a cowboy.
After milking the cows, ranchers would open the pasture gates and let them out onto the street. The kids would then ride horseback and herd the cows to a community pasture about a mile below town. They would get there in the morning and stay until around 4 p.m.
“Then we would have the day to just have fun, go around and ride the horses or do whatever we wanted to do,” Gibbs said.
As Gibbs grew up, his passion for horseback riding and ranching never faded.
In 1956, Gibbs was hired as a ranch hand on the Green Ranch in Montana. The young couple left Blackfoot with $1,500 and all of their possessions in a pickup truck and car, as well as an old milk cow in a horse trailer.
After working there for seven years, Gibbs had the opportunity to begin leasing the Green Ranch, which he gladly took up. He was able to manage a herd of 250 cows. Then in 1972, he was able to buy the Mountain View Ranch.
Gibbs and Lucille were able to achieve their dream and become real ranchers. Unfortunately, Lucille wasn’t able to enjoy the accomplishment for as long as Durl. Thirteen years later, she passed away from cancer.
“My wife was my life,” Gibbs said. “I don’t know how many women would come up here to fulfill a dream.”
These days, his life looks quite a bit different then it used to. He passed on the Mountain View Ranch to his daughter and her husband. He also hasn’t been able to ride horses since he was 90.
Although he hasn’t been able to ride horses for eight years, Gibbs remains a cowboy to this day.
“That’s all I’ve ever done,” he said. “Once a cowboy, always a cowboy.”
You can read more about Gibbs’ life here.