Ranching in the 1990s involves vivid word pictures with emotions, learning, a bit of humor, and fierce independence, explained Connie, as students and resource specialists sat on hay bales in a small barn on the high desert in central Oregon. Rangeland Resource students listened, a high school English teacher listened, an Extension horticultural specialist listened, and a Bureau of Land Management ecologist listened along with the professor. A wagon wheel stood near a rusty bucket of sagebrush and bunchgrass. Doc contributed short stories, a few facts, and his perspective of the same events. As she continued, Connie looked toward Doc and wondered whether her story was pitched at about the right level of emotion; was she effectively describing their ranching experience in the 1990s? He smiled under a large grey cowboy hat as his boot rested on the wagon wheel. Everyone felt the tension. Inviting environmental advocates to their ranch … was this wise?
Many experiences later, Doc says they have regained independence through collaborative learning with urban dwellers and consumers of their beef products. They welcome people with open minds toward learning. Their vision includes cattle, fish, and wildlife; the 7 inches of rain or snow that falls in winter and must be captured to sustain fish and urban dwellers in August; and sharing beliefs and values about the landscape while fish, grass, and ranchers survive.