Archive for the ‘Reno and Nevada Divorce Era’ Category

The Secrets She KeepsOn July 2, I received a Google Alert with the words “divorce ranch” in it. Used to getting these Google Alerts for stories about celebrity couples “divorcing” and one of them getting the “ranch,” I clicked on the link anyway and was directed to an article on by Deb Caletti. She was promoting her new novel, THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS, a dual narrative set in the present day and the past–a Nevada divorce ranch in 1951.

The article was illustrated with vintage photographs from The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler, a book my husband Bill and I co-authored in 2004.

Ms. Caletti is too young to have lived through the Reno divorce era and she wrote this about the research and writing of her novel:

“Bringing that time period to life, though, was trickier than I’d anticipated because of exactly what I’d found so thrilling—how little there was out there about the divorce ranches. Luckily, I discovered The Divorce Seekers, a stunning coffee table volume of photos and memories by a former dude wrangler at the famed Flying M. E. Ranch, Bill McGee. The images—with their smoky, black-and-white, retro allure—are what brought the time and place alive for me so that I could bring them [my characters] to life in the novel. Not only was it an invaluable resource for information on day-to-day life on a divorce ranch, it also set the mood. I’d open the book to an image of two sleepy roommates in the middle of their Reno cure, wearing silky chemises, drinks in hand, or to a photo of one of the gals in her party-night finery, and I’d be just where I needed to be.”-From The Six-Week Cure by Deb Caletti

We wanted to know more about Ms. Caletti. The next day, Bill and I emailed her and set up a time for a phone chat. A week later, we had a delightful conversation and Deb–as we now called her–said she was sending us a signed copy of her book. When the book arrived, it was signed and inscribed:

“For Bill & Sandra, Divorce ranch royalty! With gratitude. –Deb Caletti”.

And on page 329 of the Acknowledgments were even more kind words:

“I owe a debt of gratitude to Bill and Sandra McGee’s wonderful book The Divorce Seekers, which was an invaluable resource for information about the Nevada divorce ranches. . . . This book is a treasure if only for the photos alone—images of cowboys, the ranch, old Reno, and Moscow mule-sipping socialites in the midst of their six-week cure.”

It’s words like these that warm a researcher and writer’s heart and make the long hours, days, weeks, months and years worth it. Though a decade has passed since The Divorce Seekers was published, I love that the Reno divorce era and that unique Nevada institution—the divorce ranch—still continue to fascinate. -Sandra McGee

1-Boulderado Ranch

Brochure for the Boulderado Ranch, circa 1940s. (Courtesy Nevada Historical Society)

In an interview for the Las Vegas Sun (click here to read), Brian Unger tells Robin Leach about “a book that fell into the hands of someone in the home office, and they thought this would be a great story.” I’m betting that book was “The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler”, Bill’s Nevada dude and divorce ranch memoir (now in eBook as “The Cowboyin’ Years, 1947-1950”: A Nevada Dude & Divorce Ranch Memoir).

A little backstory: In spring 2014, Bill and I were contacted by a production company about a possible new series for the Travel Channel and they were seeking information on the  Las Vegas divorce ranches of the 1940s and ’50s. Though our book is set in Reno, we do write about the Las Vegas divorce business — which made the news in 1939 when Ria Langham divorced Clark Gable in Las Vegas — and we sent the producers a copy of our book.

Fast forward to a year later: On Monday, April 20, the new series ‘Time Traveling’ premieres and a premiere episode will feature a visit to the sites of two former Las Vegas divorce ranches: Boulderado Ranch and Tule Springs Ranch. We’ll be watching to see how these Las Vegas divorce ranches are brought to life.

‘Time Traveling’ premieres Monday, April 20, on the Travel Channel at 10 p.m. PDT.

Cowboyin Years

The Cowboyin’ Years, 1947-1950
by William L. McGee
as told to Sandra V. McGee

Bill McGee recounts “three of the best years of my life” cowboyin’ at Yellowstone, Lake Tahoe, and on the legendary Nevada dude and divorce ranch, the Flying M.E. 154 photographs and illustrations


Sample the first 10% of this eBook for free at

Bill McGee and a divorce seeker on a trail ride at the Flying M E. 1948

Trail ride on the legendary Flying M.E. dude & divorce ranch, 1948 (Photo

Great AP story on the upcoming online exhibit about Reno’s divorce era from the University of Nevada, Reno, Special Collections… Click here to read the story and view fun photos . . . Reno Divorce Story

If you have a story to share, call 775-682-5640 and leave a message or email Mella Harmon at  

For fans of “Mad Men,” Christopher Spata has written a good piece on the screenwriting and attention to historical accuracy.

Click  Tampa Tribune (4/13/2014) . Scroll about half-way down to Marriage over? Just hit a ‘divorce ranch’ and there is a mention of Bill McGee.


Click on the link below for a readable PDF of
 “NEVADA as a Place to Split is a Legend of our Time

Roundup is published bi-monthly by Western Writers of America.Roundup contributors-001Roundup pg1-001Roundup pg2-001

Marilu Norden in the 1950s (Photo courtesy Norden family)

Marilu Norden in the 1950s (Photo courtesy Norden family)

In May 2013, Bill McGee and I were interviewed by Theresa Iker for her Scripps College thesis about the Nevada divorce ranch era. (See my June 2013 post: “Fascination with the Reno divorce era continues”)

For her blog debut on Huffington Post, Ms. Iker writes about her interview with another Nevada divorce ranch era survivor, Marilu Norden…   Click the link to read the Huffington Post story… “Divorcing at Dude Ranches”

On July 31, 2013, Turner Classic Movies featured a lineup of movies with a Reno setting… View the schedule

One of the more interesting viewings may be “Romantic Nevada”, a 1943 TravelTalks documentary short produced and narrated by James A. FitzPatrick. For Nevada and Reno history buffs, at the 00:03:44 point in the documentary, there is footage shot on the Tumbling DW (later the Flying M.E.) dude-divorce ranch in Washoe Valley. The tall gentleman wearing the white hat is probably Dore Wood, the Eastern blueblood who started the famous divorce ranch in the late 1930s with his then-wife Emmy Wood. 

For more on Reno divorce movies, see the Page on this Blog, Reno Divorce Movies, or the Posting on this Blog 40+ Reno Divorce Movies.

-Sandra McGee, Divorce Nevada Style

Former Montana cowboy Bill McGee gives on-camera commentary in Reno Memoriesa documentary short produced for Twentieth Century Fox to accompany the re-release on DVD of Fox’s 1939 film, Charlie Chan in Reno.

p349 - Emmy Wood (right) and newly-divorced descend the courthouse steps, 1948.

A newly-minted divorcee descending Reno’s courthouse steps, circa 1948. (Copyrighted photo from “The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler”

What are the six biggest divorce trends in the United States today?

What is the demographic for which divorce is on the rise?

Some of the data may surprise you… Click on the link for the answers… Six Divorce Trends of Today

-Sandra McGee, Divorce Nevada Style