Tales of Canyonlands Cowboys

Tales of Canyonlands Cowboys

Tales of Canyonlands Cowboys

Tales of Canyonlands Cowboys

Excerpt

Raising cattle or sheep is not an easy life. Even on the fairway-like pastures found in parts of Texas or Wyoming where the land is normally blessed with ample rainfall, riding a horse ten or twelve hours a day or being afoot in the dust behind a flock of sheep takes a special breed of person. To raise stock in eastern Wayne, Emery, or Garfield counties in southeastern Utah demanded an extra degree of determination on the part of those hardy women and men who operated isolated ranches and scratched out a living on the San Rafael Desert and in the rugged canyon country west of the Green and Colorado Rivers that is now part of Canyonlands National Park.

Established in 1964, the park was enlarged by a 1971 boundary change that added the detached Horseshoe Canyon to the park and enabled its world-acclaimed panels of pre-Columbian pictographs to come under the protective umbrella afforded by national park status. Ranchers whose stock grazed on the grasslands added to the national park were given a period of ten years to phase out their grazing activities. In that general area the annual moisture from rain and snow rarely exceeds nine or ten inches a year. Raising animals that depend upon native grasses in such a semi-arid climate is a sure formula for a rough way to make a living. Ned Chaffin, one of those ranchers and one of the principals in this book, put it succinctly when he described it as “a tough go for short dough.”

The ranch hands not only had to trail their herds up and down precipitous paths to reach grazing lands or water holes, they had to learn to shoot fallen rocks off the trail and knock down ledges with dynamite . . .

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