The Diamond Tail Ranch
The first day of summer in the Colorado Rockies can bring some surprises. Like snow. Sure enough, it snowed on the first day of summer in the Loveland Pass.As we were exiting the Eisenhower Tunnel at the summit of the highway leading to Vail, it was snowing!
The wives would stay in Vail while the CA members and guests traveled further north to the Colorado – Wyoming border to the Diamond Tail ranch.
This would be the third time Ray, Sally, Renée and Mike Duncan, and Maggie and Bill Rey have hosted the annual gathering of the Cowboy Artists of America, the most recent previous ride being the millennium ride of 2000.
The Diamond Tail ranch is located in a picturesque high-mountain valley within the Medicine Bow mountain range in the far northern reaches of Colorado.
The Laramie River flows north through the center of the ranch and provided evidence of the good wet spring in the mountains that would ensure plenty of grass for the duration of the summer
The Diamond Tail Ranch is home to over 1,000 head of buffalo, raised on the ranch to supply the growing demand for the lean high quality protein sought by consumers. The buffalo calves are weaned and raised right on the ranch. (More information is available at DiamondTailRanch.com)
Weather of any kind is possible with the headquarters at 8,100 feet elevation. Joe Beeler, his son Jody and the Duncans were staying close to the fireplace for the three days preceding the ride while the weather varied between cold rain and snow flurries. But the weather would break with bright blue skies on Tuesday, June 22 when CA members and guests began rolling in from all around the country. Handshakes and bear hugs were in good supply as each new arrival was greeted and welcomed by those already at the ranch.
The first order of business is to locate your bunk. There were plenty of choices for the sleeping accommodations. You might find an empty bunk in the bunkhouse with the rest of the ranch hands, or you might find a spare mattress in one of the tents pitched in the meadow just outside the main meeting-dining room tent.
Many of the CA members brought and pitched their cowboy teepees in the meadow. A few of the senior members with “connections” got bunks in the famed “Rat Palace”. Needless to say, no one would have any trouble sleeping in the clear mountain air, after the fine meals and campfire music and musings.
Meals are always a favorite time during the trail ride. First off, the food is fantastic. The catering crew always has plenty of good food ready for the cowboys, guests and ranch crew.
This year the crew was from Durango, Colorado. There’s plenty of time to visit, and there’s always some stories of trail rides past. It’s just plain good fun and fellowship.
The Wednesday Morning Ride
One of the highlights of each annual gathering is the day all the members and guests who so desire, mount up and ride together into the beauty surrounding the camp. Wherever it is held, the ride is always a special time.
Good horses are plentiful and ready and the cowboys are always ready and rarin’ to go. This year was no exception. Nearly 30 riders mounted up and headed up the mountain to the northeast of the headquarters. Others would take jeeps and pickups to the spot where all would join up for lunch.
The group rode out through the main entrance and passed the small herd of longhorns that occupy the front gate pasture. The ride took the group up through some scenic mountain terrain to an old group of cabins called the “Dude”, because of its history as a mountain retreat or dude ranch back in the 20’s and 30’s. The catering crew had built the fires and had the lunch well underway when the riders arrived.
The ride after lunch took the group down a different route with equally spectacular scenery, and now with the valley below them the riders could take in the full panorama of the Medicine Bow valley that is home to the Diamond Tail and only a handful of other outfits.
Late in the afternoon, we rode past the buffalo herd. It is important to note that we rode past the herd, not through the herd. Buffalo don’t accommodate intruders too easily and as ranch manager Scott Butcher explained, there are only a few very seasoned mounts on the ranch that have the experience and training necessary to be able to ride in with the buffalo. Never the less, it was a sight to behold.
Back at the headquarters it was time for some rest and refreshments prior to dinner.
The annual trail ride is not all fun and frolic. There is work to be done. The trail ride is time for one of two business meetings held by the members of the CAA.
Immediately after breakfast everyone loaded into trucks and drove out to the pasture at the base of the mountains to watch the ranch hands move the buffalo herd from one pasture to another. It was to be a special memory for all in attendance. To see a thousand head of buffalo moving at the same time, within 100 yards of where we were standing is an incredible sight. It was time to get back to business.
The board established an agenda of items to be brought before the members and two representatives of Men’s Arts Council were on hand for a portion of the meeting to discuss the promotion, planning and various aspects of the coming Cowboy Artists of America Exhibition and Sale at the Phoenix Art Museum to be held in October 2004. The business meeting concluded and everyone was pleased to be brought up to date on the various issues needing to be addressed by the full membership.
After lunch is it was time to saddle up, head to the arena and do some roping. CA members Fred Fellows, Bill Owen, Joe Beeler, and Bruce Greene, joined some of the ranch hands and their family in some team roping. Many of the CAs brought their cameras to record the happenings and maybe get some good ideas for future pieces.
Emeritus member Grant Speed and guest Steve Todd handled chores in the “clean-up” chute, pulling ropes off the horns and hooves for the ropers. A good time was had by all until one of those mountain thunderstorms began to build in the Medicine Bow range to the West. And build it did! By the time a few more steers were run, lightning was poppin’ a little to close for comfort and everyone was heading for the barn and cover.
Everyone made it in time to see a classic mountain storm build with rain, wind and plenty of hail. It was enough to turn the ground white and pile up real good around the edges of the mess tent. As fast as it built, it was gone and the crisp cool afternoon air was fresh with the scent of rain.
The group gathered for ‘happy hour’ at the home of hosts Ray and Sally Duncan, where group pictures were taken. Dinner followed back at the main tent and was one to be remembered. The catering staff had prepared buffalo tenderloins in a slow oven served with what else, a fine cabernet sauce made of the Silver Oak Cabernet.
At the conclusion of dinner, the group paused to remember the life of Sharon Beeler, wife of founder Joe Beeler, who passed away in April. Ray Swanson made remarks and presented the hosts with gifts of remembrance from the CAA members. Ray also passed out the pins for trail ride attendance to the CAs based on milestones for the rides they had attended.
Our hosts presented everyone in attendance with etched bottles of Silver Oak. Each bottle bore the Diamond Tail brand, the date of the ride and name of the individual in attendance.
It was a fine evening to conclude a memorable ride.
Learn more about the Diamond Tail Ranch at http://www.diamondtailranch.com.