by Carol Dunn
WALSENBURG- If you’ve never met Marvin Davis, let’s just say he grows on you. Marvin has always been a strong and dedicated advocate of ranching in Huerfano County. He is entrenched in the history of the area’s agriculture, having served on the Huerfano County Farm Bureau, the Upper Huerfano Conservation District, the Huerfano Basin Stockgrowers, and the County ASCS (now FSA) Committee, with extensive involvement in 4H. A lifelong rancher, Davis got his first cow at the age of six and participated in 4H himself as a youth.
Francie’s family, the Killions, relocated to La Veta from Bent County during the drought in the 1930s. Locally famous for her pies and chokecherry jelly, Francie was also involved in 4H as a youth, with cooking and sewing. Francie has been President of the Cowbelles so long, she can best describe her tenure as “many years.” She has served on the Fair Board and helped organize the Huerfano County Fire District. Marvin and Francie have worked the ranch together for 51 years, facing drought, wind, blizzards, fluctuating interest rates, volatile beef prices, critical health issues, good times and bad.
The Davis children, all involved in some aspect of ranching to this day, include three girls – Gena, Jill and Gaye, and one boy, Scott. The Davis ranch produces Limousin cattle, purebred and commercial, and a few bulls for breeders. The original 640 acres were homesteaded by Marvin’s father, Arthur L. Davis, in the 1920s. During the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s, when his neighbors were driven from the land by severe drought and dust storms, Arthur toughed it out and accumulated about a dozen other homesteads through tax sales, eventually expanding his ranch to 8,000 acres. With an eye to the future Marvin and Francie formed Davis Family Land, LLC, so the ranch could be a legacy to their family for generations to come.
The Davis ranch has been in the family for 90 years. As Marvin puts it, “We have never been approached about the expansion.” If the original homestead is taken by the Pinon Canyon expansion, as the third and current map indicates, Davis Family Land would no longer exist and Marvin and Francie would only have about 600 acres left, not enough to support a herd of cattle. They will be out of business; forced from their lifetime profession.
Although it may not occur to those who don’t have a direct connection to the land, the expansion will take away more than land – it threatens the very livelihood of ranchers, which is akin to telling a teacher they can’t teach anymore or telling an architect to find another way to make a living. The expansion plan may make it sound like there are just a few people affected – but these people are human beings.