At Chico Basin Ranch, cowboys bring in horses from the range. Ranch hands feel like they are part of a long Western tradition.
“We don’t use four-wheelers. We don’t use dirt bikes,” says Will Latham. “We’re always on horseback. It’s like you’re back in the 1800s.”
Aidan Moon’s dad is the ranch manager.
“I’ve been helping my dad since I was 7,” says Aidan. “But I’ve been riding by myself since I was (about) 4.”
And there’s Ruth with her 4-H sheep, Cole with his puppy and Eli with a little lamb. Their mom Dawn Moon grew up in Cleveland but she’s raising her kids in the country.
“We’re not even very far from Colorado Springs,” says Dawn. “I think there is a great divide. People don’t know where their food comes from. They don’t know what’s outside the borders of cities sometimes.”
Maree O’Conner has come from Brisbane, Australia, to spend some time at Chico Basin Ranch.
“It just seemed to be the kind of place that I could do everything and learn everything that I wanted to do,” O’Conner says as she brushes away at a horse. “And it was more authentic than getting on a little wagon and going for a ride.”
Under the gaze of Pikes Peak, Duke Phillips leases 87,000 acres from the state of Colorado. He is making a living here and invites guest to join him.
“It’s not a dude ranch where we have a fancy resort with food and sauna,” Phillips says. “But a place where people spend a week or two weeks and go to work with us, whatever we’re doing. It’s different every day.”
The people of Chico Basin Ranch strive to be good stewards of the land. They find common cause with the world around them.
“When you boil everything down, people, conservationists and ranchers, we all want the same thing,” says Phillips. “We want clean water. We want healthy landscape. We want the same thing.”
As the families of Chico Basin Ranch attest, this way of life is still very much alive.
“Ranchers already live on the land,” says Phillips. “Their roots are very deep and we’re the best candidates to achieve conservation objectives across the American West.”