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As a child, all of my summer’s were spent at the ranch. As soon as school was out we would pack up the family and make the three-hour drive (it is an 80-mile trip which tells you a bit about the condition of the roads) to Wildcat Ranch.
Wildcat is the land of no electricity, running water or cell service. Our nearest neighbor was 10 miles or so and we could go weeks without seeing anyone but family.
When I was really young, I remember riding to and from the ranch in the front bench seat of the cattle trucks. My brother David would be sitting on my Dad’s (who was driving) left knee between him and the door. My mom would be holding my sister Shelly and Wendy and I would share what little space was remaining. (Who needs seatbelts?)
If we were lucky we wouldn’t have cattle in the back and we would ride to town on the cattle racks.
I’m sure at the time it was horrible for my parents, but for some reason, I look back on those memories with fondness.
Trips are a bit more comfortable now. Thank goodness for crew cab trucks.
Our ranch is located on the Arizona Strip, which is the North West portion of Arizona separated from the rest of Arizona by the Grand Canyon. It is a very harsh land with its own unique beauty.
It is very remote and the roads can be a bit sketchy at times. We always have at least two spare tires in all of our trucks. Natural water sources are limited to a few natural springs. Ranchers have built ponds and wells, but overall it tends to be fairly desolate. We were lucky enough to have rain which made everything just a bit more beautiful and green than normal.
This trip was intended as a vacation/family reunion, so beyond a few small projects, we spend more of the time playing. I thought you guys might be interested in seeing a piece of ranching life. I took over 1500 pictures in three days. I posted around 115 on Facebook and will highlight a few of my favorites on this blog post.
I took this picture of my Dad as he was preparing to saddle CJ for the kids to ride. My Grandpa came to work at Wildcat Ranch when my Dad was four years old. He has been a rancher since. My Dad is in his 60’s now and his hands have always fascinated me. I’ve watched him care for the horses and cattle with such gentleness and concern. He has such a respect for the land and always goes the extra mile to ensure our animals are well cared for.
This is the inside of the old saddle shed. It is now more of a storage area for the older equipment that we just can’t part with. All of the newer stuff is in connex storage containers – they are a bit more weather proof. As a kid, this little shed was stuffed full of saddles, horse blankets, bridles, and ropes. Before entering we always had to make a noise and check carefully for rattlesnakes.
This is a view of the horse pasture. I love watching the horses run along the fence line to the water trough. As a kid, my Grandpa was a bit of a horse nut and we would typically have 10-15 horses in the pasture. We’ve streamlined the operation a lot more and typically only have 5-7 horses.
People always ask if I enjoy riding. It is kind of a trick question for a ranchers daughter.
Riding just for the shear pleasure of riding isn’t something you do a lot as a rancher. When we ride it is for a specific purpose – we are moving cattle or checking fence lines. I love helping with the cattle drives, but sitting on a horse for 6-10 hours behind a bunch of slowly moving cattle isn’t “fun”, it is work. I do love riding and there is an incredible sense of satisfaction that comes from working with animals.
This isn’t the best picture of the ranch house, but it gives you a good image of the area. The three cabins on the left where for the ranch hands. I remember as a kid being so excited when my parents finally let my sister Wendy and I repaint and spend the summers in the middle cabin. It was great until we walked in one day to find a snake inside.
The main ranch house is in the middle. We have a butane stove and fridge, but the piping broke years ago, so no running water. We use the well water (see picture below) for cleaning, but bring drinking water from St. George.
You can see what is left of the windmill on the skyline. They upgraded to a solar powered pump years ago, but haven’t had a chance to take down the framing.
This is the tank that is fed by the well. This tank is used to supply water to the horse pasture and a couple of cattle pastures as well. I loved this picture because of poor Huckleberry, he was bound and determined to get into the water with Brian. Crazy dog.
Since we had so much help my Dad wanted to try and fix the plumbing on the tanks at Parasant. The well is behind Brandon (the kid in black). The water is pumped from the well to the white holding tank you can see on the hill. From there it is supposed to fill the two tire tanks with a gravity feed line. They dug the piping too deep when they did the initial set-up, so the water has never worked right.
It took the boys a few hours with the help of the small Cat to get everything reset. This picture was taken in the early stages, but they had to dig a trench between the two troughs and then another trench to the fence line where they were able to locate the old piping.
This is the first time I’ve seen my dad use the old tires for water troughs. He is excited to try them out because supposedly they are virtually leak poof. We haven’t tested it yet, but supposedly even bullet holes won’t cause leaks.
Unfortunately, we get a decent amount of vandals who shoot up the tanks and the windmills for sport.
I love this shot of my brother-in-law Jeff showing his son how to work. Ranching is a lot of manual labor. I love that the third generation is learning the importance of hard work at such a young age.
My Dad loves taking the kids out on the ATV Train. He got a bit carried away this time and didn’t realize how deep the water was until he was half way through the wash. He gunned it and somehow they made it through with only a little bit of water in the train cars.
The ATV’s have made ranching significantly easier for travel. This picture was taken at the end of Twin Point. It took us 1 1/2 hours of driving on the Quads from the ranch (approximately 23 miles). You could get a truck out there, but it would be an adventure.
As crazy as it sounds, that main canyon you can see isn’t actually the Colorado River. That main canyon is Surprise canyon and it dumps into the Colorado River. If you look real carefully you can see the main arm of the Grand Canyon on the right side of this picture.
The far point in the very center at about 11:00 from my head is Kelly Point. Kelly point is the farthest point on the Arizona strip. The views of the Grand Canyon from there are amazing!!!
I was lucky enough to do a Grand Canyon Rafting trip earlier this year and hiked up Separation canyon far enough to see Kelly Point. It was one of those bucket list moments for me.
One of the highlights of the trip was our trip to see the old cabin at Horse Valley. Horse Valley is 12 miles south of the main house (it takes an hour to make the drive) and is now part of the Parashant-Grand Canyon National Monument.
We ranched here until 1994 when we pulled all of our cattle off and back to the main ranch. If you continue past the cabin for 25 miles you will hit the end of Kelly Point (a 4-5 hour drive on ATV’s).
This area is incredibly remote and the cattle were very wild in this area. I remember having to put plywood on top of the cattle trucks to keep the cattle from jumping out.
When we were at Horse Valley my family would stay in this old sheep wagon (it is at Wildcat now). It was right next to the cattle corrals and we’d have to be completely silent when they would bring in the cattle. I’m not sure how my Mom managed to keep us kids occupied for hours while my Dad, Grandpa and Uncle Sean worked the cattle.
Below are just a few of my favorite pictures from the trip. You can see the whole album on Facebook.
Every time I return to the ranch I’m reminded of how unique my childhood was. I was so lucky to grow up with such a rich history.
I know most people aren’t familiar with the Arizona strip, but one of my life dreams is to write a book on the history of this area. In the mean time, I’m going to start a website dedicated to the Arizona Strip.
To my friends in St. George I’d love to hear your stories and memories of this area.
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