Heidi Redd named to Cowgirl Hall of Fame
A Real American Cowgirl – Heidi Redd
I am on my way to interview Heidi Redd, so I am driving down Indian Creek to the Dugout Ranch listening to the John Denver song, I’d Rather be a Cowboy.
Heidi is going to be inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, TX. If I am going to interview a real cowgirl, I should at least look the part. I am wearing my cowboy boots and my only western shirt that has snap buttons.
I don’t have a cowboy hat, I don’t own a horse and never raised a cow, but I do like fillet mignon and since I identify as a cowboy, I would appreciate it if y’all would say “howdy partner” when we meet as that would help me validate my inner cowboy.
At my age, I just want to put it out there, when I say, “the other day” I could be talking about anytime from yesterday to 15 years ago.
The other day, when I was 17, I worked bucking hay bales for Heidi at the Dugout Ranch. That was back when I knew everything there was to know about life.
Basically, the job consisted of lifting hay bales onto a moving tractor and trying not to get bit by a rattlesnake or get an armed chopped off by a rusty farm implement made for that very purpose.
When I first started, the hay bales weighed 60 pounds and we worked eight hours. As I get older and my memory improves, I am sure they were 100-pound bales and we worked twelve-hour days.
At the end of two weeks, Heidi sat me down and told me that perhaps being a cowboy was not where my talents were going to be best utilized but with the right education I could become gainfully employed or at least become a writer or work for the government.
Heidi is the real deal. She is a cowgirl, it is not her job, it is her calling in life.
She stands five feet tall but she casts a shadow as long as Six Shooter peak at sunset.
She is as resolute and determined as the iconic sandstone cliffs and formations that surround the Dugout Ranch. She and the land are one.
She has witnessed the changes creeping across the west such as people moving in, increased industrialized recreation, elk transplanted onto the mountain, and world class climbing discovered by masses of climbers enjoying the spring sun.
Heidi was raised in Blackfoot, ID with two brothers and a father that told her she could become anything she wanted and do whatever she wanted to do.
She said, “You can be whatever you want, you just need a dream, a love of what you do, and be willing to work hard. …You can do whatever you want, but it starts with a dream, fed by your passion.”
Armed with confidence and her father’s lessons, she went on to be the first female sky diver in Utah and jumped 198 times at airshows and other venues.
She became the Vice President of the Cattleman’s Association, has received a Wallace Stegner award and once her beef sold for the highest price in the nation, which is the true measure of her peer’s admiration and recognition.
If someone writes the history of San Juan County, an entire chapter would be needed to describe the Dugout Ranch and Heidi’s part in it.
The stories are bigger than life.
The Scorup-Somerville Cattle Company turned into Redd Ranches, which morphed into The Indian Creek Cattle Company and now The Nature Conservancy owns it and most recently, the federal government created the Bears Ears National Monument.
Heidi has lived down in Indian Creek at the Dugout Ranch for over 56 years, before there was a paved road down there.
Her start was humble, she and Robert lived in the back of the cook house and there was no electricity, phone, TV, or internet; nothing remotely resembling modern conveniences.
The Indian Creek Cattle Company ran thousands of cattle in Beef Basin, the Dark Canyon Plateau, and in Indian Creek on over 350,000 acres of public and private land.
Heidi says, “I often feel I never owned the Dugout Ranch….this place has owned me.
“From the minute I dropped into this valley it has been my journey and my absolute love to keep this place free of development and its beautiful natural state.”
Heidi has worked as a rancher, herded cows, stayed out at the line camp for weeks at a time, cooked over a fire, and rode her trusty horse, Waddie alongside the ranch cowboys in the dangerous, harsh, unforgiving land for decades, where a mistake usually leads to a rescue or a body retrieval.
Calling a Heidi a cowgirl, is an understatement. Heidi eventually took over the entire operation at a time when women couldn’t get a home loan without a husband to cosign the loan.
She found herself as a single mother raising a family, operating a large cattle ranch, in a landscape being overused by many and loved by all.
With all the challenges of a large operation squeezed from every direction, she had to adapt to make ends meet and keep the business viable.
Heidi tapped into TV commercials and movies, determined to do whatever was necessary to make the ranch successful.
Hoping to ensure for her posterity a working cattle ranch and not another golf course with condos, nearly 25 years ago Heidi partnered with The Nature Conservancy.
She sold the ranch to the TNC to use as a working ranch and research center hoping that science and reason would prevail as they strive to find better more sustainable ways to ranch in the high deserts of southeast Utah.
Heidi has enough awards and accolades to cover several office walls, but for her, I sensed this award is special because it recognizes her as a simple dedicated cowgirl sworn to take care of her cattle, her ranch workers, and the landscape she fell in love with.
She says, “In some small way I represent many others that work so hard. This award recognizes my efforts to put on my hat and spend a long day in the saddle in scorching heat and sometimes bitter cold, just like other cowboys all over the west, doing what I love, in an iconic landscape that makes me grateful to have been a part of its history.”