Our July issue features a short piece on rancher Michael O’Haco, of the O’Haco Cattle Company as part of our coverage of the 100 Years, 100 Ranchers project. Here, O’Haco shares his take on ranch life, in his own words:
I was born and raised into the ranching world. The first born of eight children to Mike and Teresa O’Haco. I was raised in the Chevelon Butte Ranch, 35 miles south of Winslow, until about age 5, when we moved closer to town — to what we called the North Ranch — so we could attend school. I remember the first time I rode a horse. I was around 3, and I was hooked. My first horse was named “Peanut,” and my Uncle Lou gave him to me. For the next 12 years, everything was school and ranching.
I married my high school sweetheart, Linda Burgette, in 1968, after my dad delayed it as long as he could. We attended college, and I graduated from Northern Arizona University in 1972. I worked a variety of ranch jobs until my dad hired me and my brother-in-law, Joe Massengale, to break over 100 head of horses back home on the Chevelon Butte Ranch.
1978 was a memorable year, as my first daughter, Jessica, was born. In addition, my dad, brother Jim and I decided to purchase the neighboring Hutcheson Ranch. We called it the 4C’s. With the addition of the Chevelon Cattle Company, we were able to get our cow count well over 2,000 head. The first 10 years were labor intensive, as the ranch was pretty delapidated. The following 10 years were awful tough with an extreme drought, and it hit us hard. We culled back to around 1,000 head, and we still had trouble keeping our heads above water. In 1980, my second daughter, Michaela, was born. During this time period, we also added a farm to the mix, with permanent pasture and alfalfa to reduce some of our expenses, but it stretched us very thin. We couldn’t afford to hire outside help, so my cowboy crew was made up of my younger brothers and sisters and, eventually, my daughters.
Dad, Jim and I worked the three ranches and the farm as smart and as hard as we could, but the droughts and floods got the better of us over time and we were forced to continue reducing the herd.
In 1995, I had to make a difficult decision and take an outside job with BNSF Railroad, as the ranch could no longer support the demands of all of our families. I continued to stay involved during my vacations and days off to help where I could. As my dad got older, Jim took the reins and has been managing the ranch since my father’s death in 2001.
Ranching has been a tough life, but a very satisfying life. It’s remained a family operation — when extra help is needed, brothers, sisters, kids and grandkids help work the spring and fall roundups — and Jim manages the day-to-day operations. Our mother is still alive and plans on celebrating her 88th birthday this October. I continue to stay involved. It’s a way of life — a tough one — but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
— Mike O’Haco