Marge Prunty, matriarch of the Prunty Ranch
Marge Prunty, matriarch of the Prunty Ranch, lives in the home she moved into as a bride in 1952. The home is one of the few buildings remaining at the old town-site of Charleston, Nevada along the Bruneau River. It sits below a hill bearing crosses marking the graves of Marge’s husband of 48 years, Shorty Prunty and her oldest son Dick. Her kitchen window looks out on the upper pastures where the yearling colts and saddle horses range.The Prunty Ranch is located 85 miles northeast of the nearest town, Elko, Nevada, and 25 miles from the nearest paved road. Marge says the roads are snowed in, isolating the ranch, for about three months every winter. Mail delivery comes twice a week in the good weather, but during the winter months mail is delivered at the state highway 25 miles away. Snowmobile is often the only method of winter access to the ranch. Marge loves her home and remains there even during those solitary months.
The Prunty Ranch is well known for its herd of colorful
Diamond A Desert horses, numbering about 150 head, that were featured in the April and May, 2001 issues of Western Horseman Magazine. They also run about 300 head of mother cows on National Forest and Bureau of Land Management permits and their own 1100 deeded acres.
Marge was born on a ranch near Elko in 1926. She married Shorty Prunty in 1948 and they worked on other ranches for a few years until they settled on his home place in 1952. When her older son Dick started school, Marge taught at the one-room school in Charleston for two years. She and her son and other students rode their horses to school. Then she taught up to 22 students from first through eighth grades in a country school on the North Fork of the Humboldt River about 25 miles away. She talks happily of the seventeen years she spent teaching, first in the one-room schools and then in Elko.
Today, many changes have taken place in rural Nevada. The thing Marge says she notices most is that where neighboring ranches once supported young families, they have now been bought by corporations and for the most part have no people living on them. Granddaughter Becky, when mentioning the old town of Charleston, says, “We are Charleston. We are all that’s left.”
Marge’s son Gary and her two college-age granddaughters Becky and Kyla take an active interest in the ranch and the Pruntys’ historic horse herd, although they do not live on the ranch at the present time. Marge also retains a full-time hired man. But she says being the boss of the ranch is a very hard job. At 74 years old, Marge still loves to ride her favorite horse Ribbon and she uses a four-wheeler to haul salt, check her livestock and to check irrigation water.
Marge says her main concern for the future is “the fear every old-timer, rancher, and stockman has for the future, maintaining their access to public grazing lands.” Her land is bordered on the east by a wilderness area and on the north by lands controlled by the Elk Foundation. She maintains that all the rules and restrictions imposed by people that are new to the land are often difficult to deal with and hopes they will not become prohibitive to her family’s way of life.
A version of this article by Lee Raine appeared in November, 2001 Western Horseman Magazine.