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Thu, Oct. 17

Dudes and dudettes pay to participate in EZ Ranch roundup

About 115 wranglers and wranglerettes converged on the banks of Agua Fria River Oct. 12-15 for the annual EZ Ranch Roundup and Cattle Drive hosted by El Zaribah Shrine Mounted Patrol Unit.

Ranch owner Scott Smith said his father Lester, who died this year, was a long-time Shriner and started the roundup tradition years ago. "He donated the use of the ranch as a way for them (mounted patrol unit) to raise money.

"It's a family event for us and the people who participate. It gives people a chance to see what ranch life is like and learn some things. Too many kids these days think hamburger comes from McDonald's."

Guest cowboys and cowgirls pay $200 to be part of a traditional western roundup that includes gathering and sorting cows and calves, castrating, inoculating and branding them. Smith said EZ Ranch has a spring and fall roundup.

"Funds go to Shrine hospitals, transportation units and mounted patrol units," said Joe Simmons, mounted patrol unit captain and friend of Lester. "We've got 40 mounted patrol members and have 15 out here for the roundup. Lester told me years ago that the Lord blessed him with this beautiful place and he was happy to share it with others."

Shrine Hospitals has 22 pediatric hospitals in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, according to its Web site. Shrine hospitals provide specialized care for orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate at no charge regardless of financial status or relationship to a Shriner.

"We also have three burn units worldwide," Simmons said.

"Each unit does its own fundraising and is responsible for generating income to the Temples," said Capt. Doug Kurbat of HayLo Ranch in Dewey. "The money we make off the roundup gets divided up."

Most roundup guests camped at EZ Ranch and brought their own horses and tack, but what they didn't have they could borrow or rent, including horses.

"We've got 640 acres of deeded land, and 13 sections under lease," Scott Smith said. "We get everyone out here for these roundups from attorneys to ex-cops to construction workers."

Married with two children, Smith inherited the ranch when his father died. Besides cattle and horses, Smith raises European Red Deer, American Bison (buffalo,) swine, peacocks and ducks; some of the animals are for profit, and some just happen to live there.

Sitting alongside the Agua Fria River and straddling it in some areas, Smith has his share of trespassers trying to view the bison or deer. "I open the ranch up to the public a couple of times a year, but we like our privacy and don't want people just driving around," he said. "People coming around uninvited can be a real problem."

With the roundup ending on Sunday, Saturday is the busy day for what veteran hands jokingly refer to as the "city-slicker roundup." This year, an unexpected storm moved in Friday night. City slickers woke Saturday morning to persistent rain and the ground a morass of mud. The traditional gymkhana was cancelled but the Saturday night grand finale barbecue and dance went on as scheduled.

In spite of the roundup and weather, it's just another day for ranch hand Dave Emden. "Animals still have to be fed and work has to be done," he said while tossing feed to the restless cattle just brought in from the range by roundup participants.

"We get all kinds of donations and sponsors for this," Smith said. "It just gets bigger and better every year. And think of all the kids that benefit from this."

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