Loss of a character

On Dec. 31, New Year's Eve, cowboy poet and life-long character Ernie Fanning died at the age of 71. Fish Springs now suffers yet another loss of our great story-tellers as it's only been a month since Don Hale died on Thanksgiving Day.

Ernie was born in Missouri and raised in Arizona and Nevada. Ever since 1994 he and his wife Kay have lived and worked on the old homesteaded Finch Ranch located at the north end of Fish Springs. He has lived a full and exciting life and has enjoyed it all, including his time as a cattleman, hay rancher, horse trainer, wagon train boss and cowboy poet. And he always went to Mule Days in Bishop. Much of his original cowboy poetry was from his actual life experiences as a ranchman and stockman.

For eight years Ernie organized and led an annual three-day wagon train campout that took place near Gerlach. One year, when everyone had settled down for the evening, there appeared an Indian sitting on his horse at the top of a hill. He was wearing a full headdress and he suddenly came galloping down the hill toward them! It turned out to be a real Indian all right, a man named Gordie Frasier and he put on a great show for all the cowboys and cowgirls. Everyone had a fabulous time and it's events like this that made Ernie Fanning famous.

He was a teamster and he trained draft horses to drive. We always enjoyed watching him ride in his little cart while being pulled around Fish Springs by a great big draft horse. During the Carson Valley Days Parade the Budweiser Clydesdale draft horses spent their nights out in Ernie's field. Well-known as a cowboy poet, Ernie and his wife Kay have been producing the Rhymers Rodeer at the Carson Valley Inn for the past 19 years.

Ernie Fanning was one of a kind, a man who loved to tell outlandish tall tales. He was a character all right and he certainly will be missed. Our deepest sympathy goes to Kay and all their children and grandchildren and other family members and friends. A celebration of life will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Fish Springs fire station. A reception will follow and then a horse-drawn wagon will carry the casket to Eastside Memorial Park. The family requests in place of flowers, donations can be made to the Ernest Fanning Memorial Fund, account No. 501001676783, at Bank of America.

n Linda Monohan can be reached at 782-5802.


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