Cowboy UP or wear your PINK nylons! Loosen your reins a little bit, sit-up
straight, pull your feet back, get your heels down, tighten your reins, what
lead are you on, kick her up and MAKE HER GO! Get off that horses
mouth – you’re telling him WHOA GO! Stop making fun of the way I get on
my mule…I’d like to see the way you do it when you get to be my age!
These infamous one-liners, have haunted The Morgan County Fairgrounds
and many of the kids who’ve ridden there for more than 40 years now.
Jessie Kilburn Franich, “Your Fearless Leader” by those who’ve ridden in
her Wet Blankets Horse 4-H club, was born (1941) and raised in Porterville,
UT where she still resides. She married Matt Franich in 1971, and has four
children (Mike Warner, Marnie, Rana, & Torrey Franich) and four
grandchildren (Shea, Ciera, Lane & Ayden). She was born to Jesse and
Thelma Kilburn and has one brother, Thayne Kilburn, who was born the
same day as her, 12 years later.
As many of you know, Jessie has had a lengthy career of being an avid
horse and mule rider. When Jessie was a little girl, she had an old horse
named Silver and that’s where her love for horses and riding all began.
From trick riding bareback, attempting to jump bails of hay in the field, to
cliff jumping old Silver off a 25 ft. ledge into East Canyon Dam, to taking
some “city slicker” on a ridiculously scary trail ride through some of the
most treacherous terrain Hardscrabble canyon has to offer (secretly
laughing whenever her company would ask if they were really going to go
down that), to riding her mule in the flag ceremony at the County Fair last
year, she’s done it all. She didn’t give up on the trick riding until she
learned that the pros ride with a saddle and use a stabilization bar to stand-
up. And she’s never given up on the “city slickers” who claim they know
how to ride.
It wasn’t until the year 1957, Jessie was 15 years old and got to ride in a
saddle for the first time. She had to borrow a saddle and teach herself how
to ride in one so she could try out for the Morgala Days Queen Contest. Up
to that point, she had always ridden bareback. She ended up winning and
was crowned Morgala Days Queen that year.
Jessie still maintains a career of volunteerism and activism within the
Morgan County community. Much of her time has been devoted to the
children of this community through her 42 years of volunteer leadership in
horse 4-H. When her kids were old enough to begin 4-H, she started The
Wet Blankets Horse 4-H Club which is still going strong today. At the end
of every riding season she says, “I think this is going to be my last year.”
And her kids always tell her it’s been her last year for the past 10 years —
you can’t quit! To say she is competitive would be an understatement. Her
passion for winning is infectious. She truly cares about the future of our
youth and it shows in the members of her 4-H group. She will do whatever
it takes to help her kids develop a winning mindset first, followed-up with a
winning skill set in their riding abilities. She’s always said, “If you’re not
winning, you’re not having fun.”
Jessie’s dedication doesn’t end with 4-H. This year will mark the 25th
anniversary of the Fair’s Wrangler Contest which she founded in 1998.
This contest is for the boys in the community and it involves taking a test on
horse and rodeo related topics, roping a calf, riding a set pattern, a five
minute speech, an impromptu question, a one-on-two interview with the
judges, and a luncheon for the contestants and their families. Upon
winning, the Head Wrangler is awarded a brand new saddle with the year
stamped on it and the 1 st and 2 nd Wrangler’s receive various horse related
prizes, and all participants and helpers receive a hat and t-shirt for
Back in the late 90’s, Jessie was named the first female Commander of the
Morgan County Sheriff’s Posse. During this role, the Sheriff’s Posse
competed in an annual race against the Weber County Sheriff’s Posse.
Weber County had won this race for the past 50 years. Riding her
thoroughbred race horse, Siscat, Jessie helped Morgan take the victory for
the first time in history! Back in the day, her and her husband Matt both
rode in the Miltahna’s Posse during the Morgala Days Rodeo.
Jessie’s involvement in the community went beyond that of the Morgan
County Fairgrounds. She was an EMT and rode on the Morgan County
Ambulance Crew for 15 years. During that time she also taught 1 st aid and
CPR to the high school students. She is currently the County DUP
(Daughter’s of Utah Pioneers) Captain and has also been the DUP Camp
Captain. She is a proud member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
Day Saints and is currently the 2nd counselor in the Primary for the 6th Ward.
Between the ages of 70 and 80, Jessie participated in three Mormon Trek’s
and did the women’s pull in all three! At a time when most people her age
were either retiring, or getting ready to retire, Jessie decided it was time to
get her CDL and drive truck. Her and her son, Torrey, did a couple of long
haul over-the-road gigs during the winter season and both decided that
wasn’t the career for them. After a couple of dump truck jobs, Jessie
landed at Salt Lake County where she drove for 20 years, finally calling
quits at age 75.
Jessie still works around her house like she’s in her 20’s and all five feet of
her still rides her 16 hand high mule, Amos, like a BOSS!!! Just because
she’s retired, doesn’t mean she’s slowed down at all. Her daughter always
teases her that she gets her CrossFit workout in before 8 o’clock in the
morning feeding and watering her mules and the other various, random
critters that come around. Jessie is truly grateful for her health and to still
be able to do all of the things she enjoys doing. When asked her secret for
staying healthy, she says she owes it to Dr. Pepper, Doritos, and good old
fashioned hard work.
Jessie is thankful to all of you who have helped her along the way. Morgan
County has been good to her and she is honored to add Grand Marshal to
her long and rewarding legacy.