Going for rides in the truck with our boys napping in the back seat, lends time to Jason and I to talk about dreams (it’s a rare occasion that quiet happens around here because our sons are seven, five, and two). We were driving from up to Nutrioso one afternoon to get out of the summer heat in the valley, when the subject of Eagle Creek came up. Jason was reminiscing about a hunting trip he took with his father when he was about eleven. They stayed in Eagle Creek over night in an old bunkhouse on the Double Circle Ranch. Even though they slumbered with smelly pigs that night, it left an impression on Jason’s young mind. His big dream from then on was to be a rancher on the Double Circle.
Fast forward twenty years and the opportunity presented itself. Jason mentioned that the Double Circle was for sale in passing to his dad. Now we are not quite sure what wild hair prompted Scott to buy the Double Circle, but we are sure glad he did. Jason has been so excited about this new adventure. He and the boys have taken a few trips this winter to fix fence, haul cattle, check on things, and anything other excuse to get up there.
Last week my middle son told me, “Mom, I’m so lucky.”
“Why is that Keaton?” I asked intrigued. I thought he might have found a quarter on the ground or something of that sort, but he surprised me with his answer.
“Because I get to go to the ranch with dad today,” Keaton said as skipped out to the truck.
Now, Jason’s dreams have changed a bit from when he was eleven. He has his boys he can share it with and watch them grow into honest hardworking young men. He gets to work in partnership with his Dad, gleaning his valuable knowledge of ranching to pass on to his sons. His mother, Wendy, will be a presence there too. She plans on tackling the NO Bar house. There is always some project she is working on and most of the time it involves painting.
Although, Scott has been primarily a cotton farmer in the Gila Valley, he does run cattle in addition to farming. Scott’s father, Melvin, grew up milking cows getting massive forearms on a dairy. So when he and his wife, Norma Lou, were farming they saw a lot of potential feed leftover after harvest, they decided to get cattle to maximize the farming. Norma Lou has some of the best-looking Brangus we have ever seen. It has spoiled us into thinking all Brangus should look like hers. Grandmother is very particular how her cattle are handled and it shows in the quality Brangus she produces every year. The four generations of experience will undoubtedly come in handy in this new adventure.
Sometimes, life throws us some crazy balls. I never thought that I would be a rancher’s wife and I’m still trying to figure out how I will fit into the picture because I grew up “citified.” I’m not use to the working outside, all day, thirteen months of the year. But I’m excited to cook hardy meals for my cute little ranch hands and a few extras up on the Double Circle. Maybe, I’ll even learn how to ride a horse. Most likely I will be chasing naughty boys and being the Eagle Creek Beauty Shop.
With all change, especially as big as this one, I expect growing pains that will undoubtedly come with the territory of being ranchers. I suspect, as anything Jason does, he will strive for perfection as he irons out all the kinks. (That’s what makes him a good pilot and there is even an airstrip on the Double Circle!) Who knows what the future holds for the Bryce family up on the Double Circle. But one thing is for sure; we are going to work hard to raise quality grass-fed beef and enjoying every moment we can as a family.
Scott Bryce and the New Brangus Cattle Herd
Scott and Wendy Bryce brought 22 young Brangus heifers to the Double Circle yesterday. I will always have a soft spot for Texas longhorns, but these are a nice set of uniform, black heifers. They will make good cows here. They aren’t really used to being worked from horseback – but that will change soon enough. This ranch does not lend itself to trucks, 4 wheelers, or cattle work on foot. The Double Circle is and has always been a horseback outfit. At any rate, I am glad to see new cattle being hauled in. A ranch without cattle is a sad sight. This is cow and horse country – has been since the 1880′s and will be hopefully from now on.
New Ranch Owners The Bryces
Two generations of the Bryce family were here this week. They have been checking fence and hauling heifers in to the Double Circle. Looks like there will be three generations here – Scott and Wendy Bryce, their son Jason and his wife Jennifer and their 3 small boys. Their family has generations of cattle ranching before them – and hopefully the little boys will raise families here and keep the ranch thriving. This is exactly what Doug and I wanted – and why we sold to the Bryces. We didn’t have any family to take over the Double Circle and we wanted a ranch family to keep this ranch and raise good cattle and horses here. I think we hit a homerun with the Bryce family – good people, great neighbors, with good stock. Welcome to the Double Circle, guys. We are proud to call you neighbors!
