Western Memories: Snyder proud of deep family roots in Rifle ranch life | PostIndependent.com

Western Memories: Snyder proud of deep family roots in Rifle ranch life

Amanda H. Miller
Citizen Telegram Contributor
Jim Snyder of Rifle still uses a horse-drawn trailer to feed hay to his cattle on his ranch between Rifle and Silt. Most ranchers use tractors or other motorized equipment to get hay to livestock.
Mike McKibbin/Citizen Telegram |

Jim Snyder owns and works the 300-acre ranch his dad bought in the 1920s and where Snyder grew up.

“That’s a pretty rare occasion anymore,” he said.

Snyder, 67, and his five brothers and sisters were all born on the ranch – no hospital trips for his mom. She lost seven of her 13 pregnancies, Snyder said.

“She worked, just like a man,” he said.

Ranching and farming was demanding work and physically grueling. It still is, but Snyder said he wouldn’t have it any other way.

His grandparents were immigrants from Germany that found their way to the Rifle area in the early 1900s. His mother’s father, Dick Everett, wasn’t educated but had a reputation as the best veterinarian in the area and folks from all along the Colorado River would bring their dogs, horses and other animals to him for treatment.

Snyder’s dad bought the ranch – near where Mamm Creek meets the Colorado River between Silt and Rifle – when he was just 19 or so.

“He and my mom lived in that home place their entire lives,” Snyder said.

Today, most of his brothers and sisters are scattered around the country in Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada and other parts of Colorado.

“But this is still home to all of them,” Snyder said. “They come back and visit and their kids and grandkids can relive their childhoods.”

Snyder had more interest in the ranch life than his siblings. He loved milking the cows on the dairy farm early in the morning, before and after school. He stuck around and went to Western State College, where he wrestled all conference three years and majored in office administration and physical education. He didn’t see the need for an agriculture degree. Snyder’s wrestling coach told him he had the best ag teacher there was in his father; what he needed was a business education.

After college, he taught special education and then physical education at Rifle High School for 10 years while helping his parents out on the farm.

Growing up, they raised sugar beets and potatoes and had a small dairy farm. When Snyder was just a sophomore at Rifle High School, he saved up his money and bought 160 acres up West Divide Creek.

“That’s how I really got into the ranching,” he said.

They used the land as summer pasture for a small herd of cattle, Snyder added. He still owns that property, too.

After Snyder took over the ranch for his dad, he expanded the cattle operation and eventually built a feedlot. After the federal government passed regulations for feedlots that didn’t allow runoff to flow into creeks and rivers, he had to shut down.

Now Snyder raises hay, has a small cattle operation and focuses primarily on horses. He has more than 700 horses he rents out to dude ranches and hunters.

His three adult children – Shane and twins Trent and Terra – all live in the area.

“We don’t have to have Thanksgiving or Christmas to get together,” he said. “I see my kids or grandkids every day. One or all of them will stop by and have a cup of coffee or a meal and we’ll just visit.”

That sense of connectedness used to be part of life in the Rifle area. There were just 75 kids in Snyder’s graduating class and everyone knew each other. Now, people are always coming and going. There’s a transience, not just in Rifle, but the whole country, Snyder said.

He’s grateful that his family has managed to stay close through the changing times.

“If one of us has a problem, it’s all of our problems,” Snyder said. “We’ve gone through tough times, but we haven’t gone through them alone. We’re really tight and that’s a blessing to me.”

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