Helen Marie Rentz

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Helen Marie Rentz

Helen Marie Rentz passed away on Saturday, June 11, 2011 in Memorial Hospital of Sheridan. She was born on November 8, 1919, the first daughter of Alexander and Alta Sharp Ponak. She was born in a small home on West Burkitt Street in Sheridan, delivered by a midwife. After her birth, her family applied for homestead rights on 640 acres in Gopher, Montana. The family moved there, built a home, shelter belt and made improvements to the land as required, and that is where she grew up. The application and patent (deed) was signed by President Herbert Hoover. It was there she learned so many life skills which would serve her well all of her life.
Helen attended all eight grades of elementary school at the Gopher school, and on Sundays attended Bible School there too. The school was located a mile and a half away from home, so she and her sisters walked or rode a horse both ways each day. Helen never saw a doctor until she was seventeen, when she broke her toe. After the sale of the homestead, her parents purchased and operated the Mountain Inn, a café, bar and dance hall in Dayton, and ran it for many years. She attended high school in Sheridan and Dayton, and was one of the four students of the first graduating class of Dayton in 1937. During her high school years, she and her sisters would work as waitresses in the café for their parents. The most popular menu item was a hamburger, sold with dressing for a dime. After working in the café each Saturday night, they would kick up their heels in the dance hall upstairs.
After high school, she went to work as a maid during the summers at Eaton’s Ranch at Wolf. It is there that she met her future husband, Carl (Red) W. Rentz, a handsome wrangler who came to the states from Canada. Prior to the summer job, her parents had bought her a special watch so she could go to nursing school, but she never made it. Instead, she and Red were married on September 16, 1939 in Sheridan.
After their marriage, they were convinced by Tom Moss, a dude at Eaton’s Ranch to move to St. Louis, and go to work for his construction company, Lincoln Engineering, and to train Tennessee walking horses as well. They later moved back to Wyoming and to a job at the Hat Ranch in Kaycee. Her husband worked as a ranch hand and Helen cooked for men on the ranch and received fifteen cents per meal for doing so. She became a wonderful cook during those years, baking pies and breads every day. Their first child, a son Robert, and a daughter Carla, were born while they worked there.
After many years working at the Hat Ranch, together with a partner, they purchased and operated the Invasion Bar in Kaycee. The customers were mostly cowboys and construction workers they knew. Some years later, they moved to Dayton where her husband went to work for the Padlock Ranch. Helen cooked while he worked as a cowboy and would shoe the ranch horses.
They fulfilled their dream to buy land and to ranch on Beaver Creek, and there they raised dairy cattle, beef cattle and sheep. During this time her husband worked for Peter Kiewit Co. and Helen ran the ranch, milking cows, cooking for hired men, raising chickens, geese, hay, gardens and kids, as their third child, Donna, had been born. She was truly a life partner to her husband, working as his “right hand woman” and also doing the work of a man. She was the glue that kept their family life together.