Brennan family is a testament to tradition

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courtesy photos Bill and Nancy Brennan hold hands before the wedding of their grandson Neil and his bride, Kari. The elder Brennans were married in 1947.

RBC – The snowy meadows will soon be home to this year’s calf crop and local ranchers are once again “living for the spring turnout,” as rancher Bill Brennan says. The Brennan family has been raising cattle and keeping traditional ranching alive for more than 150 years.
Bill and Nancy Brennan were married in 1947. Together, they helped build and maintain one of the oldest ranches in Colorado. Bill and Nancy have four children: Mike, Kay, Jim and Dick; seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Nancy was a third generation member of the Love family, raised on the LOV ranch in Piceance Creek. During her childhood, family members still took a horse and wagon to town to get supplies to last them through the winter.
“She was the quiet kind but has ridden more miles on horseback than most men. She was the glue that held the family together,” said Nancy’s daughter, Kay Bumguardner.
Bill attended school in Rifle and Nancy attended the Rock School on Piceance Creek, as did their children and grandchildren until it closed in 1989.
Bill served as a Rio Blanco County Commissioner and was one of the first to travel to Washington D.C. in that capacity. Bill was also a Colorado State Highway Commissioner, served on the school board and in the cattlemen’s association. Nancy was very active in the cattlewomen’s association.
The Brennans have been a huge part of the success of the Range Call Celebration in Meeker. They have been in charge of the rodeos, Jim and Neil have served as rodeo pick-up men, daughter Kay was the Range Call Queen in 1968 and Kari (Nielsen) Brennan was also a Range Call Queen. As a family they have volunteered countless hours to keep the oldest rodeo in the state going strong.
Through generations of ranching, the family has maintained an unswerving purpose and an incredible grip on tradition. Son Mike owns Pistol River Leather, where he makes and restores saddles and other incredible leather projects. Daughter Kay owns the Saddle Iron Ranch in Mesa, Colo., where she has cattle and horses and a photography business. Son Jim is the primary caretaker of the Piceance Creek Ranch now. He and his wife Bev still reside in the hand-hewn log cabin originally homesteaded in 1889. Son Dick resides in Mesa, Colo.
“People don’t think of ranching as fixing fence and spraying weeds but we fix 75 miles of fence every year,” Bill said.
Today, the ranch cares for 1,200 head of cattle at any given time. They enjoy their time at “Summer Camp” — without electricity or telephones, gas lights and gravity flow water — because it affords an opportunity for family time and an appreciation for quality of life. At one time, four sets of Brennans lived on the ranch.
“Working with your whole family on a day to day basis is a unique experience,” Neil Brennan said. “I love ranching, I really do.”
The knowledge the Brennans have gained from the ranching lifestyle is as advantageous as any education. They hold to a solid foundation of honesty and values like a handshake promise, looking each other in the eye, helping out whenever needed and doing what needs to be done to keep the ranch going. This love for the ranch and appreciation of family is the result of Bill and Nancy teaching accountability and responsibility by example.
Mike Brennan recalls a “good, solid upbringing, learning right from wrong.”
Bill and Nancy (nicknamed Muzzy) have managed a successful ranch, marriage and family. By holding tight to the simple things that really matter they’ve taught their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren the importance of family, tradition and doing things the way they’ve always been done. Because it works.