BIG TIMBER — Longtime rancher Peter C. Harms, 94, of Big Timber, passed away on Feb. 26, 2013, after a brief illness. He was a dedicated rancher, talented stockman, and truly a quintessential cowboy.
Pete was born on May 10, 1918, to immigrant parents Peter G. and Minna (Frost) Harms in an 8x10 shack near the former town of Belmont in what is now Golden Valley County. Pete attended country schools with his eight brothers and sisters until completing the eighth grade, when he left home with his older brother Charlie to start their own coyote trapping business.
In addition to trapping, Pete also helped on different lambing crews and broke horses for various people. In 1938 he was the youngest trapper ever hired with the Fish and Wildlife Service and moved to Moiese, Mont., to trap predators on the National Bison Range.
After four years at the Bison Range, he was transferred to Sweet Grass County to help protect the local ranchers' sheep bands, and was headquartered at a camp east of the Leo J. Cremer home ranch. Eventually, Pete became one of Cremer’s hands, building fences and corrals, running the haying crews and helping with the Cremer rodeo company. During this time he started his fine herd of registered Hereford cows.
In 1950, after years of living in line camps, trapping coyotes, breaking and shoeing horses, and working for various ranchers, he had saved enough money to buy his own place on Wildcat Creek near Big Timber. In 1977 Pete married Linda McMullen and they continued to work the ranch together, raising yellow, curly-haired Hereford bulls, and later, black Angus commercial cattle. They also raised and trained some really good working horses through the years. In 1989, Pete was honored to represent Sweet Grass County as a horse wrangler in The Great Montana Centennial Cattle Drive.
Although Pete and Linda divorced after many years of marriage, they continued to work together on the ranch as friends and business partners. When Linda’s son Jason was born in 1994, Pete became Jason’s mentor and teacher as they fenced, rode and worked cattle together. Pete took great joy in watching Jason grow up and become a young man.
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Pete was a treasure to us all, and had a real gift for influencing and inspiring us by his hard work, honesty and integrity, his gentle demeanor, generosity and forgiving nature. He will be dearly missed.
Pete is preceded in death by his parents, Peter G. and Minnia (Frost) Harms; four sisters, Minnie A. Krause, Gertrude Ford, Isabel Kapler and Margaret Schulz; three brothers, Charles J. Harms, Jurgen M. Harms and Arthur T. Harms; and one niece, Patsy Ford Antonich.
Survivors include Linda McMullen and Jason Smith of Big Timber; sister Mary Ann Fincher-Gunn, of Colorado City, Texas; sisters-in-law Hazel Harms Foust and Jean Murdock Harms, both of Billings; Lauren McMullen and Keith Goodhart of Big Timber; 28 nieces and nephews; and a host of other relatives and friends.
Graveside services will be held 1 p.m. Thursday, March 7, at the ranch, followed by a celebration of Pete’s life at 4 p.m. at American Legion in Big Timber. Stenberg Funeral Home of Big Timber is in charge of arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, please send memorials in Pete’s name to Livingston Stafford Animal Shelter, 3 Business Park Road, Livingston, MT 59047.