Meet Suzanne Montero
We run a Red Angus cow/calf operation here at Leonard Creek ranch, 90 miles north of Winnemucca. I live in the middle of nowhere on a wonderful hidden paradise away from cell phone service and people. I like to call it God’s country. I enjoy being somewhere, where I can get off my horse and pee if I want to without anyone seeing. My two sons Glynn Montero and Leonard Montero have homes at Leonard Creek and are full time employees. Glynn is the manager of the ranch. His wife Susan is an aide at the Denio, Nevada rural school. The school has 9 students in various grades; from kindergarten to 8th grade. He has three kids: Trenten, Savannah and Caden. Caden is in 8th grade and loves science, Trenten is 27 and competes professionally in bareback riding and Savannah just returned from traveling all over Asia and Australia. Leonard works and also runs a separate business of selling horses; his business is called Broken Heart Quarter Horses. Leonard has his wife Jennifer out here. She is a school teacher in Winnemucca. Leonard has two sons Jake and Colt. My other two sons Daniel and Mike Montero have part time homes out here. Mike Montero is the Humboldt country judge and Daniel is my son who loves nature, enjoys hiking, the company of his two dogs and spends time traveling the world and playing Frisbee. Mike’s daughter Madison, 20, is a part time employee here at the ranch. I have a daughter who just had a baby boy. Her name is Suzanne Montero; she is a rodeo coach and university teacher. We have two other ranch employees: Jake and Mike. Mike is from Missouri and has been working with us for a while now. He owns a white Chihuahua named Jake (not the other employee lol) that rides in the tractor with him and the four-wheeler. Jake is our new employee that is a younger cowboy. Other than that we have various and way too many dogs at the ranch; everything from Huskies to Great Danes. I have four dogs (a cow dog, a purebred Chihuahua, and two other Chihuahua crosses that are a bit larger, that are with me at all times. They ride my four-wheeler with me, move cows with me, go to my doctor’s appointments along my side and are my very best friends. We have a pet deer that roams free and follows our help wanting grain. She has babies every year and brings more and more deer into our home. We also have an infestation of cats at the moment from a lose tomcat that is strongly racking up the numbers of offspring.
I grew up in Hollywood, California. My daddy owned a stable below the Hollywood sign. As a little girl I worked there and fed the horses and maintained the business. I was always raised to work hard from the very beginning of time. I would never leave a job until it was done well. Everyday I would walk across the Hollywood stars going to school. When I was older I traveled to visit my brother in Kings River Valley, Nevada at Kings River Ranch. I met Frenchy Montero on that trip. The evening I met him, we went to Leonard Creek Ranch to spend the night. At the time Frenchy had a girlfriend. The night I went there we were traveling out in the middle of nowhere on a long stretch of dirt road, in order to get to Leonard Creek. I remember telling myself that there was no way anyone could possibly live down that road… and I ended up spending the next 56 years of my life there. I returned to visit Nevada and went to the Battle Mountain rodeo and at that time started dating Frenchy Montero. Everything moved quickly after that. We were engaged by December and married by February at the Winnemucca Catholic church. The wedding reception was at the Sonoma Inn, which is now called the Winners Inn. I married into a ranching family and that is how my career in the beef industry all began. I have been involved with ranching for 56 years, and plan on staying here in God’s country until I die. My husband French passed away in 2006 of a fatal brain tumor. My husband was never a cowboy and when I first came out here women and children always had the backseat, we held the bunch, pushed and dragged and never got promoted. I finally had the opportunity to work cows instead of holding the bunch after my husband passed away. I work as hard as anybody and I can mother up cows and calves as good as anybody, but it was just not a woman’s place. I hold the bunch, because my son who is the manager works the herd. I do a better job than him. My son is too aggressive and makes the whole heard explode. I worked full time out here and just started receiving a paycheck after my husband died. When I was raising my children out here, I would pack a kid in front of my horse with me and lead another. The others would be loose on their horses around me. I would always worry where my children went. I would worry myself sick over where my kids were. My oldest Glynn, disappeared once when we were moving cattle at the age of ten. He finally showed up hours later with a baby burro in front of his horse and found it alone. My children were always causing trouble and making me worry.
In the summer I go out about 6:30 and spend all day in a tractor and I spend off days moving cattle in the mountains and working on my garden daily. In the fall we are branding, gathering cattle and weaning calves. Winter months are spent feeding cattle and watching the herds and of course in the spring we start calving, watching heifers, checking cows and still feeding. I love all the seasons, and I love the variety of works that comes with every season. I do really enjoy haying season at the moment, I never used to do it, but with age I have started to take more of an interest in driving tractors and helping in the fields. It is a unique change for me. I can tell you my least favorite: fall. That is when all of my grandchildren head off to college or back to school. It is when my allergies break out and it is the time of the year when my son Julian Montero passed away at the age of 11. My son owned a steer that he loved and would ride with a saddle. One day when he was picking apples in the orchard, he was standing up in his saddle on his pet steer and the steer spooked. My son’s foot got caught in his stirrup and he was drug to practical death. We rushed him to the Winnemucca hospital; however, we were an hour and a half away. For 90 minutes I attempted to keep my son alive on a hell bent trip to the nearest hospital. He died later in the emergency room. My son and I had a great relationship. Every spring when I started the garden, all of my children would complain of the gardening work, besides Julian. He loved helping me with that project. My favorite thing about ranch life is the various seasons. From calving, haying, irrigating you never get tired on the ranching lifestyle and duties because they constantly are changing.
