Christopher Creek column

Bar X Ranch owner Mike Hemovich with columnist Rod Britain.

Christopher Creek got a shot in the arm last week with a 4-3/4 inch total of mostly rain and a dab of snow. Our Novembers are not normally wet, however, this one was exceptional. There is also a really good probability of a couple of inches more coming this Thanksgiving week. If you are reading this on Friday morning, a good foot or more of snow is coming down. This year’s moisture has come in fits and starts. We currently stand at just over 25 inches on the year, four inches shy of the annual average. Some in our area have had more. Bill, out in Ponderosa Springs, nine miles east of us, has measured 34 inches to date.

Why is this important, you ask? As a ponderosa pine forest surrounds us, the condition of that forest is always in the back of your mind. The more water we receive, the more we can relax.

Christopher Mountain stands between the Creek and the historic Bar X Ranch, just 10 miles to the south.

On Monday, our local Realtor, Susan Keown, drove us across Colcord Road and down the Chamberlain Trail, a trip of 18 miles to get to the ranch. Upon our arrival, my mind raced back more than 30 years. Back then, the small, dirt-brown-painted ranch house, sitting close to the road, seemed quite desolate. Now the ranch headquarters sports new additions, a coat of white paint and a vibrant, inviting appeal. There are new guest quarters, outbuildings and a large, open-air pavilion for entertaining. The rancher met us at the driveway and invited us in. Susan introduced Mike Hemovich, the owner since 2006.

My attention was immediately drawn to the pine plank floor, laid out in such a way to feature a large Bar X logo in the center. We sat down at the dining table and began a wide-ranging conversation that lasted two hours. He spoke briefly of the first settlers, the Sigsby brothers, and the siege at the original ranch house, a mile back up the trail.

Hemovich is 77 and a U.S. Army veteran who served two tours in Vietnam.

He told us that he and his wife, Diana, had planned for a life of sailing or living out West on a ranch upon retirement. They tried sailing. When the Bar X became available, they decided to be ranchers. He says the value of the ranch was in the grazing allotment that goes with it. That allotment is 55,000 acres with 140 miles of fence. It currently supports 130 head of cattle. The cowboys who worked for him aided his introduction to the cattle industry.

His dedication has grown from preservation to range improvement and enlisting fellow ranchers to engage in programs such as drought mitigation, range monitoring, wildlife habitat rehabilitation, and endangered species protection.

One program saw the conversion of the numerous well pumps throughout the range to solar power. With that was the building of trick tanks and water distribution techniques. The 12-year program of range monitoring with the University of Arizona has to do with 14 acres of grids located throughout the allotment. Without getting too far into the weeds, they track the growth of every blade of grass.

Working with Arizona Game and Fish, he has been introduced to the plight of the Mexican spotted owl, the narrow head garter snake, and the leopard frog.

Hemovich is currently involved with 10 separate agencies and groups. He is presently the president of the Society for Range Management, a member of the Payson Natural Resource Committee and the Natural Resource Conservation Society. He was the 2018 Wildlife Habitation Rancher of the Year. Diana is president of the Gila County Cowbelles.

It is my sense that Hemovich has made the grade as a rancher and to him goes my thanks for being so gracious with his time and educating me.

Our old friend, Jim White, is currently at Banner Payson Medical Center, Room 3, recovering from a hip fracture. Dee says he will remain there for his rehab. They resided in Tonto Estates for many years. Get well, Jim.

Santa called to tell us he will be in the Creek for the Firebelles Firemen’s Dinner on Dec. 13 and will make an appearance to visit with the kids at their Christmas party at the fire station Dec. 14. He is happy to hear we have some snow as he has worn out the runners on the sleigh landing on bare ground ... and that’s another week in the Creek.

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