Get Back to the Land and Become a Cowboy

Becoming a cowboy can be extremely difficult work, but it's worth the work to get back to the land.

| May/June 1978

  • Cowboys 2
    Ron Martin learned from textbooks how to take care of livestock so he could get a job on a ranch.
  • Cowboy Ranch
    Working on a ranch can be difficult, but certainly rewarding.
  • Cowboys 4
    Ron Martin got hired on the ranch because the owner knew he wanted to be there and was willing to work hard.
  • Cowboys 3
    The Martins immensly enjoy living on a ranch.

  • Cowboys 2
  • Cowboy Ranch
  • Cowboys 4
  • Cowboys 3

"A lot of city children dream about becoming cowboys and cowgirls when they grow up," say Ron and Linda Martin (both formerly of Los Angeles), "and we used to dream those same dreams too. The only difference between us and most of the rest of those urban youngsters, in fact, is that we made our dreams come true!" 

Have you ever wanted to gallop across the range with the reins of a horse in one hand and a twirling lariat in the other? Better yet, have you secretly daydreamed of getting paid for "rounding up the dogies," "riding fence," and doing other such chores out in the wide open spaces?

Well, if you have, then you're probably right about where our family was just a few short years ago. My husband Ron and I were both born, raised, and educated in Los Angeles, but neither one of us wanted to live in that or any other city.

Instead, we dreamed of buying a small country ranch somewhere, going into the cattle business full time, and bringing up our own family far away from urban crime, pollution, and noise.

And so, just as many other "back-to-the-landers" have done in recent years, we put some money down on a small working ranch. And we then tried to run the place while one or both of us commuted to city jobs to earn enough to keep up the payments on the ranch. The idea didn't work out very well for us for at least three reasons:

  • One, Ron didn't really want to work at a city job at all (even to pay for our new place in the country). He wanted to work full time at ranching. 
  • Two, I didn't want to work full time (especially in the city, where the best paying jobs were) either. I wanted to stay out in the country and take care of our children and our home.
  • And, three, experience soon taught us that we — city people that we were — just didn't have the skills we needed to operate an efficient and self-supporting cattle spread. Furthermore, we figured it would take several years for us to teach ourselves those skills. "What we really need," we agreed, "is for someone else to pay us to learn all the things we need to know."

So Ron Became a Cowboy to Get Back to the Land

And, as unlikely as it may sound, Ron (who's now 32) and I really are being paid to learn the ranching business. My husband, you see, is now a paid cowhand on a several-thousand-acre registered Hereford ranch in northeastern Oregon. And for his services, we receive a salary of $500 a month, a free three-bedroom house on the spread, and all the garden vegetables, meat, milk, and eggs we can use.

Viaggio C.
1/14/2009 9:48:27 PM

Well, I might be 7 years old, but I want to be a cowboy. Although I can't ride a horse without somebody helping me but I have fallen off a horse. The trainer is a good trainer and I know that. I am a fan of cowboys, so right now it is only 2009 but I will become a cowboy for sure. I also will tell you this: probably when I'll become a cowboy is in 2019 and I will have a horse. Good bye.

2/10/2008 2:37:34 PM

I LOVE this article/story! I am a Husband, Father and a Soldier currently in Afghanistan. This story describes; almost exactly, the life I want to live while raising a family. I ask you or anyone that will listen. Can a "green-horn, city slicker" with virtually no experience make a life ranching while raising a family? Thanks-Rob M.

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