“Ranching is hard work and you’re dependent on the weather. You’ve got the elements you’ve got to face all the time, so some years are a little rougher and some years are better… I’ve seen the bottom drop out about three times in my day… And you don’t want to be buying all brand-new equipment all the time because that’ll break you. You don’t want to be in debt, because when they go down, you want to be able to keep your head up. A lot of people lost their places going too far in, getting far behind in their spending their money.”
An Excerpt from the Interview
NCSCC: Well tell me how big the ranch is and tell me about a day in the life of Fred Langdon.
Fred Langdon: Well, I have friends that like to know this. It’d be the same thing. If you ask me about how big I am — or something like this — it’s about me asking you how much money you’ve got in the bank. You know, I have people ask me how many head of cows you got? Well, how much money you got in the bank? You don’t mention that back and forth, so I kind of stay away from that.
NCSCC: Well you can see that’s a city person’s question – “How big is your ranch?” — so I appreciate that you’re giving me the reason why you’re not going to necessarily say.
Fred Langdon: Well the ranch, the home ranch, there’s 800 acres on the old ranch at home there. But we migrate with the cattle. We go to the mountains in the summer, and we’ve got property lease in the valleys. So in this country, if you kept them year round, you wouldn’t be keeping many cows, you know? Between the fields and the haying and the country, it’s just for a stopping off place, you know?
NCSCC: And is the ranch now a family business? Are you hiring people from outside too?
Fred Langdon: Well, I do hire a few in the spring to help clean ditches and help me hay and stuff like that, but I don’t hire anybody year round.
NCSCC: Pretty much a family affair?
Fred Langdon: Pretty much so. My brother – I’ve got a brother, Johnny Reader — he’s raising cattle and he’ll probably keep it carried on for a few more years after I quit. But this will probably be the last generation raising them I can see. I mean, with going to the mountains and that, I don’t see too much of it past this when us two are gone.
NCSCC: Why is that do you think?
Fred Langdon: I would say in California, it would be down here where we are, the land is getting taken up and split up and hard to get land to run cattle on and stuff. I’d say that’s the main reason, and like I said, there’s easier ways to make money and less hardship than out raising cattle. So that’s why I think it’s going to affect our operation we have, but eventually it’ll cease.
NCSCC: Have you ever thought about moving away from San Juan Ridge and living somewhere else? Or do you just love this place?
Fred Langdon: Well, I don’t want to be facetious about this whole situation, but the way the world has turned out up here, the town of San Juan is a dump. You see the streets. You can see all the people. They’re not working people, so yes, if I wasn’t born and raised in this area and have the roots that I have, yes I would up and leave. But there would be no reason to stay here. No one want to work, there’s nothing here. I would leave this area. But I was dealt these cards and this is where I am. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here. This is not a very good area anymore. So whenever-time you say North San Juan, I think of North San Juan, the town itself. You go there any day of the week on the streets and all these young people – and most of them are young – they don’t have any direction to go. There’s nothing to their life.
NCSCC: And they probably say the same thing, in a certain way, the young people around here. What I hear is there’s nothing for us to do.
Fred Langdon: Well, good thing you told me that. Now I could go to 90% of them that you just said there’s nothing for them to do, and I could tell them I can tell you where you can make $50,000 to $60,000 a year right now and they’ll say where? And I’ll say Newmont just put on 300 new people up in Elko, Nevada. Well they start another “why don’t these young people go up there when they can go to work?” Once I tell them they’re hiring, why don’t they leave? No, I can’t leave these pretty berries and trees and this. I’ve got to stay here and sit on the street in North San Juan. And you think they’re headed to Elko? No. I said 90. I guarantee 99% won’t go.
NCSCC: What’s the work that you’re talking about?
Fred Langdon: Mining. Newmont is the biggest United States mining company. They’re the ones that started the Empire Mine over here.
NCSCC: What are they mining?
Fred Langdon: Gold. They’re the one that had Empire Mine. That was Newmont. They’re in Nevada there, and they started another one in Wells. But they just got through putting on 300 more people. Well I could tell people when they’re putting them on and stuff, but they won’t go there. They’d rather live like a bunch of bums. So this is what we drawed here. What you do, you go up there and you work and you make money like the big oak tree. You get yourself. And then if you’d like to live in this area, you come back and you buy your piece of property and you live here. Now my son’s up there. He makes $95,000 a year going to work with a lunch pail in his hand for Newmont. How many people around here make $95,000? He’d buy a new house, he’d pay for it in ten years. What can he do around here?