BLACKF00T – When Ron Reese was a boy growing up on a dairy farm in Utah’s Cache Valley near Logan, he developed a desire to do two things: be an educator and own fine horses.
As he celebrated his 80th birthday last Friday, he looked back with the satisfaction of knowing he has done both in equal measure.
He bought his first horse, an American Saddlebred, with the registered name “Utah Rose,” at age 15 and got his first job as a school teacher at age 26 upon graduating from Utah State University with a degree in education. The icing on his cake was that he married a girl who loved the same two things, a girl he literally ran into by accident one day.
It happened a few years after Ron bought the sorrel mare he renamed “Beauty,” when he was a member of the Cache Mounted Posse, an organization he joined because he loved horseback riding, but also to show people what a beautiful horse he owned.
The posse had ridden in the grand entry at the Cache Valley Rodeo the summer of 1959 and was on its way out the gate when Beauty collided with a big bay gelding ridden by a pretty girl on her way in, nearly knocking them to the ground. Afterward, Ron went to find the girl to make sure she wasn’t injured. “He walked over and put his hand on my knee and asked ‘are you alright?’” the girl whose maiden name was Karen Hall said. “I said I’m fine, and he walked away.”
Intrigued by the handsome cowboy with dark wavy hair, she asked the rodeo queen, to whom she was first attendant, if she knew him. “She said don’t waste your time on him. All he likes is horses.”
Getting a college degree had been drummed into his head throughout his childhood, Ron said, and by then he was a year away from graduation at Utah State University. He learned Karen’s name and that she was attending Idaho State University. He looked her up and they began dating. “Most of our dates consisted of riding horseback into the mountains” Karen laughed, “but I didn’t mind. I loved horses as much as he did.”
With degree in hand the summer of 1961, Ron headed to Blackfoot in answer to an ad for an elementary school teacher. “I didn’t want the job,” he recalled seated at the dining table at the Reese home on Blackfoot’s east side, “I just wanted to get some experience at interviewing.”
I.T. Stoddard was superintendent of the Blackfoot School District at the time, and he hired Ron on the spot, offering him a starting salary of $4,117. He even arranged housing for him with a local couple who took in boarders, and the job he didn’t want in the beginning stretched into 42 years, the entirety of his life as an educator.
His first job was teaching seventh grade English and reading at Blackfoot Junior High School on South Shilling, now the sixth grade complex. On one of his first weekends he went back home and proposed to Karen. She accepted and they were married that December.
Five and a half years later while teaching at Southgate Elementary (now I.T. Stoddard), Ron was abruptly summoned to a meeting with the superintendent. “I was worried and wondering what I’d done wrong,” he said. To his relief he was offered the job of principal at the school, the current one having resigned in mid-year. “I told Mr. Stoddard I didn’t think I was ready, but the man whose nickname was ‘Rip’ wasn’t to be denied. “Do you want to be an educator or not?” he asked.
Ron returned to college that summer and began work on his administrator’s credentials, and Karen went with him to complete her own degree in education and become a teacher. His education was thorough, Ron said, and by the time it was over he was qualified to teach any subject as well as be an administrator.
He spent the ensuing 11 years as an elementary school principal, then six as vice principal at the junior high followed by two as principal and ended his career in education with four years as principal of the sixth grade school.
Although it had to be secondary during those years, Ron’s love for horses never waned, and he spent as much time on them as he could spare. He and Karen eventually decided to raise Quarter Horses and started the operation they called Reese Quarter Horses. They still have their first stallion, Poco Leo Bar Reese, who was a colt of their own breeding by King Champagne out of Sugar Sweet Sue.
Using top quality mares always, their aim was not to produce blooded brood stock, but to produce good using horses, the couple said, and that’s what they based their choice of bloodlines and training on.
“Our horses have been sold for things like barrel racing, calf roping, bulldogging, stock horses and just plain pleasure riding,” Karen said. Their four sons, Scott, Craig, Doug, and Todd all helped with the horses as they grew up.
They still have Poco Leo Bar Reese, now 21 and still standing at stud, although not advertised. Ron was able to devote his attention full-time to the horses when he retired in 2003, but says he’s not as energetic as he once was and now only has seven mares and the stallion to tend, but still irrigates his pastures, and with the loss of his farrier earlier this year has taken on the chore of trimming hooves. “It takes me all day just to do one horse,” he confessed, “but I can still get the job done.”
His years in education and the thousands of students he had contact with remain among his dearest memories, Ron says. He loved working with them, and always treated each with a dignity and respect he believes was returned. He also had contact with hundreds of teachers, a few of whom he felt were in the wrong profession
“To me, education is a calling, not a job. Some teachers sent students to my office regularly, while some never sent a single one, and I often wondered why that was, but it says a lot when you think about it. Someone once said about kids, ‘They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’ I loved to be around them. I cared, and I think I showed them that I did.”