Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Cowboy life firmly entrenched on Babcock Ranch

WHILE DAWN STRUGGLES TO POUR ITS first ghostly light through the stubborn shadows of a new March day, Dalton Boney lowers his long form onto a narrow bench in the open-ended pole barn of the old Babcock Ranch. He’s already bridled and saddled his horse, securing his rope from the pommel in front and tying his rain slicker behind the cantle, in the rear. Slipping a small tin from his jeans pocket, he pushes a pinch of tobacco into his cheek. Then he answers a reporter’s question about moving cows. “Yessir, I’ve been doin’ this most all of my life,” he says. The same is true of the men around him, generally in their 20s or 30s: Casey King, Dustyn Whitmir, Clint “Catfish” Davis, Carl Langford and his cool, capable cousin, Babcock cattle manager Elton Langford. The old man of the bunch, Mr. Langford is also a DeSoto County rancher and an elected county commissioner, to boot. He turned 47 in May. An old adage — the more things change, the more they stay the same — is no longer true at Babcock. Now, the more things change, the more the things that haven’t changed become remarkable. For that reason, Florida Weekly has come to see cowboys work cows roughly the way it’s been done for a century on the Babcock Ranch...“It’s all these guys do,” says Mr. Langford, describing his “day riders,” men who also manage or work other operations on a busy, rotating basis. “It’s all they’ve ever wanted to do.” And it’s what they hope to keep doing on Babcock, even though major change is imminent. Come July, there will be two ranches stretched across the 91,000 acres of the original Babcock Ranch. One will carry on under the ownership of the state of Florida, which will contract cattle or crop leases with ranchers and farmers on parts of the state’s 73,000 acres, where about 2,000 head of cattle still remain. The other ranch is owned by Kitson & Partners, developers of the planned solar-powered town. There, on roughly half of Syd Kitson’s 18,000 acres, Steve Smith and his cowboys, led by Elton Langford, will run about 1,200 head of cows...more

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