WAYNE AND WAUNETA LOVETT BRANCH
From 'Fanning the Embers', published 1971, Range Rider Reps, Miles City, Montana
By Loma Branch Theade
My Dad, Wayne D. Branch, was born Sept. 28, 1903, in Gibbins, Okla., to Mr. and Mrs. William Lincoln Branch. His mother passed away when he was a very young boy, about four. My grandfather moved his small son Wayne and older daughter Ruth to the Rosebud community and settled. Wayne grew up in the country with horses and farming and went to school in Rosebud where he played basketball, he loved and excelled in. He worked for and became a good friend of Bert Finch. When he was 15 he hauled freight with a team and wagon up the Rosebud Creek. He also worked for Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Konkwright. They were known for their musical ability and played for dances, Floyd the violin and Ollie the piano. They also raised race horses and raced them over the area a good many years. This was where my father got his early love for racing horses and owned his first race horse when he was about 17. My Dad met his next love, Wauneta Lovett, in Rosebud and they were married April, 1927. My mother was born in Crab Orchard, Neb., Nov. 11, 1905. She had two brothers and two sisters. These children were orphaned at an early age. Mother was about eight years old when she started working for her board and room and schooling. When she and her sister grew older they came to the Rosebud area where relatives were settled, her brother Feral and her aunt and uncle, Mrs. Effie Noaks and John McDonald. Their relatives left and settled in Missoula and Stevensville, Mont. My Dad's sister Ruth married Milo Merrill, who was a son to the Merrills who lived at Joppa, Mont., where Milo's mother was murdered by a transient. Wayne and Wauneta had five children, Loma, Bonnie, Betty, Dewayne and Billy, who attended Rosebud grades and high school. My father's love for racing horses started early and continues to this day. He started at the bottom and has gone to the top. One of the biggest thrills of his life was when his 12-year-old gelding SoGood won the Rosebud County Derby at Forsyth, Mont., and was draped with flowers that go with Montana Derby winners. In the saddle was his 12-year-old son Dewayne. In the mid-forties Wayne moved up to a recognized racetrack. He went to Seattle, had an uphill grind all the way. There is a rumor that Branch talks to his horses. He says, "You have to be in close harmony with them." Watmeta says, "I have seen him spend hours sitting in a stall rubbing a horse's legs and I stood outside and kept him company." His trainer standings are good; his name has been at the top in national standings. He is a trainer of a public stable and handles 20 to 25 head of horses for eight to ten other owners and himself. He has achieved his status by racing at places like Great Falls, Billings, Spokane, Seattle, Portland, Yuma, Tucson and Phoenix. San Franciso is the only place he races that is regarded as "major league." He says, "Wauneta bets a few dollars and jumps like crazy when the race is over and she wins." She used to travel everywhere with him but just isn't up to traveling much anymore. My sister, Betty Lou, has been madly in love with horses all her life. Dad found it impossible to drive her away from the stable. Her mare had a small scrawny colt; he bloomed into health with her care and he made headlines. She named him Te Amo Weep. I love horses, too, but a husband, a home and family come first. My Dad has had several tempting offers from prominent west coast owners but he prefers to struggle upstream in his own way. His mother said of him, "He branched out in his own right, independent of his father." He is consistently among the top ten trainers on the American Turf. He worked with wild ones on the Montana range, rounded them up, branded them, sold them and rode them. He worked as a pick-up man for riders at rodeos. I am the oldest of Wayne and Wauneta's children. We children grew up on a ranch, got our schooling in Rosebud and have all branched out on our own. Dewayne is also in the race horse Business. Betty married Lowell Robinson and has one son named Rocky. They are also in the racing field. Billy works in Phoenix, Ariz., where my mother and father now make their home. Bonnie married Joe Scanlon; he manages a truck terminal in Tioga and they have a lovely ranch at Epping and four children. I was employed in Miles City before my marriage to Gene Theade Aug. 13, 1949. We live in Billings and have five children. I am employed at the Rimrock Lodge and Gene is a Billings policeman, in the detective branch.