The American cowboy
In the mid-19th Century, the American cowboy was a much-respected and much-needed figure throughout America, especially the West. His occupation was unique. His horsemanship was always top notch. The duties of the working cowboy include tending to the business of cattle. This entails taking care of the herd, collecting strays, herding and sorting. And, of course, running the cattle to market. All of this, in whatever weather conditions Mother Nature chooses to throw at them. The cowboy is a folk hero and a symbol of the American West.
A local American cowboy
Qualifications of in the cowboy calling are courage, physical alertness, ability to endure exposure and fatigue, horsemanship and gentlemanly manners. One such cowboy stands out the most to me when thinking of these traits.
He is Mr Mike Williams of Diamond W Cattle Co. Mike truly embodies the cowboy ethic and it clearly runs deep on his ranch. His care of his herd and being good stewards to the land deserves great praise but, as is true with most cowboys’ humility, is also one of their strongest traits. Doing what they do just seems to be in their make-up, deep in their soul. This life is just something that calls to them.
The long road to becoming a cattle rancher
Diamond W Cattle Company was founded by Mike and Lynda Williams. Although, technically, a first-generation cattle operation, Mike and Lynda’s agriculture roots run deep. Farmers and ranchers dominate their family tree as far back as records are kept.
Lynda’s paternal grandfather, Edwin Dies, farmed in Pennsylvania where their family has farmed since coming to America in the early 1700s. Her maternal Grandfather, Lemuel Doyle, was a rancher in Texas. Her step-grandfather, Sid Frasier, also ranched in Texas and, as a young man, drove cattle up the Chisholm Trail. Both of Mike’s Grandparents farmed and raised cattle. Tom Williams, Mike’s paternal grandfather farmed, raised cattle, and ran a dairy near Hammer Idaho.
Tom Smith, Mike’s maternal grandfather, ran a small farm and ranch near the Southern Idaho town of Wendell. Tom was an excellent horseman and a good cowboy. His farm is still in the family, and is currently owned by Mike’s aunt, Ann Lorraine Smith. Mike spent a great deal of his youth working with his grandparents where he developed a love for the livestock, the land and the lifestyle.
Although Mike’s parents moved to town when Mike was a small boy, his father taught him how to work. Mike spent many years working as a cowboy, a soldier, and a horse shoer where he developed the skills, discipline and confidence to enter the cattle business.
The Diamond W Cattle Company
Mike and Lynda started Diamond W Cattle Company with the purchase of ten steers in 2002. They now operate a cow/calf stocker and custom grazing operation on two historic ranches, Rancho Cañada Larga and the Ritter Ranch, comprising of over 18,500 acres in Southern California’s Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.
Mike and Lynda are also involved in the California Cattlemen’s Association. Mike’s involvement with the California Cattlemen’s Association began at the local level, with the Ventura County Cattlemen’s Association. As his cattle business grew, he recognized that working with other producers was the best, if not the only way, to reduce the negative impact that government regulations, animal rights activists and environmental groups were having on both his operation and the cattle industry as a whole. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Ventura County Cattlemen’s Association, the California Beef Council and as 2nd Vice President and the California Cattlemen’s Association.
Rancho Cañada Larga
Rancho Cañada Larga is approximately 6,500 acres just north of Ventura, California. County officials estimate cattle have been running in that valley since 1782. It was an original Mexican Land Grant. Given to Joaquina Alvarado in 1841, it was acquired in the late 1800s by the Canet family. It was sold to the Bonzal family and is currently owned by the Bonzal family trust. Although the boundaries of the ranch have changed slightly from the original land grant, it is still approximately the same size and location as the original land grant. Rancho Cañada Larga is one of the last of the original Spanish or Mexican land grants in Ventura County to be operated primarily as a cattle ranch.
Ritter Ranch is over 12,000 acres in the mountains north east of Los Angles near Leona Valley. Cattle and sheep have grazed in the area as early as 1840. John Ritter homesteaded 160 acres here in 1894, planted grapes, and built a winery; his sons branched out into hay, cattle and bees. They bought out other homesteads and surrounding land and expanded the holdings to over 12,000 acres. Although it is currently owned by an investment bank and targeted for future development, it is presently exclusively used for cattle grazing.
Ventura County’s Cattlemen
With just over 100 ranch families left in Ventura County, it’s hard to believe that our county was once teaming with cattle, cowboys, and Vaqueros. According to the 2014 Ventura County Agricultural Commission Live stock report, there are 97,000 acres of range land in the county and just over 100 ranch families left, each working hard to carry on the ranching tradition.
[blockquote align=”none” author=”Richard Atmore, RA Cattle Co”]Behind every city in this county, behind the Oxnard Plain, behind Moorpark, above every single community, there is cattle ranching.[/blockquote]
California Cattlemen’s Association and Ventura County Cattlemen’s Association
The California and Ventura County Cattlemen’s Associations have been fighting to preserve California’s rich ranching heritage since 1917. From Sacramento to Washington, DC, CCA has a strong lobbying presence on state and federal issues that impact beef producers in California.
To find out more about this great organization go to their Facebook page.