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MEEKER I One definition of loyalty is “a feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection.” Another is “faithful adherence to another.”
Loyalty may be the simplest way to describe the relationship established on the Wakara Ranch. A duo that began as owner-manager turned into a friendship hat spanned nearly four decades.
Richard Bachmann, a successful businessman from New Orleans, was looking for the proverbial cabin in the woods, “with a creek running through it.”
He had a property company looking for land in five states at the time. It was 1973 and he was actually working in Central America when he received a call that there was property available in Meeker, but that he needed to act within 48 hours if he wanted it.
It was called the Wilson Place at the time. Sold by T. Lee and Sally Williamson, it was the property on the south side of the river and still part of the Wakara Ranch.
Bachmann hired six different managers from six different backgrounds in the first six years of ownership. Each had their own varying views.
In approximately 1979, Vern Wagner’s horse operation became available across the river from Bachmann’s land, so he bought the property and hired Vern as a manager. At one point, they had 300 brood mares, but times and circumstances changed.
In town at Reg Nichol’s one day, Bachmann ran into the late Pat Sullivan, who said, “Do you need help? I have a good friend looking to come to the Western Slope.” That is how Bachmann originally met Joe Collins and hired him as the ranch manager in 1981.
The men began by sorting out and cutting back horse numbers, and they began a transition into the cattle business, using the quality quarter horses for ranch use.
They were part of a “pool” at that time in which members turned their cattle all together to graze an entire area, then gathered them in the fall, sorting them in every corral along their trek home.
Bachmann said, “Joe’s brother Dick rode with them then and he was a ‘true cowboy.’” As the work continued, it became a total family effort, made possible by the support and glue that was Donna Collins.
Each of the Collins’ children worked on the ranch at some point and they now represent the second and third generation managing Wakara.
The ranch traded its membership in the pool for a grazing permit on Lost Creek, Miller Creek and Fawn Creek, up the White River. Soon after, they traded the state access to the White River on Wakara for public fishing in exchange for grazing on Oak Ridge. This was an extremely progressive and total cooperative effort between the Bureau of Land Management, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service and Wakara.
It was an opportunity to alleviate early grazing for elk in Lost Park, help establish and preserve elk calving habitat on Oak Ridge, create more public fishing access and monitor grazing for future cooperative programs. The work to make a project like this successful was incredible, and Collins was recognized for his cooperation in what has provided an example for future plans, invaluable data for the productive use of various species grazing and leadership in maintaining relationships among different entities.
In 1991, Bachmann bought “empty land” on Miller Creek. This enabled the ranch to have more cattle and a place to hold the cattle coming off the high country back to the winter and calving grounds.
The ranch has expanded from 100 to more than 500 head of cattle. Along with the cattle herd, Bachmann has built a guest house and lodge.
When asked what was the key to the success of the operation, Bachmann said without hesitation, “It is run by the Collins family.”
He said it is most gratifying to see the families grow up on the ranch and the successes they have had.
He also misses the days of the Wix family running Sleepy Cat and the evenings of fun had there.
He has been a true contributor to our community, always doing ranch banking locally and, over 40 years, built not only a successful ranch but a relationship that is priceless.
“Joe was not just my ranch manager, he was my best friend,” Bachmann said.
And those words tell more of the story then all the rest. What a story of loyalty and friendship, and what a compliment to the Collinses and Richard Bachmann for their success on the Wakara Ranch.