Welcome

The place was Reno. The year was 1947.

This site is dedicated to my husband, Bill McGee, a Montana cowboy and former Nevada dude wrangler. From 1947 to 1949, Bill was the head dude wrangler on the famous Flying M.E., an exclusive dude ranch twenty-one miles south of Reno that catered to wealthy Easterners, most seeking a six-week divorce. This was a job most cowboys would give their right arm to have.

As Bill likes 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 – and later obsession – with the Reno divorce era began in 1981 when I met Bill. 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 he met on the dude ranch 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 2004, 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. The book received immediate critical acclaim. The Nevada Historical Society cited it “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 would turn out, would lead 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 share, please contact me at mcgeebmc@aol.com.

– Sandra V. McGee