JJ Ranchers’ Daughter Returns to Blythewood

If you can remember when Blythewood looked like this, stop by and visit with Josie Jennings Atkinson Saturday at the Langford-Nord House.

If you can remember when Blythewood looked like this, stop by and visit with Josie Jennings Atkinson Saturday at the Langford-Nord House.

BLYTHEWOOD (Oct. 13, 2016) – Josie Jennings Atkinson, the daughter of the late Jimmy and Sybil Jennings, owners of the JJ Ranch in Blythewood in the 1960s, will be in town Oct. 15 for a drop-in in her honor, hosted by the Historical Society. It will be a time for Atkinson to visit and catch up with old friends, many of whom were once JJ Ranch trail riders. Fifty years ago, that was most of the town’s residents.

It was in 1958 that the Jenningses and their two children, Josie and Michael, rode into town with a trailer full of horses and, over the next six years, turned Blythewood into a Western movie. During those years, under Jimmy Jennings’ influence, almost everyone in town came to emulate the Western lifestyle – riding horses, wearing Western clothes, going on week-long trail rides, traveling to camp sites in covered wagons, sleeping on bedrolls under the stars and eating grub prepared on a chuck wagon.

But unlike most Western movies, this one had a heartbreaking ending. In 1964, the Jenningses, who the community had come to love, even idolize, died in a plane crash as they were returning home from a trip to Arkansas to buy horses. The town fell into collective mourning over the loss of the Jenningses and of a much loved cowboy way of life.

Not long after the Jenningses’ deaths, the ranch and horses had to be sold to pay bills, and the Jenningses’ children left Blythewood to live with relatives and friends who subsequently raised them. Many in the town say the Jenningses’ deaths left them with a feeling of emptiness that remains today.

“It was all so much fun,” said Bobbie Stevens, one of the trail riders. “And then it was over.”

Atkinson is now grown and married and her husband Mickey is the Sheriff’s Chief Deputy in McCaskill, Ark. They raised their children much like Atkinson was raised – on a farm, riding horses. Their grandchildren are now rodeo queens and barrel racers.

Atkinson said she still treasures her formative years in Blythewood where, she said, “sometimes there were four or five hundred of us going on week-long trail rides to Elgin and other places. It was a world I will always remember. When I look through my scrapbook of Blythewood and the ranch, it seems like yesterday.”

Atkinson said she has stayed in touch with many of her Blythewood friends, including Joe and Martha Trapp and Muff Hagood, on Facebook over the years.

“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again,” Atkinson said.

The drop-in will be held from 2 – 4 p.m. at the Langford-Nord House, 100 McNulty St. in downtown Blythewood, and anyone who knew the Jennings family and would like to visit with Atkinson is invited to attend.

 

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