Friday, September 1, 2023

Hobby Ranches

By Terry McGahey
Associate Writer/ Historian 

When thinking of cattle ranches, it seems today that most people think of movies or television shows such as Yellowstone and others. But there are many smaller ranches owned by generations of families which are much smaller. 

Many of these smaller family ranches can range anywhere from ten thousand acres to twenty thousand acres with their leases of BLM, state or federal land.

These smaller family ranches are still working cattle ranches and deserve their respect just as much as the big outfits. They may be smaller but these folks work just as hard and even harder because they can’t afford the equipment the larger outfits can, In fact these smaller outfits are ran by just as good of cowboy’s as the big corporate outfits.

Now, changing gears some I will now touch on what I call hobby ranches. These outfits are the ones owned by very wealthy individuals who always wanted to be a cowboy while growing up as a kid but never pursued that lifestyle. Many of these folks now have the kind of money it takes to buy a ranch. Some because they want to play cowboy and some for the write offs a ranch can afford them. I worked for one of those outfits many years ago. Don’t get me wrong, we still cowboy, but it’s not the same.

The best example I can give is when it’s time for roundup. Gathering the cattle, separating mamas from baby’s, branding, castrating, vaccinating and so on. The roundup on these type of outfits are really no different that any other ranch except for one major situation. The wealthy owners of these outfits all have other wealthy individuals that they are friends with and these people love to play cowboy at roundup time but all they achieve to do is to get in the way.

The day before roundup all of the owners buddies showed up with the horse trailers with living quarters that cost more then most peoples pickup truck and with pickup trucks that most folks couldn’t afford. Their horses all came from high dollar blood lines and mostly all chromed out. By chromed out I mean beautiful horses. These horses were gorgous but they were not good working horses.

The next morning we were going to gather a small pasture with only about eighty head in it and these rich guys were all riding side by side as we headed out rather than split up a bit to search out the cattle hiding in the brush which they are very good at. There was a fairly large hill in this pasture so I just rode up on top of that hill and could see that the cows were in the bottom so I let those guys ride on in the opposite direction without saying a word. When those fellows got out of sight I rode down and started pushing the small herd up towards the working pens.

All was going well and I was only about a hundred yards from the pens when I heard those fellows hooping and hollering lake a scene from a western movie, I turned to see all four of these idiots chasing one steer at a gallop and they ran that steer right into the cattle I had brought up and blew out the whole herd. I couldn’t believe what these idiots had done. Now it was my choice, do I go gather them again or do I say the hell with it. I said the hell with it.

I rode my horse up to the ranch house, pulled my wood off and put the horse in the pen. The ranch manager, who was a real cowboy asked, what you doin’ I told him what happened and also told him I would come back when those idiots were gone. 

Being a cowhand he understood and told me they would be leaving the next day so we would finish the job afterword’s. These hobby ranches, as I call them, are nothing more than a rich man’s playground and I never worked for one of those again.