The Old ST House in 2012
I overlooked an important point when I wrote about gathering info on the Double Circle Ranch. Really, all of Eagle Creek is connected to the Circles. Just about everyone who used to live on Eagle Creek worked in some capacity for the Double Circles. Rumor has it that most of the little ranches that started up in the area had a lot of Double Circle mavericks in their herd. At one time, this ranch was the second largest employer in the county – second only to the mine. All these people called Eagle Creek home. Even when cowboys and cooks were out on the wagon, many of their families were living on Eagle Creek. The whole area is dotted with old foundations, partial chimneys, and hand dug wells. So – any info on the whole of Eagle Creek as well as the Double Circle would be very important to me. This is a piece of real American West that should be documented. Old family photos, tales of events, newspaper clippings and personal interviews are all welcome. I will come to you- or you can come visit the ranch- your choice. Lets get this history down while we still can.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Historic Double Circle Ranch House in 1882
Help! Now that the ranch is sold I finally have time to pursue some other interests. High on my “to do” list is to compile a history of the Double Circle Ranch. This ranch has to be one of the most fascinating places in the country – and it has not been properly documented. So – I am looking to meet with anyone who has stories or memories of visiting the Double Circle or working here. Any old photos or documents from family albums or newspapers would be of use also. Since this ranch began in the 1860′s, there have been many cowboys, cooks, wranglers, owners, guests, children and grandchildren of the same who have made the Circles home. I want to hear their stories. This project is like piecing a huge quilt only instead of fabric I have colorful characters, hard times and boom times, cowboys and Indians, broncs and bulls, bloodshed and peaceful days. There is no telling yet where the Double Circle history will take me. Help me get this story down in pictures, words, and interviews.
No phones here – so email me at email@example.com
Apache Indian Cowboys Chasing Down the Last of Our Longhorn Steers
Our Apache neighbors were on the Creek gathering their Hereford cattle last week. So I figured we would take advantage of having lots of good, Indian cowboys available to catch our last four steers. If anyone can rope wild cattle and drag them into trailers, it is these Apaches. They have plenty of practice with their own wild cattle. Four Apaches came to catch our steers. They caught three and tied them to trees. The fourth was last seen tearing out fences and running like a jackrabbit. We haven’t found him yet.
We had enough daylight to load two of the three in the trailer for shipping to Willcox. The third steer had to stay tied overnight. Daylight I picked up three Apaches and they managed to load the third steer. He was a big one – about 1700 lbs – and down in a rocky creek bottom to boot. It took all three horses to drag him up a steep bank and into the trailer – but they got it done.
Watching the Apaches work cattle is a real treat. They have good horses and ride like they are part of them. And they are fearless. These men will chase a steer or bull down a boulder pile on a STEEP slope and never slow their horses. When they catch a steer, they will either tie him to a tree or trip him and tie his legs like a roping calf. It is a whole different matter tying a big-horned, 1300lb steer’s legs than a 300 lb calf, but they make it look easy. I couldn’t have gotten these steers to the sale without the Indians’ help. Sure is nice to have good neighbors!
Loading the Last Double Circle Longhorn Steer
Last of the Double Circle Longhorn Herd
The Double Circle Ranch has turned another page in its colorful history. The herd of beautiful Texas Longhorn cattle has been sold to make way for the new ranch owners’ Brangus cattle. I have nothing against Brangus, and the Bryce family has a reputation for raising the best cattle in the area, but nothing is a more wonderful sight than a herd of big, horned colorful Longhorns trailing across open country. I hope their new owners appreciate what a part longhorns have played in the history of the West.
