Welcome

 

This site is dedicated to my husband, Bill McGee, a Montana cowboy and former Nevada dude wrangler on the famous Flying M.E., the luxury dude ranch twenty-one miles south of Reno that catered to wealthy Easterners and socialites, most seeking a six-week divorce. From 1947 to 1949, Bill entertained ranch guests with names like Astor, du Pont, and Vanderbilt. He hunted and drank with movie stars like Clark Gable and Ava Gardner. This was the job most cowboys would give their right arm for.

As Bill liked to say, “At age twenty-one, and being the only man on the ranch and surrounded by all those beautiful and wealthy women, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.”

My fascination with the Reno divorce era began when I met Bill in 1981. I knew a little something about the Reno divorce era from the 1939 movie The Women. But listening to Bill’s stories about the Flying M.E. and the changing cast of characters that came and went every six weeks had all the makings of another Hollywood movie.  I urged Bill to write a book about these years. After all, how many former Nevada dude wranglers were “still above ground” (as the cowboys say) to tell these stories?

In 2000, we teamed up and co-authored The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler, a hardcover, coffee table book with 500-plus black-and-white photographs, many never before published and from the scrapbooks of former Flying M.E. guests or their offspring. When the book was published in 2004, it received immediate critical acclaim. Eric Moody, Curator of Manuscripts at the Nevada Historical Society, said the book was “the best book yet about Nevada’s famous dude and divorce ranch business.”

Today, few people know about this period of Nevada history and the profound social impact the era had on American society. Nevada, as it turned out, set the stage and led the way for other states to liberalize their divorce laws, thus making it easier for a woman or man to get out of an unhappy marriage.

Through this website, I hope to help preserve this fascinating slice of history in the contemporary American West.

If you have a Nevada divorce story you’d like to tell, please share at mcgeebmc@aol.com.

– Sandra V. McGee