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Guests tag along with the cowboys on 71 Ranch near Deeth.
Photo: Dan Dry -cr- American Quarter Horse Association
Twenty-seven miles east of Elko, a rooster tail of dust rises from the road and sunlight flashes on the bumper of a truck aimed toward the Ruby Mountains.
Travelers determined to know if Nevada’s cowboy culture still exists outside of history books stop short of the mountains, steer toward a clump of green more vivid than sagebrush, bump over a cattle guard, and drive past a cattail pond and barn. Then, they look up a sloping lawn to a white ranch house.
Employees welcome visitors as they arrive at 71 Ranch in Deeth, where you’re likely to see a cowboy teaching a youngster to sling a lasso or a couple riding side by side into a meadow. And any day, guests can see a ranch hand dismount, then push up his sweat-stained Stetson to mop his forehead with a bandanna. He’s probably been on the range since 6 a.m. The 71 blends Western work with ranch vacations on a century-old spread.
“It’s the real deal,” says Tammy Hall, wife of Bill Hall, general manager of Ellison Ranch Company, which owns 71. “Nothing’s staged. If there’s a cattle drive, it’s because cows need to be moved.” Under ranch manager Federico Carlos, each one of the 1,400 black Angus cattle and 45 American quarter horses earns its keep. The Angus are raised for beef and the quarter horses are there to handle them. Raised on the ranch, the horses are trained to cut cattle out of a herd, move cowboys into position for roping, climb steep trails in search of stray calves, and stay sensible when a sage grouse bursts from cover.
Although plenty of traditional ranch work gets done, Lyndon Evans, a manager for Ellison Ranch Company, sees that guests aren’t neglected. Most visitors are eager to job-shadow real cowboys. No matter what the day’s adventure, guests see a variety of high desert wildlife. “Deer, elk, antelope, hawks, chukar, coyotes, and eagles are pretty common,” Hall says.
Being a buckaroo tag-along can include “cowboy school,” which might mean instruction in slinging a lariat, riding a cutting horse to sort cattle, or playing rodeo queen while racing around barrels and poles. The city slicker can take a day off from riding and drop in on a barn dance or pile on a wagon for a hayride.
Because the ranch books no more than 12 guests a night, country quiet is easy to come by, too. Visitors read on the veranda, daydream under trees, and soak in the hot tub before turning in for the night. The 71 offers lodge rooms and separate cabins, most with four-poster beds and patchwork quilts. “The sod house is a favorite,” says Evans, pointing out a cabin with grass growing on its roof. “It’s the coolest in summer and warmest in winter.”
A summer week with meals and ranch activities costs $1,250 for adults, $1,150 for children, and shorter stays can be arranged. Bunk and breakfast overnights are $100 to $130.
In keeping with the atmosphere of times past, guest rooms don’t have phones or television, but a VCR in the lodge features Roy Rogers and Gene Autry videos. Cell phone service is spotty, but the ranch hands will point out sites where determined callers can try their luck. Since the ranch hosts events—from family reunions to “team building” business retreats—there’s a wireless computer connection in the office.
Although the 71 features no formal programs for children, it has a volleyball court, horseshoe pits, and room to roam. “The ranch is amazing,” says Sierra Arroyo, a 12-year-old horse lover from Fernley. “It’s really cool that they let people come out and see what ranch life is like.”
It doesn’t take long for city kids to answer the jangle of a triangle, calling them to meals that are worth the sprint. Jack Hemsing is best known for his country-style cooking—fried chicken, barbecued ribs, and a bottomless cookie jar—but the certified executive chef sets out washtub-sized bowls of fresh fruit, too, and Evans claims Hemsing concocts a mean latte.
Of course lattes didn’t win the West, so Hemsing carries on the tradition that did. Coffee’s perking by 5:30 a.m., and early-risers can carry steaming mugs on a dawn walk, when the loudest greeting they’ll hear is the nicker of a drowsy cow pony. Ten minutes is all it takes to walk back to the cattail pond and watch the sun rise.
But time’s a tricky thing on this Nevada range. Pony Express horses marked this dirt with hoof prints. Emigrant Trail pioneers knelt at that pond for water. Cattle rustlers crouched behind these rocks. And here on 71 Ranch, it doesn’t seem that long ago.
HC 64 Box 6, Deeth
Directions: From Elko, 19 miles east on I-80 to exit 321 (SR 229). 8.5 miles southeast on 229.
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