HAMILTON — Jack E. Eden died Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, at his home near Hamilton.
Born on Feb. 5, 1929, to George and Delma Eden in Gooding, Idaho, Jack developed his animal husbandry skills on the family farm. An uncle, Roy Rose, taught Jack the art of packing cargo mules in the mid-1940s at Rose’s hunting camp in the (now) Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness of central Idaho.
A died-in-the-wool cowboy (who would have been much happier if he had been born a century earlier), Jack worked as a packer for more than 30 years. Outfitters he worked for included Harry Twogood, Ray Kelly, Ray Stanhope, Gerald Richie, and the U. S. Forest Service in the Selway; Norm and Bill Guth on the Salmon River; and Del Cameron in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Off-seasons were spent working on cattle and sheep ranches in southern Idaho.
Jack married Helen Ahlgren on Oct. 22, 1970. After “cowboying” on the Matador Ranch (Dillon), and the Mahaffey Ranch (Salmon, Idaho), Jack and Helen moved to Hamilton, where he trained Hungarian horses to ride and drive for Countess Margit Sigray Bessenyey.
Although Jack never met an equine that he didn’t like, his special talent lay in his ability to train mules to ride, pack and drive. In later years, he focused on training horses, mules and donkeys to drive and was often seen training them on the roads or mowing hay with them near Hamilton.
In the early 1970s, Jack and friend Fritz Thorning partnered to raise three mules out of a sire named “Montana Jack” and a Thorning draft mare. The result was three mules that Jack trained not only to pack, but also to drive and ride — novelties in the equine world at the time. One of these mules, Molly, won five high-point all-around titles at Montana Mule Days.
Jack and Helen campaigned a six-mule hitch of Eden-trained mules at Montana Mule Days (Condon), the North Idaho Draft Horse International (Sandpoint, Idaho) and the Big Sky Draft Horse Expo (Deer Lodge) for about 25 years. The Eden hitch also appeared in the Sun Valley (Idaho) Horse Parade, the Montana State Fair (Great Falls), and Western Montana Fair (Missoula), as well as local parades.
Jack was a crowd favorite at equine events, waking up the crowd with his verbal driving commands and his cherished mule hame bells. Jack and Helen were inducted into the Montana Teamster Hall of Fame in 2007.
Jack was a kind person with a gentle smile. He genuinely loved all animals, often carrying on both sides of a conversation with his charges. Jack delighted in mentoring sons Jack and Patrick with their 4-H projects — dairy cows, hogs, horses, chickens, goats, sheep and rabbits. Son Patrick’s rabbit project evolved into a “serious” hobby for father and son, with Jack caring for Pat’s sizeable herd of French Lop rabbits during Pat’s college years.
Jack was preceded in death by siblings Merl Eden, Dale Eden, Ruth Ricks and Beth Cooper and brother-in-law Floyd Ricks. Survivors include Jack’s wife, Helen; sons, Jack Eden (Beckie), Gillette, Wyoming, and Patrick (Lynn), Sterling, Illinois; grandchildren Ross Eden and Jared and Anna Pratt; and great-grandchildren Prudence and Lenore Pratt. Also, brother- and sisters-in-law Joe Cooper (Beth), Boise, Idaho; Vaughan Ahlgren Cookston, Gillette, Wyoming; Alicia (Dale) Eden, Gooding, Idaho, and Marsha Eden (Merl), Kimberly, Idaho; and numerous nephews and nieces.
At Jack’s request, no services will be held. Friends are asked to remember Jack by conducting a random act of kindness. Condolences may be left at dalyleachchapel.com.