Ridin’ High with Barbara East | TheFencePost.com

Ridin’ High with Barbara East

Jeanette Sullivant
Collbran, Colo.

Barbara East has spent the last four summers as a professional range rider on the north side of the Grand Mesa taking care of over a thousand head of mother cows for two grazing associations. She zigzags the roughly 50,000 acres daily, with her mules and dogs, packing salt, drifting cattle, doctoring a calf or mending fences. “My retirement job” as she calls it because of its close proximity to her Collbran home, “where I’m working for people I’ve neighbored with since 1977.” Barbara began her career managing livestock permitted to graze on federal lands thirty-five years ago in the Gunnison and Crested Butte area “in country so beautiful it was an honor to have a purpose to be there.”

At only twenty-three years of age, Barbara contracted the care of 1,500 head of cattle grazing over 60,000 acres, on several adjoining high-country ranges. She had spent only one previous season working there with a veteran range rider, the late Gary Kunze. She kept those combined jobs for 26 years.

“I look back on those years and realize the overwhelming amount of change that has taken place in the West, especially in Colorado,” says Barbara. “The entire future of ranching is very fragile and if the integrity and beauty of the productive agricultural lands of this state are to remain intact, somehow, someone has to continue to accomplish the work it takes to do the actual management. People with this ability are few and far between. A culture of people whose knowledge comes from years of using a shovel, rope, saddle horse and wire stretcher and have feeling for the land not learned in school.”

Barbara East has spent the last four summers as a professional range rider on the north side of the Grand Mesa taking care of over a thousand head of mother cows for two grazing associations. She zigzags the roughly 50,000 acres daily, with her mules and dogs, packing salt, drifting cattle, doctoring a calf or mending fences. “My retirement job” as she calls it because of its close proximity to her Collbran home, “where I’m working for people I’ve neighbored with since 1977.” Barbara began her career managing livestock permitted to graze on federal lands thirty-five years ago in the Gunnison and Crested Butte area “in country so beautiful it was an honor to have a purpose to be there.”

At only twenty-three years of age, Barbara contracted the care of 1,500 head of cattle grazing over 60,000 acres, on several adjoining high-country ranges. She had spent only one previous season working there with a veteran range rider, the late Gary Kunze. She kept those combined jobs for 26 years.

“I look back on those years and realize the overwhelming amount of change that has taken place in the West, especially in Colorado,” says Barbara. “The entire future of ranching is very fragile and if the integrity and beauty of the productive agricultural lands of this state are to remain intact, somehow, someone has to continue to accomplish the work it takes to do the actual management. People with this ability are few and far between. A culture of people whose knowledge comes from years of using a shovel, rope, saddle horse and wire stretcher and have feeling for the land not learned in school.”

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Barbara East has spent the last four summers as a professional range rider on the north side of the Grand Mesa taking care of over a thousand head of mother cows for two grazing associations. She zigzags the roughly 50,000 acres daily, with her mules and dogs, packing salt, drifting cattle, doctoring a calf or mending fences. “My retirement job” as she calls it because of its close proximity to her Collbran home, “where I’m working for people I’ve neighbored with since 1977.” Barbara began her career managing livestock permitted to graze on federal lands thirty-five years ago in the Gunnison and Crested Butte area “in country so beautiful it was an honor to have a purpose to be there.”

At only twenty-three years of age, Barbara contracted the care of 1,500 head of cattle grazing over 60,000 acres, on several adjoining high-country ranges. She had spent only one previous season working there with a veteran range rider, the late Gary Kunze. She kept those combined jobs for 26 years.

“I look back on those years and realize the overwhelming amount of change that has taken place in the West, especially in Colorado,” says Barbara. “The entire future of ranching is very fragile and if the integrity and beauty of the productive agricultural lands of this state are to remain intact, somehow, someone has to continue to accomplish the work it takes to do the actual management. People with this ability are few and far between. A culture of people whose knowledge comes from years of using a shovel, rope, saddle horse and wire stretcher and have feeling for the land not learned in school.”

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