Aug. 22, 1950 – March 2, 2018
It is with great sorrow to share the loss of a legend. Kelly W. Arnett passed on March 2, 2018. Kelly is now running wild with his horses on the mountain as a free spirit.
Kelly was born on August 22, 1950 to Philip and Darlyne Arnett in Greybull, Wyo. Kelly grew up on the family ranch in Shell with his parents and siblings. “Growing up with Kelly was always an adventure, always his own person.” Independent and free spirited, Kelly started out early living life on his own terms. He grew up a dreamer loving the cowboy life and epitomized it throughout his lifetime. It is really difficult to put words to Kelly Arnett, he lived and died by his own rules with a twinkle in his eye.
Even as a kid Kelly had a way with horses. Never one to fear life, he started riding and breaking horses as soon as he was old enough to fork a saddle. Legend has it that by the time Kelly was 18, he had broken every bone in his body; including his neck and back. In the early years a horse was a tool to get the job done, but as time went on Kelly started to see them as more. There was never any doubt to those that spent time around Kelly and his horses, that he preferred their company over most people. He owned a lot of horses during his life but very few were special to him. The most ‘famous’ one being Jerk, you could watch him in the back of the stock truck riding along and taking corners like a seasoned healer on a flatbed. He did his share of competing, riding bulls and broncs, livin’ the life and traveling the country. As a young man Kelly would spend his summers riding in the Cody Night Rodeo and guiding dudes in the big country during the fall. Rumor had it that his winters were filled with woman and whiskey during those years, an iconic lifestyle for a man coming of age. Kelly spent his whole life working in between “careers” for the ranchers of Shell Valley, always the man they called when a tough job needed doing on horseback; he could be counted on never to back down from a challenge. He also worked as a roughneck and a millwright. His jobs took him all over the United States, making unlikely friends everywhere he went, a true renaissance man; the last to quit and the first to buy the whisky. At the end of the day however, Kelly’s heart was always somewhere in the Big Horn Mountains; a place he loved like no other.
Kelly was married to Kaylene Rice; they started life together in Casper, Wyo. From Casper, they travelled the country following jobs, living as far away as Texas. Kelly and his young family finally settled at the “Home Place” on Shell Creek and raised their boys. Kelly taught his kids everything he knew and had the whole Shell Valley helping raise them. Eventually Kelly would lose his beloved wife to tragedy, with his two young boys/men to raise and with the continued help of the valley; he would meet the challenge as he had many others. Bestowing on the boys an education as only Kelly could, he raised two individuals that would have the knowledge of the old cowboy ways and the grit to deal with whatever life threw at them.
Kelly never met a stranger and everyone was a friend, he made a big impression; whether you knew him for a long time or just met him. Kelly was a very talented storyteller and orator; when he told a story or recited a poem he was always the center of everyone’s attention. The “Cremation of Sam Magee” will never be the same without his voice. Kelly touched many lives and imparted his knowledge to many different people. If you wanted to know about horses or guns or some Shell Valley history, Kelly was the one to talk to. From his milkweed pickers to his oldest friends, Kelly was a legend and one of a kind; definitely breaking the mold when they made him. His laugh, honesty, integrity, and true cowboy way will be greatly missed. There was no one no more down to earth than Kelly, direct and to the point, wasn’t afraid to tell anyone the way “it was.”
He is preceded in death by his parents Philip and Darlyne, wife Kaylene, son Brian and brother Joe. He is survived by his son Patrick (RoxAnne) Arnett, Michael Arnett, sisters Linda Arnett and Dawn (Rex) Bennett, nieces Mandy, Monica and Rose and stepgrandson Neil Getzfreid.
Kelly was adamant that no one have a funeral for him, so since he ain’t around to argue we are gonna have a party. Friday night, 6 pm at the Elks, plan on staying till the town runs dry of Black Velvet. Bring a dish for the potluck if you are inclined; definitely bring your stories and smiles. Lets do it up right for the old man. Powder River let her buck!