Tales from the Chimineas Ranch: A Book Review

What comes to mind when you think of “cowboy life”? Spending days on horseback, gathering up cattle, and a branding thrown in once-in-awhile, is probably the impression the general population has of cowboy life. Real cowboy life is actually far more vast and varied, more dangerous, more humorous, and more interesting. Mike Knecht’s book, “Tales from the Chimineas Ranch”, re-tells the real stories of real SLO county cowboys living the cowboy life in a time and a place that won’t be repeated. Mr. Knecht takes the reader along for the real cowboy ride as he tells the tales of his experience working the Chimineas Ranch in SLO County.

Charismatic, Colorful Cowboys working the Chimineas Ranch

Each chapter introduces the reader to one of the charismatic, colorful cowboys that worked the Chimineas Ranch. Cowboy skills are truly an art and each character brought his or her own personality, experience and unique gifts to the ranch. There was no such thing as a normal day, as the characters and situations changed from day to day. The one thing they all had in common was a connection to Pat Russell, horse trader and Ranch Manager of the Chimineas cattle ranch.

The dry dust and sticky sweat of summer was replaced by the frigid cold and flooding wet of the winter along with the seasonal changes of the cattle operation. Cattle got lost in the brush, trailers broke down, young horses got quick lessons, experienced horses saved the day, tall tales were told and life on the ranch rolled through these ebbs and flows carving a life of self-reliance and hardship.

Author Mike Knecht re-creates the life he lived with these real cowboys. Each chapter is a story itself allowing the reader to peruse the book and read what seems interesting. The horse enthusiast will appreciate these cowboys’ fine riding skills. The casual reader will be transported to a different world where hard-work, danger, grit and camaraderie are elements of each story.

Life on the Ranch

Mr. Knecht describes life at the ranch in this way, “To me the ranch was special because when you sat down to eat at the huge table in the dining room at the Chimineas, you were sitting down in a different world. You were in the world of self-reliance and hardship. Out in the shop, there were tools to make and repair leather, fabricate and repair metal, and all manner of wood-working implements. When you went out and walked to the tack room and saw over thirty pairs of handmade rawhide reins attached to thirty inlaid silver bits, you knew you weren’t in Walmart. Then there were Pat’s collection of Navajo rugs, handmade many years ago when Indians did that sort of thing. The bits and saddles and spurs were part of the history of the Alta Sierra, not objects mass-produced in China and headed for the landfill almost as soon as they were taken out of their plastic packages.”

Life at the Chimineas ranch was real. The experience gained was real. The relationships were real. The memories are real, and now captured in this book, “Tales from the Chimineas Ranch”. Pick up a copy for yourself and a friend. You’ll enjoy stepping into this cowboy world, and you’ll appreciate the true value of a real cowboy.

The book is self-published by the author and is available on his website or a Kindle version from Amazon. Amazon has a free Kindle app for your device.

Former Pony Clubber, Eventer and Dressage rider who balanced training and showing with getting a college degree (from Cal Poly SLO), becoming a wife and raising a family.

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