Mary Jo Norell

I recently lost one of my dearest friends, a cowgirl I admired and loved from the moment I met her. Without really knowing how to begin, here is my tribute to a one-of-a-kind lady.
Mary Jo Boise Norell, 84 years young, died on January 6, 2015. She was a rancher through and through, a cowgirl from Piceance Creek who could rope and ride with the best of them, a mother of three strong, independent boys, a wife and life-long partner to her husband Bus, and most important for me, a dear friend.
We met well over thirty years ago. Since then, we shared more laughs and adventures than I can begin to recall.
Mary’s husband, Bus, died two months after Dean died in 2011. I know the three of them are off riding in the mountains somewhere, with a couple of good dogs following behind. A good rope, a well used saddle with a good horse underneath, and a good friend to laugh with by their side, that’s all those three will need. Well, that and maybe some good strong cow camp coffee made from the water at Big Spring.
We shared a love for the outdoors, chickens, animals, and gardens, but we also loved antiques and family treasures. Mary especially loved to dress sharp when she had a special occasion to attend. When I visited, she never once failed to show me the latest pictures of her family. She was so proud of those grandkids! We shared that too.
I remember the time we drove all over their cattle range in a small pickup. There wasn’t room for all four of us in the front, so Mary and I rode in the back with a big cooler full of lunch and water jugs bouncing around us, that and the ropes, bridles, halters, fence fixing gear, and a couple of dogs that every cowboy needs just in case.
We were looking for a herd of horses and couldn’t find them in the usual places. Now, we are talking about a big range of over a hundred thousand acres, so we were out there for a long time. Sometime late in the day, dusty and tired, Mary and I spotted the horses up on a ridge behind us, way behind us. We were facing backwards in the bed of the pickup; the men were up front, facing forward naturally. I looked at her, and she looked at me. We both shook our heads and looked the other way.
I could go on and on sharing my memories of her. There was the time we arrived to find a baby calf on the back porch – covered with honey. The time we were driving sideways on a slope so steep, if the door latch had given way, all four of us would have slid out of the pickup before you could have said ‘whoa.’
The bears. The laughter. The good meals. The cabin. Oh yes, there was Billy, the colt she raised by hand who’s rear-end could be seen sticking out of the cabin door every morning while he dined on Bus’s pancakes.
The best horse we ever owned, Eagle, we brought home from their ranch when he was six months old. Two years later, we brought home his full blooded sister, and named her MaryJo. I know that meant a lot to Mary, but not nearly as much as she meant to me.
You were one hell of a cowgirl, Mary. Thanks for the most precious gift of your friendship. I miss you. Love Barbara

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About Barbara K Tyner

A graduate of UCCS with a degree in English Lit., Barbara writes Children's Literature and fiction. Her popular children's series, The Badger Books, is co-authored with Barbara's daughter, Laura. Her first novel, "Wait Here, Wait There" deals with grief and Alzheimer's, two topics that are very difficult to manage in real life. Barbara volunteers doing school programs and speaking to support groups. National Parks, hiking, and snow-shoeing are in her list of favorite hobbies.
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3 Responses to Mary Jo Norell

  1. Toni Locock says:

    Barbara thank you so much for writing this it made me remember all the wonderful times I had while working with Bus, Mary and the boys in Piceance Creek. I worked on the ranch in the early 80’s while spending some time in the US from Australia. Bus and Mary were like family to me. I can still see Mary sitting at the kitchen window as I rode by with colts shaking her finger at me to put my hat on so I wouldn’t get cold. She was an amazing woman who was tough as nails. We formed a special bond even though she had never had any girls we became great friends and I am so saddened by the loss of her. Thank you for taking me back to a wonderful time in my life and telling the world about a wonderful woman that I loved dearly.

    Toni Locock

  2. Julie Houchin says:

    A nice tribute – Mary was my Aunt and I loved her dearly and will certainly miss her.

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