local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 last week
 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info

 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 sv catalogs



Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of Aug 28 - Sept 3, 2002


City slicker-turned-
cowboy rides herd on parade

Express Staff Writer

In what he considers his other life, Ron Brans was a city slicker, a mortgage banker of 30 years doing business in California as well as Nevada and Arizona.

But Brans wanted a new life, which he began building seven years ago when he retired to the Wood River Valley.

He’d be a cowboy of sorts—a man tall in the saddle, handy around stables and horses, more at home in boots and jeans than a suit, finally fulfilling a childhood dream, and reconnecting with the Idaho valley he first saw in 1968.

Now, Brans is at the pinnacle of his dreams—marshal for the Wagon Days Big Hitch Parade, known as the West’s largest non-motorized parade, built around the western culture of horses, mules, wagons, old guns, mountain men, the America of yesteryear. It’s a celebrated fixture of valley life that was inaugurated in 1958.

But how ironic: within a matter of weeks of the parade, Brans took a spill at full gallop off his horse south of Ketchum, and landed in the St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center with broken ribs.

Except for the embarrassment of the accident and his injuries, Brans is shrugging off the spill as no worse than what he endured for several years while working at the Sun Valley Horseman’s Center during his transformation from business executive to cowboy—being thrown from horses and saddling up more than a dozen trail horses every morning for Lodge guests.

Brans takes cowboy life seriously, and assumes the mantle of Wagon Days parade marshal for the second year with consuming devotion. He succeeded Dr. Max Thompson, a dentist, and state Rep. Wendy Jaquet, who’d been at the helm for more than 20 years.

As an example of Brans’ thoroughness, to learn how mules guided by a jerkline instead of reins can be so efficient in pulling the six huge Big Hitch ore wagons that is the Wagon Day parade’s spectacular finale, Brans went to Bishop, Calif., and rode a 20-mule team with Bobby Danner, who’ll be the mule skinner controlling his 16 mules pulling this year’s Big Hitch and whose family’s wagon-pulling mules are nationally known. Danner’s father started the mules day celebration in Bishop, and restored old Borax wagons for the Rose Bowl parade.

Brans hopes to increase the Big Hitch team until 20 mules will be pulling the train of wagons.

Since last year’s parade, Brans and workmen have repaired the lead Big Hitch wagon, which they discovered had been yanked by the large Percheron horses and loosened parts of the wooden chassis.

The Big Hitch wagons, built by the pioneer Horace Lewis for his Lewis Fast Freight Line, were the premiere transportation for ores brought from mines to Ketchum for smelting. The Lewis Lead, the lead wagon, was capable of hauling nine tons on trips from Challis across the winding and narrow Trail Creek Trail that often lasted two weeks.

Throughout the year, they’re stored in a downtown museum—but then, to comply with a provision of the Lewis family’s gift of the wagons to the city, the wagons are preened and brought out once a year for the public to see during the Wagon Days parade.

The most breathtaking sight for Wagon Days parade spectators is the Big Hitch and its team taking the turn at Sun Valley Road and Main Street, as the muleskinner deftly commands mules with yanks of the jerkline.

To parade marshal Brans, however, the parade and the months of planning that has gone into it is not as much of a chore as it is a labor of love.

"My big thing is being with these cowboys," Brans says. "Good people, down home, fun and funny."



Mountain Jobs

Formula Sports

Idaho Conservation League



Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.