This past weekend, I had the chance to go to the LAZY B RANCH. You may have read Sandra Day O’Connor’s book about it.
Just a side note… when you read her book, LAZY B, about growing up on a huge cattle ranch in Arizona (with meager amenities) and then realize that this little girl – Sandra Day O’Connor – grew up to be the first woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Well, it makes no sense yet it makes all the sense. Grit, hard work, determination, smarts – and she lived very comfortably in a man’s world her entire life.
HOW I HAPPENED TO GET TO THE LAZY B…
In my quest to create a well planned and successful soil/grasslands conservation wild horse Sanctuary… I was introduced to H. Alan Day’s book, A HORSE LOVER.
Most of you know this already because I have told you how much I enjoyed A HORSE LOVER several times (you can read my thoughts on the book here).
Well, I guess I made myself a pest and H. Alan Day finally relented and invited me to his former home, The Lazy B, near Tucson, Arizona.
(Actually, I never asked to go. I was incredibly honored and shocked to be invited.)
WHAT WE DID
First off, Alan invited a pair of students along with me to come absorb the knowledge. The other students were also interested in opening a horse sanctuary using Alan Day’s methods.
Just as a short explanation, Alan Day was the first person to acquire BLM mustangs in 1989. The BLM let him house 1500 ‘unadoptable’ horses on his South Dakota ranch. At that time, Day taught the wild horses to follow him and trust him. Therefore, he was able to move, vaccinate or worm them all (all 1500 of them…) in less than half a day, whenever he needed.
I wanted to know his methods. So did the other students.
We asked him a lot of questions. Poor guy. But, we learned so much, it was invaluable.
And, we also walked all around – well, I should say – DROVE all around parts of the Lazy B. We couldn’t have possibly seen it all in one afternoon.
THE LAZY B
When the Day family owned and managed the property, the Lazy B Ranch was the largest single ranch in the Western US.
Just imagine that… living inside of a place where it took at least an hour to get to the road to town. There were no neighbors close by. All the work had to be done by the family with onsite, live-in workers (who became family). No electricity or indoor plumbing in the beginning…
As Alan grew up, he continued to ranch but added his engineering mind into the mix by digging dams to catch rain water and developing miles of natural water flow diversions. He created amazingly inventive ways to retain and water cattle – one corral had a rotating solar panel to work the water pump. Everything he devised was based on how to make nature work with the ranch. Sure, they had trucks and equipment, but it wasn’t as if they could run irrigation over 200,000 acres – so they had to be inventive to coax Mother Nature.
Often the cowboys started at 3am just to get to and back from where they needed to work on that day. They also had to work in extreme heat and cold.
Seeing for ourselves how the all lived and ranched made it very clear how Day was capable of being the first man to ever train, treat and house 1500 wild horses successfully.
It is also very clear how Sandra Day O’Connor had the temerity and confidence to seek a position that had only been held by men. After all, she was one of the best hands on the ranch!
Now, unless you are from the Southwest, you might not understand how this kind of land can feed cattle. It looks sparse. And, according to Alan, it is a bit sparse right now.
However, when they managed the ranch, the land fed over 3000 cattle.
The types of grasses that grow here, to us, looked feeble – but it is far more nourishing than you would think.
At one point, during our visit, we asked Alan “Where is the grass for the cattle?”
“It is all over!”
Alan had to point it out and tell us the nutritional value. What he was showing us looked like stumpy grass you’d see on a beach or a sandy hill. And the ‘most high in protein’ plant looked like a shriveled weed to us.
So, there you go… knowledge is power.
DRAW IT OUT ON THIS PAPER, ALAN
The other students and I asked as many questions as we could without being offensive. We knew this opportunity to audience with Alan would be once in a lifetime.
At one point, I asked Alan to draw out his method of corrals, gates and chutes that he used to treat the wild horses.
And he did.
We used paper instead of a napkin, but the drawing is just as casual.
But, I have it.
Gold, I tell you, gold.
I had to smile, though, when I think about the juxtaposition… Alan picked me up in a Tesla sedan (all electric) – state of the art. He told me how this car was good for the environment and talked about the engineering. Then we had a conversation about Tesla and Solar City… (Alan Day is all about efficiency and the land/earth.)
And then he hit the accelerator… My giggly smile was left in the back seat and took about a minute to catch up. That car was the fastest car I had ever experienced – and I’ve been in fast cars.
Wow. This man went from riding the range to riding a rocket. But, his soul is the same:
Steward the land. Steward the planet. Do the right thing. And, be generous enough to pass the knowledge to those eager to learn.
Mentor, this student took it all in.
I still cannot believe I had this opportunity.
Wow. Thank you, Horsegods. Thank you.