Heritage at Its Best

Comprised entirely of private land, Wyoming's D Bar D Ranch is run by the same family that started it in 1949.

A passing thunderstorm at the D Bar D Ranch leaves the air crisp and cool, a light pine scent wafting through the valley. Deer graze on rain-sweetened grass, and wild turkeys scrounge over the hillside. In the not-so-distant background, Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains gleam gold in the late-evening light.Hay meadows flank a winding road leading up to the main ranch house. At the corrals, an antique log barn archives the rodeo and ranching stories, hardships, victories and adversities that have echoed through its white-chinked walls.

Ranch owner Billy Doenz enters the house after spending a long day swathing and raking hay to be baled. He spent more time than anticipated working on the baler. As a result, the hay cut today most likely will have to be raked again as the thunderstorm's gusty winds scatter the neat rows.

Billy's father, Herb, who lives a couple miles away on the ranch, pulls up to the house. Close behind him, Billy's wife, Theresa, and son William arrive from feeding horses at the barn. As the group gathers in the kitchen, Herb wonders how his horse, Wilford (a gift from longtime saddle pal Wilford Brimley), is healing from the cut on his leg. Theresa, who'd taken him to the veterinarian, reports that although the wound was deep, there wasn't any muscle or nerve damage and that the wound should heal okay. Both Herb and Billy comment that the 7-year-old horse is the best calf-roping prospect they've had in a long time.

Herb and Billy briefly discuss the haying and various ranch activities. Billy tells Herb that lightning struck the neighbor's haystack only minutes ago, catching it on fire. Luckily, their hay reserves escaped harm's way. William, 17, and his sister, Phoebe, 12, give brief accounts of their days before heading outside with their own agendas. William tends to his hunting dog while Phoebe, fishing pole in hand, heads to a small pond in hopes of catching the sole fish surviving there.