From Generation to Generation, Pt. 3
Teach your children well . . .
by Jeremy D. Krones
Editor's Note: This is the final installment of a series exploring the lessons passed from generation to generation on the Bar T Bar (Ernest Chilson to Judy & Bob Prosser) and Flying M (Herb Meztger to Kit Metzger and Diana & Alan Kessler)
Just as Ernest and Herb passed on valuable lessons and ethics to their children, so too did Judy, Bob, Diana, and Alan pass on their passions to the next generation.
Warren and Spencer Prosser, both 32 years old, grew up on the Bar T Bar Ranch. Will “Jigger” Kessler, 34, was raised on the Orme Ranch with his brother JB (Diana and Alan managed that ranch, located about halfway between Flagstaff and Phoenix, for over 30 years before moving back to the Flying M in 2014).
While none of them currently ranch, all three men keep close ties with their heritages, visiting their parents often and raising their own families with very similar ideals to their own upbringings.
Warren lives in Omaha, NE, and works for a commodity trading hedge fund; Spencer is the co-owner of an agricultural research firm in southwestern Tennessee, outside of Memphis. Jigger is a postal service contractor in Dewey-Humbolt.
When asked about their respective ‘environmentalism’ (a delicate word, to be sure), each gave a very similar answer.
Jigger replied via text, “Being good stewards of the land, proper land management with the cattle.”
Alan Kessler, a rancher for his entire life, would take his boys out to boundary fences, and Jigger recalls that due to differences in land management, there was vegetation on their side, and bare ground on the other side of the fence.
Alan was an early adopter of Holistic Resource Management, which focuses a large part on how brittle a landscape is and how much impact it can withstand. He taught his sons that proper care makes a big impact on the survival and success of their land, vegetation, and water resources.
It also makes a big impact on the understanding that people have about the land and what our role is on it.
“I took for granted growing up on a ranch,” said Spencer. “Seeing nature and outdoor life . . . I’m pretty passionate about the preservation of the beautiful things that are out there. It doesn’t take a long look back to realize that developing [housing on] our range might not be the best idea.”
Jigger agreed, saying that he much prefers to “live in more open spaces, hunt and see the land taken care of and not just filled with homes.”
Warren focused more on the use of our public (and some private) lands. He said while it’s great that there is so much to do out on the open land, the downside is that access tends to be abused - there are either too many people for the land and resources to handle, or those who are out there abuse what should belong to all of us.
“Environmentalism in the Midwest is simpler,” explained Warren, elaborating that with more rain there aren’t as many forest fires, and with less public land there isn’t as much wildlife to manage.
He went on to say that there are more unknown and unpredictable variables in the Southwest, like the weather. “There’s not a lot of snowpack that can bail you out.”
That statement is very true this year, when Flagstaff received its second-latest measurable snowfall on record. But even when the city gets snow, the ranches might not. That means the land continues to get drier and drier, and there’s almost nothing to do except just wait it out.
“My parents did something unique with Diablo Trust,” said Warren. “Over the years, as people moved away from agriculture, [farmers and ranchers] closed their doors . . . my parents humbled themselves a bit to show people what they do and said, ‘you can critique us.’ That willingness to listen is special.”
Caring for our open lands and shared spaces, all three men agreed, is paramount to running a successful ranch, but in a very close second is opening your door and engaging in dialogue.
“Some ranches might do things a little rough,” Jigger said, “but overall [it’s] good for the land and cattle.”
Spencer took that farther, saying that even if everyone in a room disagrees on the process, the end goals are usually the same.
“You tend to dislike people less that you eat dinner with and get to know,” mused Spencer. “It took me a long time to learn about relationships. Diablo Trust was about getting people in the room together and having a discussion.”
The early days of Diablo Trust included yelling matches and tense meetings, but as Diablo Trust enters its 26th year, the frustration and disagreements that defined the early 90s are nearly gone.
Not everyone agrees all the time, but Diablo Trust participants now come with the understanding that, as Warren put it, “listening to other people is special.”
Stories From Childhood
All three men shared stories from their childhoods on the ranches, hunting, fishing, and riding around the land.
Jigger recalled, “growing up on the ranch was amazing! Working with the cattle and horses taught me a lot . . . most kids didn’t have the opportunity that we did.”
And some still don’t. Warren remembered fishing in East Clear Creek with his mom and grandfather, before the crawdads ‘moved in.’ Now, he said, he’s shocked to see how much the creek has changed with new species, and with the greater amount of use the entire area gets.
On a recent trip home, he said, “the road was so busy with OHVs (off-highway vehicles) that I was afraid to drive . . . it was covered with people.”
Warren advocates that before anyone goes out on public land, they look up the rules and regulations for what can and can’t be done on the land.
“You see some people going that way, and others who don’t care,” he lamented.
In addition to fun, there was also work.
“My dad gave me my work ethic, teaching me to work hard. I learned about the ranch, to shoot, to shoe horses, to take care of down animals, and many other things too numerous to count,” remembered Jigger.
Spencer told of a drive he once took with his grandfather when he was 10 or 11 years old. They were on a side of the ranch that had no cattle that season. They drove up to a gate that needed opening. Spencer got out and opened it, but didn’t think to close it, because the cattle were so far away.
His grandfather told him to close the gate because, “you never know when you’d need that gate closed in a pinch.”
That work ethic is ubiquitous on so many ranches: work hard once, so you don’t have to do it again.
Close the gate behind you, read the rules, and open your doors.