FOR REASONS RELATED TO A MACKINAW, we (Emiliano Granado and Daniel Wakefield Pasley) needed to get with a bona fide Cattle Ranch in the spring of 2010. To that end, a mutual friend introduced Emiliano and I to Bob Taylor by way of a phone number with a 307 area code, and some assurances that yes he knew we would be calling, and yes he was open to speaking with us about a visit to his ranch, even though, or maybe because, he was a medium-to-large-sized celebrity in Ranching and Veterinarian circles. That first call was pleasant if not a moderately surreal having everything to do with going from worlds-apart strangers—Bob, a salt-of-the-earth hardworking Wyoming Rancher and Daniel, a white Vans-wearing Hot Springs photographer in Portland, Oregon—to Yes, come on down we’d love to have you don’t worry about a thing well take care of everything including a place to stay gotta go just text when your close in the meantime my daughter will email you our address, see you in three weeks, in less than two minutes.
We left Salt Lake City in a compact rental car at 8:00 PM on a Thursday night in the middle of January straight into a blizzard primarily made up of lots of snow and poor-to-straight-up-dangerous visibility. By that point we had Bob’s daughter’s mobile number and were in text contact. She said it would take three, maybe four hours in this weather and to watch out on the I-80 just past Evanston because there was sure to be packed snow and ice on the Three Sisters. There was packed snow and ice on the Three Sisters so we chained-up our rental car and continued on in spite of flashing signage and the dozens of 18-wheelers pulled off and waiting on the side of the freeway like Circled Wagons—I mean derailed Box Cars.
When our traction chains broke for the second time and a five-inch tail of links started smacking the passenger-side wheel well with each rotation, we stopped and repaired the chain cold-forged-style with a Gränsfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet. We left the I-80 at Fort Bridger and continued south on WY 414 through Mountain View (pop. 1200) on a rolling, narrow two-lane road covered in sideways-blowing wind and snow.
Well after midnight, after having passed the Taylor’s place twice, we pulled in their driveway and parked between a frozen puddle and a snowdrift. Before we made it onto the porch Marissa had the front door open. She had two aluminum foil-covered paper plates (leftovers for us) in her hands each containing a big stack of thick-sliced ham, a pile of mac-n-cheese made with cream of corn, and a plop of hot mustard. She nodded to her dually pick-up and said “Hi, hello, how are you, how was the drive, follow me.” After exchanging niceties we followed her down the road a mile or two to a loaner cabin where we stayed for the next three days. During those three days we met and fell in love with the whole family, several hundred cows (no rancher will tell you the exact number), a pack of well trained Kelpies and some other misc. dogs, and hundreds if not thousands of acres of frozen-but-clearly-fertile-bottomlands. We also talked. Over several full-scale, kitchen-wide family dinners. On our daily 4X4 Ranch Tours. While Zac trained a horse in small circular ring using nothing but his voice, a small switch of leather and several generations worth of horse knowledge. While Marissa took two of her dogs, walked to the end of a very long pasture, and through shouts and whistles separated a cow from the herd, in less than twenty minutes. Every time we got out of a car to open a gate (estimated at 12 times per day). While bob grilled hamburgers and cheeseburgers. While Maggie taught us to saddle a horse. When we broke the Kubota by driving it too hard and too fast and causing to to overheat. On the back of a pick-up, periodically throwing hay at cows. Over homemade chocolate malt milkshakes. We talked and talked about everything including but not limited to fly-fishing in South America, hunting, animal welfare, land stewardship, the State of Wyoming, the state of ranching, applying for organic certification (which they had recently done, and which process they were in the process of complying with), etc. By the end of our visit we had life-long friends, a place to stay in southwestern WY, access to best-in-class beef, and one rather large and involved question with a project-shaped objective attached to it. The question was this:
In practical terms, if the business of Lonetree Ranch is to sell grass-fed, organic beef from ”from tip to tail”, in a sustainable X Art & Science X profitable manner, what does that look like? What does it take to raise a cow from Zero to Two (the age at which a cow is heavy enough to be sold and/or slaughtered for meat)? What are the benchmarks?”– YJThe attached project-shaped objective was simple. We agreed to return to the ranch at various times over the next two years in order to document the key benchmarks, which key benchmarks were and are:
- Branding & Castration
And at the end of two years we agreed to publish Zero To Two somewhere on the internet.