Lee Pitts: It’s the Pitts 9-16-13

Lee Pitts
Morrow Bay, Calif.

I was reading  a couple western lifestyle magazines recently and I really must say, I’ve never seen so many ugly boots and beautiful ranches in my life. The reason I read these magazines is to see the real estate ads for ranches I’ll never be able to afford, like the Granite Peaks Ranch in Durango, Colo., that only costs 18 million dollars for  565 acres. The beautiful ad doesn’t say how many cows you can run on it but with a little back-of-the-napkin math I figure that I’d need to generate about a million dollars per year to pay the interest on my note, which means I’d need to sell 1,125 calves per year, which equates to roughly 20 cows per acre. It’s a great looking ranch but I doubt it would carry that many cows without a hefty hay bill.

A lot of the ads didn’t list the price and it’s probably for the best as I’m running the pencil sharpener 24/7 trying to find a ranch that will pencil out as a cow outfit. There are lots of places that realtors call “ranches” but most of them are 20 acre spreads with four million dollar homes. Who wouldn’t want to own the amazing Lake Jacksonville Ranch that comes with a 4,700 square foot house, salt water pool, lighted tennis court, 1.2 mile motocross track, a two story boat dock and a stocked fishing pond, all for only 2.4 million. With all that amazing stuff there’d hardly be enough room to run a single cow, and if she came up open one year how would I pay for the place? 

I’m not saying the ranches aren’t worth it. I’d love to own the S.E. Schuman Ranch in Albert, Texas, with 215 acres and “endless possibilities for both relaxation and recreation.” But how could I relax  with a 2.5 million dollar note on the place? I’m torn between the Beaverhead Ranch in Wyoming, a 700 acre “retreat” for $3,850,00 and the 310 acre spread near Okanogan, Wash., which is the most beautiful place I’ve ever found on this planet. It has a nice barn too, and all for only $2,500,000. 

If I wanted a horse ranch I’d buy either the 50 acre spread in Castle Rock, Colo., for only $2,750,000 or one in New Castle, Colo., that costs $6,900,000. For that kind of money they better have a castle on them, and it sounds like the latter one does: a 6,814 square foot house and a 48,000 square foot barn and arena big enough to hold all of my junk.

All these ranches seem like bargains compared to the Canyon Ranch in Montrose, Colo., which has 1,733 “plus or minus acres” for 15 million. To make that one work it had better be a big plus, like maybe 200,000 more acres. But I haven’t even mentioned the pricier places, like the Big Creek Ranch in Steamboat Springs that comes with an 11,000 square foot house and a $59,9000,000 price tag. Let’s just call it 60 million.  I wonder what’s in the house, Fort Knox? There’s also the gorgeous Walton Ranch in Jackson, Wyo., that costs $68,700,000 for 1,848 acres. 

Believe it or not, I learned how to make one of these showplaces work years ago when my wife and I leased a multimillion dollar ranch. Mind you, I never did figure it out while we leased it, but years after we gave up the lease there was an article in the paper about the ranch. It seems that some “guerilla growers” were propagating marijuana in a far corner of the ranch where there was a spring that ran sporadically. (Note to law enforcement: I swear, I have never smoked, sold or grown the stuff.)

The picture in the paper showed narcotic task force officers holding garbage bags filled with the illegal grass. The article said the plants and their costly buds had a street value of a quarter of a million and I think it said the weed sold for $5,500 per pound, which compares very favorably to the price currently being received for cattle. So, if there’s a banker anywhere willing to take a  small chance on an ambitious, hard working, creative cowman please call me and I’ll show you how I can pencil in a profit on that gorgeous 68 million dollar heaven of a showplace in Jackson Hole. ❖

Lee Pitts

See more