The ranch country southeast of Tucson, Ariz. is a surprise to flatlanders from Kansas. Tall mountains, rugged forests, a little snow on the ground in March, and miles and miles of pasture land. Very little of the land is deeded with much of the country part of the Coronado National Forest. For the ranchers, it’s a blessing and a curse. The myriad of regulations that come with government permits and the encroachment of bicyclists, tourists and sometimes immigrants from Mexico, make running cattle in the area a challenge. On the other side of the fence, so to speak, the country has miles and miles of open grazing land, wooded areas and perfect livestock growing opportunities. Water is available and the altitude is conducive for cow-calf operations. Having an eight wire fence and a blockade of rail road rails for a south boundary and paid for by tax payers might sound good – unless one of your critters wanders south. Then the Forest Service sends a crew with welding machines over to cut their way through so you can gather you animal.
The locals have fun stories about sharing their pastureland with tourists who stand in awe as horses, cattle and dogs come roaring off the edge of the forest during gathering. Every cattle guard has a warning about what will happen to your bicycle if you cross wrong and ladies in swim suits are seen tanning on rocks in streams that cattle drink from.
The local watering holes, like the Wagon Wheel in Patagonia have a mix of cowboys, tourists, motorcyclists and locals at the bar. All in all, it’s a good place for a crossroads mix of characters, color and journalists.
– Betty Jo Gigot
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