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Stories from the valley

How the New West is Won

Contributed by Jim Morris

Classic Westerns like Red River and Lonesome Dove offer a cinematic feast as cowboys on horseback drive cattle through rivers and hostile territory. For many, this is the quintessential Old West.

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Cowboys are still a big part of the rural landscape in modern day, as are horses. However, quads now supply a big part of their rural horsepower.

“On this ranch, when we have to cover a lot of territory, a quad is the way to go,” remarked Terry Titus, who tends cattle at the Gold Coast Ranch in Penn Valley, Nevada County with his ranching partner, Justin Hill. Their clients’ herd of more than 1,000 cows and their calves has plenty of room to roam on this bucolic 10,000-acre spread.

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Our family had the opportunity to join Terry on his rounds on an amazing spring morning.  We navigated the rolling and sometimes rocky terrain well on our quads. We enjoyed visiting with Rusty, Terry’s companion in the field – a Jack Russell Terrier with almost limitless energy who was laser focused on keeping the cattle in line.

Seeing such a lush, green landscape is so encouraging following the lengthy drought. Range conditions in this part of the state are usually good, but the difference this year is the tremendous runoff that has replenished groundwater and overall water storage.

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Terry spent more than 30 years in shipping with a large company in the valley. His office size has increased dramatically as a rancher – with majestic trees, sparkling ponds, wildlife, wildflowers and awe-inspiring vistas.

“This is one place to work that I think most people would enjoy having, but it isn’t for everybody,” Terry said. “There are rough times in cattle ranching.  There’s a lot of work. But I love it. It’s good for me.”

One rewarding aspect is this time of the year. There’s new life during calving season. It has gone well this year, which bodes well for a promising year ahead.