The steers have all been sold and hauled out – except for 4 that we have in the NO Bar Trap. Those are wily critters and we have been trying to catch them for days. They are too big to rope. And they know the pens are a trap and come in to water there in the dark. Since there are no lights, we can’t see to catch them and load them after dark. We are staking out the pens and hoping to catch at least 2 steers at a time inside the gate. Then we need to load them quick – two have already jumped out once. It sounds easier to catch and load four steers than it actually is. I want them caught and hauled, but part of me sure hates to see the last ones leave.
I will miss the cattle I have spent so much time herding, but I don’t think I will miss these last four stinkers. The last cattle caught are always the difficult ones, but these take the cake. Doug and I will get them though. I just have to outwit the bovines – and that is harder to do than you might think!
Last of the Double Circle Longhorn Herd
The Last Cattle Drive for Double Circle Longhorns
Longhorn Steers in Pens Ready-to-Ship
Last of the Double Circle Texas Longhorns
Double Circle Ranch Trophy Steers
Wilma Ridin' Out
Well, it is official – Doug and I sold the Double Circle Ranch yesterday. It is time to retire and put the ranch in the hands of younger folks. The Bryce family from Pima bought the ranch. They are several-generation cattle ranchers with good work and conservation ethics and years of experience raising Brangus cattle. Three generations of the Bryces will be here running the Circles. I look forward to watching the three youngest – rough and tumble little boys – learning to ride this country and grow into top hands.
Doug and I are keeping our cabin and acreage along Eagle Creek. And we will still have the bunkhouse for old friends to use. But the Bryces will not be doing the tourist business for a while. They want to learn the ranch, stock young cattle and get them acclimated to this country, and remodel the NO Bar house before restarting the dude ranch business. So all the programs will be put on hold for awhile. Hopefully, the programs will resume in a couple of years.
At any rate, it is a bittersweet sale for Doug and I. We are just plain tired and need to take life a little easier. Plus we want to travel – and that is pretty well impossible when you are running a ranch with no help but each other. In a way, we have the best of both worlds. We have the cabin, bunkhouse, 2 horses and our dogs. We still have 3,000,000 plus acres of national forest/primitive areas/wilderness areas to ride and we will finally have time to do that. Plus we have new neighbors – and great ones – in the Bryce family. It is a good setup for us – I sure will miss the Longhorns though.
Tree Silhouetted at Twilight on the Ranch
Spreading the Flow with a Media Luna
We had another great erosion control workshop last weekend, instructor Craig Sponholtz of Dryland Solutions, Inc. came down from Santa Fe and volunteers came from several places. Many volunteers were repeat guests from the Tucson area. One guest was all the way from St. Louis and was riding his BMW motorcycle cross county to California. Old faces and new-it is always good to see old friends and make new friends. Plus they sure can lay down the rock structures! This workshop added to and repaired older structures as well as built new Zuni bowls, media lunas, rock rundowns and one-rock dams.
Our volunteers are a diverse group with ages spanning 5 decades and occupations from student to retiree. They may be a teacher, engineer, lawyer, social worker, musician, author, rancher, landscape designer, hydrologist, farmer or student at home, but for the weekend they are just folks working in dusty boots and leather gloves to help the environment. Doug and I are proud to host them!
Double Circle Ranch and Eagle Creek have benefited from the hours of volunteer labor here. We have gullies filling in with sediment and grass growing where it used to be bare ground. Water is being slowed and erosion lessened as water has time to infiltrate the soil. It looks better every year here at the Double Circle. We are proud of this ranch and certainly do appreciate the contributions our volunteers have made to our sustainable ranching goals.
We are also grateful to the Arizona Water Protection Fund Commissioners who funded this and past erosion control workshops here at the ranch. I think their money has been well spent- not only for the good work done here but also the work these people will do on other projects. Our volunteers will be building erosion control structures on their own land, on clients’ land, in their work designs, on family plots, AND they teach more people. It is an expanding circle of good conservation practices. Thanks to everyone – Craig, AWPF, Forest Service, Greenlee County, and all the volunteers. Doug and I are pleased to work with all of you.
Erosion Damage Caused by the Recent Monsoons