by Darrell Arnold
LA VETA- Way back in ancient times, when I was a teenager, the La Veta area was very busy in the fall when ranchers brought their cattle back from the summer ranges to the home places for the winter. Calves were weaned, replacement heifers were held back, and steers were transported to market.
There were many more ranches in those days, with many families depending on the cattle market for their livings. It was common for ranchers to herd their cattle across each other’s properties, with their neighbors’ help.
Just as during the spring works, when ranchers enjoyed helping each other brand calves and herd them to the summer ranges, the fall works were enjoyed as opportunities to get on horseback and herd cattle during a time of generally fantastic weather at the most colorful time of the year.
Today, most of those ranches have been subdivided and are no longer used for ranching. A recent accounting of how many working ranches still exist indicated that there are only around 30 families left in Huerfano County who derive a significant portion of their incomes from the raising and marketing of cattle.
The normally quiet air of La Veta was full of the plaintive cries of unhappy cattle last week as the Brgoch family brought their cattle to the edge of town for the fall weaning. Out on Colorado Highway 12, motorists had to drive slowly and patiently while the Goemmer family drove one of their herds from the summer range on Cuchara Pass to the winter range outside La Veta.
According to local Forest Ranger Jeffer Wingate, Otto and Jackie Goemmer are the primary remaining ranchers in the upper Cuchara Valley who still takes advantage of Forest Service grazing leases.
The cowboy tradition still survives in Huerfano County, but it is slowly but steadily disappearing. Who knows how much longer it may last?