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The  Caretaker  Gazette
Sunday, July 22 2018

Caretaker Profiles

The Reiners - Enjoying decades of caretaking!

Dates of Birth: Ralph: 5/6/26, Lorraine: 5/16/34
Interests: Country living, animal "family," reading, writing books, meteorology and crafts.
Quote:"Sweet clean air from east to west, And room to go and come, I loved my fellow man the best, When he was scattered some" from a plaque on their wall!

Ralph and Lorraine watching another Montana sunset!

After living more than seventy years, fifty-five of them in the mountains, Ralph Reiner has developed certain inalienable distastes. "We don't like cities at all" says Ralph.

He and his wife, Lorraine, first met in Yellowstone National Park in 1975. Ralph had previously spent eight years in Yellowstone as a Park Ranger Naturalist. He had taken time off that summer from caretaking a mountain ranch to work as a tour guide while he gathered information and photos for a book.

Lorraine and her sister were visiting Yellowstone from Adelaide, South Australia. While visiting Yellowstone's Old Faithful, the sisters decided to do a "Twilight Tour" and were about to board the bus when another couple pushed ahead of them, filling that bus, and leaving the sisters to board the next bus, where Ralph was the tour guide. During the tour, Lorraine was about to photograph buffalo through the bus window, but to her sister's horror, Ralph took Lorraine out closer to the herd, and then the women spoke briefly with him after the tour.

Lorraine and her sister continued their tour, then returned to Australia, and Ralph returned to the ranch he was caretaking when Yellowstone closed at the end of the summer. They continued to correspond by mail.

Lorraine then traveled to Montana at Christmas to see what it was like to live in the snow - leaving 90 temperatures in Australia, to be greeted by 55 below zero in Helena, MT.

During the following year, Lorraine and Ralph decided that she should come to the U.S. permanently so that they could be married, and after dealing with all the immigration red tape, they were married in Bozeman, MT in December 1976.

For a brief time after their marriage, they continued to caretake the isolated ranch where Ralph had been living. They left that ranch for another, and eventually accepted a caretaking position near Boulder, Colorado. They lived in a modern two-storied house on the side of a mountain, and took care of the owners three-storied chalet-styled home. It was here that Ralph was shot while trying to prevent three men from escaping after they had robbed two neighboring houses.

Ralph recovered well, although he lost the use of one vocal cord. The property owner was so upset by the incident that he decided to sell his property.

So, the Reiners went to Echo Lake, CO, where Ralph was employed as Resident Manager for the University of Denver High Altitude Laboratory at 10,700 feet. Besides maintaining buildings, equipment and vehicles at the home base, Ralph took care of the buildings and observatory at 14,200 feet on the top of Mt. Evans. What a magnificent place that was! Ralph mentions that another feature "was that our nearest human neighbor was more than six miles away," with beautiful nature surrounding them for as far as the eye could see.

They had hard winters and cool summers, but outstanding views, a challenging lifestyle and wildlife all around. Ralph ran the Mt. Evans Research U.S. Weather Station, which is the second-highest manned weather station in the country. He recorded winds up to 224mph, snowfall up to 500 inches, and a wind-chill temperature down to 198 below zero at the top of Mt. Evans. He lectured to some groups on botany, meteorology and geology, and in winter must have moved tons of snow with the plow on front of the pickup.

With time, working at such high altitudes gradually became an effort, so the Reiners headed for Texas to visit Ralph's relatives, but ten months was enough of that! Heat, humidity and low altitude disagreed with them, so they headed back to Montana.

Since they had worked as caretakers, it was easy for them to find employment as caretakers on a portion of a large Montana farm, where Ralph is doing part-time work with the big four-wheel-drive tractors and some cattle.

They are also working on a new book (they have published seven other books), to be called "Majestic Big Horn Country of Montana and Wyoming," covering an area roughly 100 miles wide, from Billings to Cody, an area of approximately 18,000 square miles. Ralph hopes to have it published next year. He still keeps a complete weather station on a 24 hour a day basis, with some U.S. Weather instruments, plus some of his own.

Although they would like to return to the mountains one day, possibly in Wyoming this time, they are currently enjoying the beautiful sunrises and sunsets that are visible on the plains. Lorraine says "having been in the mountains most of our married life, these views were hidden by hills or tall trees."

The Reiners now have two dogs and three cats, and life is at a slightly slower pace. They're very happy that they found the caretaking lifestyle to be so compatible with their many interests!


The Reiners in front of their caretaker home in Montana.

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