Cattle, Sheep, Grain, and Hay: The Imperial Stock Ranch Story

I was looking forward to the road trip to the Imperial Stock Ranch, to learning more about what it takes to run a large ranch, and to film this National Historic District. Thoughts of open spaces, corrals, and cowboys on horseback all came to mind.

The eastern side of Mt. Hood is a beautiful part of the country, one that I continue to savor discovering. As Lynn and I came out of the Columbia Gorge, past the communities of Hood River, and The Dalles, the land began changing from the majesty of the gorge to rolling green hills to hills spattered with black and brown craggily rocks and tufts of grass.

Finally, I came to the road I was looking for, Hinton Rd., named after the man that came across the plains in a covered wagon with his family in 1852. How did R.R. Hinton ever find this place?! After yet another mile, or so, down this road, I finally came upon the homestead that was originally built by Mr. Hinton, and for the past 21 years, the current home of Dan and Jeanne Carver -- who have instilled their sustainable ranching practices upon the land. They have rotated the cattle and sheep grazing onto several different pastures to reduce erosion. They use no-till practices to grow their grain to enhance soil fertility, and reduce carbon emissions. They also use sheepdogs to dissuade outside predators without harming them, in place of poison, physical traps, or shooting them.

I spent time wandering the property and filming the different buildings, fields, and livestock. Many of the accessory buildings were also built by Hinton. They were beautiful in their simplicity and well-aged in character. The planks on the outside wall of the shearing shed undulated from one end to another. I imagine the decades in dry desert heat had this effect.

But the room that took my breath away was the old 'museum' room on the backside of the hay barn. The old iron latch creaked open and there before me were a dozen or so saddles in the warm red-brown glow of the wood. Two small windows, facing west, were situated high above, out of reach of the cowboy laying his saddle to rest at the end of the day. Still horseshoes, dusty reins, and brown bottles half filled (with who-knows-what) sat motionless in the dust. Dust that was probably decades old too. A room once filled with sweat from a hard days work was now a room full of memories. An era that once was, to a time that now is.

The Carvers are working hard to preserve the original buildings that serve as a symbolic link to the past, while continuing the proud tradition of ranching, as they continue to respond to the ever changing economic landscape, and thriving.

Originally posted on Cooking Up a Story.