It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that our dear friend Joe Ontiveros (Little Joe) has passed on. Little Joe was a wrangler for the ranch for a number of years in the late ’90s. We have begun to gather stories of his time here at the ranch to pass on to his family. Please pass on stories and pictures of how Little Joe touched your life in comments section of this blog or send them to

Little Joe passed on peacefully while walking down a seldom used path in a park near his home in Arizona. This day he specifically told his beloved Elaine that he would be going for a ” long walk.” He knew it would be his last and Elaine sensed it as well. His heart just stopped “out on the trail.”

Only fitting that he died when being with Nature. He loved everyday here at The Home Ranch. Lived and enjoyed life to its fullest. He felt that being a wrangler was the best job on Earth (of course prior to this he was the local driver’s license examiner-possibly the worst job on Earth.) Joe was the man Tim Assman always chose to lead the “long rides” and Little Joe made sure the guests experienced this beautiful Elk River Valley and surrounding mountains from his viewpoint. He filled them with stories (with some embellishment), made them aware of the flora and fauna, informed them of our history and heritage, instructed them on horsemanship and commanded their respect. The guests returned from their ride with a ton of admiration and a new found friend, Little Joe -a true Cowboy.

Joe was the first to greet me every morning in the Ranch kitchen coming in after the early Wrangle.’Buenos Dios amigo, Huevos Rancheros with extra hot sauce, flour tortilla and a whole jalapeno on the side por favor.” In return I got an impish smile, a joke, a wisecrack, a story of the day, and a reminder that we lived in Paradise. No reason to complain, we were blessed to live here.

Elaine will be bringing Joe back to Clark in September. A place where his heart and soul always remained. His ashes will be scattered and a celebration of his happy, healthy and loving life will take place. Little Joe was 86. So, “eat that jalapeno.”


Kind wishes to you all,


Joe’s friend, Clyde


 Why we Called Joe ‘Little Joe’

When he came to work for us as a wrangler we had two Joes – Joe Ontiveros & Joe Walton. It was decided to call Joe O ‘Little Joe’ & Joe W ‘Big Joe. A couple of weeks later while introducing the wranglers to the newest guests, Big Joe decided to be called Dakota. Well you can imagine the razzing he got. By the end of the speech he decided that Big Joe was ok. That is why Joe is Little Joe to us.


While riding Johnny, one of Joe’s favorite horses (I know realize why he was a favorite, him being nice & short, 14 hands or so) he stretched out to pee which he proceeded not to do. He did this several times. I finally realized taht Joe would let Johnny stop & stretch out whenever he wanted. Johnny figured that out too. I ended up letting Johnny know that wasn’t going to work with me riding him. Having said that, Little Joe was always willing to do whatever you asked him to do. He was a great guy who I really enjoyed working with. 

Tim Assman, Past Head Wrangler

There are many types of humor in the world.  The ribbing, the punning, the inside joke are ones with which we are all familiar.   But Little Joe’s

brand was all his own.  He was the the master of the patient set up and the unexpected joke.   Once, he met someone in town that he knew would soon be a new neighbor.   Well, Joe advised the this fellow to be very cautious in dealing with his neighbor to the North.    It was some weeks before the newcomer met this worrisome neighbor over his north fence line. Yep, it turned out to be Little Joe.  Another time, a very straight man, a banker from Seattle, was refused a waltz by his lady at the Home Ranch.  Little Joe, to the amusement of the crowd, stepped up and filled in for the lady.

Little Joe without that twinkle in his eye, without his impish and unexpected way of seeing this world, would be hard to imagine.   We know that we are all unique.   They teach us that in biology class.  But Little Joe Ontiveros was more unique than the rest of us.   He was truly one of a kind.  A loyal and steadfast friend, he was a man who when he told his stories of past adventures rarely spoke of  the humans that were involved. It was all about the horses.   And his friends understood this and respected him all the more for it. And on so many well-loved horses he traveled over and came to know this country better than we ever will.   He loved bush whacking  and took delight in leading and befuddling his fellow riders in the backcountry.   After one such excursion I remember asking him the name of the beautiful meadow we had just entered.   It was the very one we had started out in!

Well, Little Joe Ontiveros is in a different sort of backcountry now. But I think it likely he is exploring it with the same delight and humor that  he possessed in this world.   And if there’s any justice in this universe, any at all,  he is mounted. 

Larry Gulley