Green River Valley Cowbelles 2023 Ranch Woman of the Year

Joy Ufford photo From left, Mandy Norris, Mavis James, Andi James, Asa James Arno and Leah Zupan gather after Mavis is honored as Green River Valley Cowbelles’ Ranch Woman of the Year during Saturday’s annual meeting at the Marbleton Senior Center.

Mavis James, Daniel, Wyoming

She just couldn't stay away from County 23! After several moves to and from Sublette County, she has now called it home for 35 wonderful years! She grew up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, on her family ranch. After graduating from high school, she married Mark Forshay and the two of them worked ranch jobs all over the Midwest states. Mavis worked for the Jewett Ranch on Cottonwood Creek and also at the Daniel grocery store. During this time Mark and Mavis were looking to find a ranch to purchase, as they wanted to get back to Wyoming permanently after living in Colorado, Nebraska, and Arkansas. Mark and Mavis moved from Sublette County to a ranch that Mark had purchased in Hyattsville, Wyoming. Shortly after the move, Mark and Mavis divorced so Mavis moved back to Sublette County.

She worked for Victor Mack on the Newcomb place, which is now the McNeil place. After the calving season ended that spring, she decided to move to Cody for a few months. She was not in love with living there, so she again returned to County 23. When she returned from Cody, she took a summer job in Bondurant working on the Little Jennie Ranch and also worked as a bartender in Bondurant.

Bondurant was where Steve James met and started to gather her up. Mavis moved to Riverton, where she worked at the bar in Kinnear on the Indian Reservation. She received a grant to attend college. After a year she moved back to Sublette County and joined Steve on the James Ranch. In 1983, Steve and Mavis moved to Rexburg, Idaho, where Mavis worked for a rancher and Steve learned about training horses. After a few months, Steve and Mavis moved to Gracie, Idaho, where Steve started training cutting horses. Mavis got a haying job while Steve trained some colts all summer. Late that fall they decided to return to the James Ranch in Sublette County, where Steve and Mavis continued their cutting horse training business as well as running the James Ranch. They started pasturing yearling cows which they used to train their horses with and had a small herd of mother cows as well.

Mavis married Steve James on Sept. 8, 1988. Glen and Joni Millard along with Carol and Hazel James married them that day. Steve took her on a honeymoon the next day, which was to a cutting horse competition in Jackson. Those of you who know Mavis very well, know that this was probably something she wanted to do anyway and if not, you would never know any differently as she never complained.

They traveled all over showing cutting horses and trying to manage the ranch in Sublette County. To this union Steve brought three daughters. Mavis became the stepmother to Christie Frear, Carie James and Jenny Givens (Trent) and has always treated them as if they were her own along with the enjoyment of the grandchildren. Always stepping up to lend a helping hand to anyone in need, family or not.

Mavis has kept Steve organized and on top of the ranch business even when they were traveling. Mavis also tried her hand at showing cutting horses but most of the time you would find her doing all the chores and exercising horses for hours.
Mavis always worked as hard as she could to keep everything going for both businesses. As Steve traveled around, Mavis would usually be right beside him working just as hard; however if someone needed to stay home and feed cows, calve, fence or cut hay, she was the one to stay behind, the one to take care of everything and never complained.

On Feb. 19, 1989, Mavis gave birth to Andrea James, her first child. When she became a mother, she enjoyed being at home on the ranch taking care of cows and horses as well as feeding anyone who would show up to the kitchen table. Steve made a comment, “She’s the best Ranch Woman you could ever ask for.” She has never complained when you were three hours late for lunch or when you had to stay out all night long with a heifer calving.

Although Steve does admit, “The only time she would get cranky is if you were three hours late coming home from the Green River Bar.”
On April 8, 1991 Mavis gave birth to her second child, a son, Jacob James. Mavis always somehow continued to help Steve manage with his businesses, keep the cows and calves alive, help break horses and raise children. Her love for living as an agriculturist and ranch woman has never changed. She would not want her life any other way. No matter what struggles or achievements come her way, she always makes the ranch and her way of living a priority to herself and her family. If she was not at home on the ranch, she was taking the kids or Steve to rodeos, horse shows, pig shows, cattle shows or to basketball games!

Mavis runs the swather all haying season and can live on a piece of bologna and an ice tea if that's all you give her. The only thing she doesn't care for is tuna fish sandwiches; although she has been known to have few of them in the hayfield she never complained.
Mavis has continued working as Steve’s secretary for the ranch and the cutting horse business as well as doing odds and end jobs around the ranch doing whatever needed to be done. As her two kids grew up and attended college she started working at Obo’s Food and Market. As many of you know, Mavis loves to cook so she really enjoyed that job, especially working the mornings and cooking breakfast for the community. She met several people and has gained many friendships because of that job.

Now that the kids are gone, Mavis enjoys being home on the ranch in her quilting shed, enjoying all the fabric that she has acquired along the show trails, bull sales and shop hops, a job she loves just as much.

Mavis keeps putting up with Steve. (How? Only she will know.) Pulling calving shifts, staying long days in the hayfield, taking road trips to show horses, moving cows from place to place, learning to drive the team and tractor to feed in the long winters and putting meals on the table for whomever might show up at the ranch that day. Andi states, “Mavis is happiest when she is snuggling on her newest granddaughter Asa, caring for her family, dogs, looking at cattle and dreaming of all the quilt patterns she wants to try someday. My family is very lucky to call her a wife, a mother and grandmother as we have the best ‘Ranch Woman’ anyone could ask for.”

It is with great pleasure that I nominate a very deserving lady, Mavis James, as the 2023 Green River Valley Ranch Woman of the year.