The hardest part about ranch life is the death loss; I can’t stand the death loss of baby calves in the spring. It’s hard to see anything die, and I fight for the lives of those calves during Nevada’s sometimes very cold springs. I am really hard on my employees during that time, because we must be checking them constantly and making sure they have every ingredient to become one-hundred percent healthy. We will carry calves off a mountain that are motherless on the back of our horses. If a mother loses her calf and in another cow-calf pair the mother dies we will skin the dead calf and tie on the skin to the motherless calf. This allows the calfless mother to be able to smell her original calf on the new baby and take it under her wing, thinking it is her original calf. We give every cow and calf shots to prevent diseases. My workers, sons and I watch them every day and ride horses through the herds checking on cows. We are constantly moving cattle. We take them up in the mountains, but cows never want to stay. They prefer the flats. We separate our heifers with calves from the mass of cows so we can keep a better eye on them. I don’t have anything to do when machinery breaks down. However, I do break them down more often than not. I am constantly getting stranded out in the desert because the tractor got stuck in a mud hole or my truck did. My sons or grandchildren will find me walking home long distances every once in a while. Just the other day Glynn asked me how I already broke down the new four-wheeler. We found out later it was out of oil. When my worker was fixing the problem, the cap blew off because it was not tightened. Oil shot everywhere and even got on my powdered milk for the calves. I was covered in it.
A couple of years ago, I had a really good employee working for me. Well, one day we were getting ready to go feed cows and police officers showed up and arrested my employee. He had a serious record and was on a wanted list. I asked the cops if they would let him finish feeding cows first, but they declined my offer! Another time one of my employees was a bit crazy and decided he wanted me dead. The man shot a handgun at me and hit me in the hand. I ran at full speed towards my house, where all of my kids had pulled out their guns and hid in the house with me. We called the cops and he was later arrested. Another time a man that you may have heard of named Ronald Bristlewolf, murdered a few people and lived in holes in the ground near some natural hot springs not too far from my ranch. He was bat shit crazy and would eat on our dead cows. When he was trialed for murder, I testified with others that he was insane. Bristlewolf died in prison.
The day we bought out the ranch from the Bidart family, that we originally split Leonard Creek with was a huge moment that stands out to me. Owning the ranch all Montero was very special to us. Shortly after that things took a dark turn for a while. My son Julian died that fall, we were in a terrible drought and one of our windmills went out causing a bunch of cows to die. I would go out alone and move cows that were alive out of the area. I would get so dehydrated on these cattle drives and it was before plastic water bottles were invented, that I would drink out of cow imprints of water. The cows would step on dried up springs and their imprints would bring a little bit of water up to ground level. I always knew that if bugs were floating in the water then the water was safe to drink.
Ranch life isn’t any more stressful than any other life.. You know your seasons, you know your responsibilities and you are around animals and God’s wonderful creations. If I was new to ranching, it would be very stressful. It was actually extremely stressful for me when I first jumped into the way of a being a cattlewoman. I came from the city lights of Los Angeles to the huge open rural starry skies of Northern Nevada. I had to learn a new way of life. The life out here was not easy for a woman at first. Everyone and everything would try to run you off. The strong women stayed; I stayed. You had to be strong willed. I learned how to cook everything. Everything was homemade. You never dared buy a loaf of bread. We made everything. Of course in these modern times, I have gotten over that. My husband Frenchy, would cut meat. I never liked to kill and I never watched when animals were butchered. The only part I would participate in was gutting and plucking chickens. I have never killed anything on purpose. Occasionally, we have those awful days when a dog gets run over, a horse colics or a cow dies and it makes me sick to my stomach. Those who live in the depths of the cities will never understand the way of life we live and the peace of it; not having a neighbor within 20 miles of us and the quietness of living in the middle of nowhere. It is good for the mindset to escape the noise of the world and live peaceful in the mountains. It is hard for urban life community members to wrap their minds around the things we do out here. For example, impaling a bloated cow with a knife and sticking a straw in the wound to save a cow’s existence. I once watched a bull shove a pregnant cow off of a cliff. My crew and I rushed to the bottom only to find a cow that was slowly dying, taking in shorter and shorter breaths. I jumped off my horse, pulled out a knife and cut the calf out. Today the calf’s name is Tumbleweed and is our pet.
The whole world needs to know our story and appreciate what ranchers and farmers do. We don’t want to share the number of cows we run because that is private. Our stories need to be shared. The world needs to acknowledge that ranchers and farmers are just as much heroes when compared to firefighters, police officers, doctors, etc. We keep the world fed. A lot of individuals do not appreciate us, many even protest us. We may be selling animals for the food market, but I can tell you one thing, I love animals more than people. I care for them; I save and fight for their lives. I won’t let our workers move certain hay bales sometimes because a bird will have a nest built on one. I have had a vet tell me to put down one of my old and sick dogs. I refused and healed the dog myself. That dog lived another few years. My neighbor was going to put down a horse that had an extreme leg wound from getting caught in a barbed wire fence. I said I would take the horse, and now today that horse is one of my favorite long day mountain riding horses.
If you want to make your way in ranching just do it. Be confident. Don’t over think it. You have to be brave and stubborn and say you won’t give up on your dream. It will be hard at first but very rewarding later. The ranching life is an unforgettable one, a unique one. If your dreams don’t scare you, then you are not making the most of your life.