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Wild Rose Ranch Cattle Drive heads around 800 pregnant cows from Bryce to Grand Canyon’s North Rim

“Well, we’re doing our annual cattle drive again. And this year we’ve got extra help,” explains Kevin Heaton, Manager of Alton-based Heaton Livestock Company. “We’ve got some veterans from some of our military forces, and we appreciate them coming along and experiencing this: giving them an opportunity to get out and see some different country and see it from horseback.”

Chett Bauer, nine years young, mounted on “Daisy” alongside fellow buckaroos, Bronx Withers and Jonny Cox, accompanied by his shivering sister, Sadie. Although she rode during last season’s drive, this year’s duties fell to their obliging eldest sibling, McKaydee. Photos by Jerry Melrose.

As the trail boss of this outfit that spans five generations since the 1930s, he cites, “We’re still in the business of raising beef cattle and harvesting energy from the sun in the form of grass. And we’re here for another year. This mega-drought has put a hamper on some of the way we manage. We just feel like we have to be adaptive to make this a sustainable operation for a family. And we’ve got several members of our family helping out this year, and we appreciate their help. Rain, shine, snow, whatever, we’re going to cowboy-up and help the cows get south.”

The Wild Rose Ranch Cattle Drive hits its 11-day 100-mile trail on the way to the confluence of the Colorado River and Kanab Creek. This time wrangled with the assistance of six tenderfoot military veterans.

Cameron Chamberlain corralled six active or retired adventure-spirited Utah veterans from his Cedar City headquarters to saddle-up herding cows for three early November days on the higher-country range. “I founded a non-profit organization called ‘Outdoors for Heroes.’ We just take veterans hunting and fishing in the outdoors, or anything we can do to get them away from hearing your phone, and find some healing outside. So, it’s a good mental break like this one, because the cattle drive here with the Heatons and Harmony Cox: it fits so well with what we do. “So, this is the beginning: it’s the ‘Trip One!’ We’re gonna’ keep coming every year; that’s the goal right now. And we’ll expand on it and start to find ways to get disabled vets. What it means is that we’ve got a coupla’ soldiers here who need a moment to get outside and get that connection with a horse. They need that connection with Nature.

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Sloan Ulibarri, retired Marine Corps, of his experience says, “I’m pretty excited being out here, and the opportunity being out in God’s Country in Nature, where it’s OK to be safe, calm and all that now. So, it’s a great blessing, being out here now.”

“Even just day one, the memories, the things they said: the positive results are there. I mean, they’re feeling it’s something that we’ve got to do more of. It’s great that we could come out here, and they let us come.” Harmony Cox, along on the drive with her husband, Dustin and daughters, Ruth, Rachel, Elizabeth and Rebekah, served as a pivotal component in its coordination for the Wild Rose Ranch. “We have ‘Outdoors with Heroes’ joining us for our cattle drive. They are just using this story (for a video documentary fund-raiser being photographed by Refiner Productions) and they’re trying just to open the conversation for healing for PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), suicide prevention: all those things. So, there’s lots of amazing work that happens where you’re on a horse, or doing hard things associated with livestock, land and cattle, and all those things. So, nature, yeah, a lot of healing that happens with Nature. So, that’s why they’re here; and we’re just loving them.”

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