California Cattle Drive – A Likely Story: America's Heartland Special Episode

>>Coming up on America’s Heartland, we’re visiting a place you’ve likely never heard of before! >>It’s a friendly town, everybody knows everybody, everybody knows everybody’s business. [laughs] >>We have a t-shirt that says, “Where the hell’s Likely.” [laughs] >>Saddle up and come along on a cattle drive in the tiny town of Likely, California >>You hate to give up what you worked for all your life >>As the rancher leading the cattle looks to secure his family legacy >>We are about to turn this outfit over to the kids, it’s what we need to do I mean, it’s our livelihood >>You gonna stick around? >>Sure, I- I peeled off already Went to go see what- what else is out there for a short time and realized how much I liked this place >>The town struggles with an unknown future >>They’re threatening to close our post office And if we don’t have a post office and school, we don’t have a town >>Meet the people who are working to keep Likely and its cattle ranching heritage alive for future generations >>Up until the last few years when cattle prices have got good, there just wasn’t enough income to go around >>Most of us who live here hate to see what’s happening >>Lots of changes, lots of changes >>Stay tuned for a very special America’s Heartland ♪♪ >>America’s Heartland is made possible by >>CropLife America- Representing the companies whose modern farming innovations help America’s farmers provide nutritious food for communities around the globe The Fund for Agriculture Education- A fund created by KVIE to support America’s Heartland programming Contributors include the following ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ >>There’s an old saying that the first family makes the ranch and the second one uses it and the third one loses it [laughs] so we hope that’s not the case. [laughs] ♪♪ >>All this stuff takes a while, but it’s good for all day once you get it on From the school of hard knocks is the way I learned most of it >>You gonna take another saddle? >>This is my old saddle that came off JT >>Oh. They’re- they’re thinking, y’know, there’s other ways to do this, y’know, and so they’re gonna be able to find out on their own Well we are just about ready to go I guess >>Rancher Ken McGarva has cattle to move ♪♪ ♪♪ >>Soon warm sunshine will give way to snowfall in the Warner Mountains where the 250 mother cows and calves have been grazing all summer ♪♪ Today is the second leg of the 20 mile trip ♪♪ Ken remembers his first time making this journey well >>When I was ten years old, I went out to wrangle the horses and I neglected to cinch up my saddle tight enough after I put it on again And we were chasing these horses down a hill side, and my horse stumbled in a badger hole on the hill And my saddle turned, and I pulled the horse over and she fell down and rolled over on top of me >>65 years later, Ken’s daughter Rhonda and his son Shane are here

Also helping, the next generation of the McGarva family and some ranch hands It’s time to get the cattle off the mountain and back to the home ranch just outside the town of Likely, California for the winter ♪♪ It’s Ken McGarva’s last time leading this annual journey ♪♪ ♪♪ As the cattle start moving, Likely, California comes to life ♪♪ [sound of coffee pouring] At the Most Likely Café, cook Gennie Canon (??? ) is heating things up ♪♪ Trucker Walter Sphar is ready to haul some cattle >>Just down the street Carol Weed is getting the day started at the Likely General Store >>They come in for groceries, dog food, oil for their car, a gift for a wedding You name it, I have it. [laughs] >>The eclectic general store fits this town with a funny name Townspeople drop in for daily provisions >>Okay, we’ll get some more ordered >>There’s a gas pump out front >>It has gas and diesel >>Which is good news for folks passing through on Highway 395 Likely is located in Modoc County, California There are less than three people per square mile in this rural northeast county on the Oregon border >>It’s a friendly town; everybody knows everybody, everybody knows everybody’s business. [laughs] >>Six, seven, eight, nine, ten and twenty >>Okay, thank you >>Right now is hunting season I don’t think I’ve had a hunter in today, yet though >>Carol and her husband moved to Likely from the California Coast 38 years ago and bought the store a few years later >>The first five years it was 24-hours a day, and that’s not real easy on a new marriage. [laughs] It was- we’d get tired of each other But then after that I started working at the school >>She says Likely was a great place to raise their daughter Carol’s husband recently passed away, so now she runs the store with some volunteer help from Ken McGarva’s granddaughter, Richelle The store is Likely’s gathering spot for locals >>They all come in a couple times a day >>That’s Ken’s wife Jackie dropping in to say, “Hello.” ♪♪ >>Well, it’s been a way of life and a good- good living for me >>If you need something hauled in Likely, call Walter Sphar His trucking and tire business is rolling along with 8 employees; he’s been at it a while When he and his wife Joyce first got to Likely, Harry Truman was in the White House >>48, 49, 50 1948, 49, and 50 And it was a booming town then We had two grocery stores, a hotel We had an all-night restaurant, and a bar Saloon and another shop We had a peat moss plant here at that time, worked 8 to 10 people all the time And it was a booming town >>They fell in love with the town and never left Work was easier to come by back then >>In those days it took a lot of people to feed the cows, put up the hay Now one guy can take this new machinery out there and he can put up more hay in one day than 20 would >>Some of my older uncles first came here, they were working on the railroad between Madeline and Likely and the railroad crew started coming in, there was like 2 to 4 thousand people lived in Likely there at one time And a lot of them, y’know, thery just migrated on through as the railroad went, or most of them

‘Cause now the population sign says 200, but we have a hard time counting 200. [laughs] >>In fact the 200 is covered up and the sign needs updating again Officially 63 people now live in Likely The railroad and other employers that once made Likely a boom town are long gone >>Other than the ranching industry that’s here, well, there’s not much to keep it going >>The opportunity that brought Ken McGarva’s ancestors Walter Sphar and Carol Weed, to Likely is fading The school where Carol worked for 28 years closed its doors a few years ago The few remaining kids in the town take the bus to a nearby city >>It was sad, none of us wanted it to close and they’re threatening to close our post office And if we don’t have a post office and school, we don’t have a town I don’t think, and most everybody here feels that way >>It’s a familiar refrain in rural communities With few jobs available, the next generation is forced to move away Carol Weed’s daughter now lives 300 miles away in Eureka Walter Sphar’s children moved away too >>I never wanted to move, I like the country; a lot of nice people here They’ve all been good loyal people and it’s a good place I don’t know of anywhere I’d rather be If I was to quit today I wouldn’t want to go anywhere I’ve traveled all over state of California and half the other states around here and I don’t know of a place I’d rather be than right here ♪♪ [cows mooing] >>Ken McGarva didn’t leave Likely either, he and his brother bought their father’s ranch in 1968 ♪♪ His daughter Rhonda lives here and helps with the cattle >>How we doing so far, Rhonda? >>We’re doing pretty good, we’ve got quite a bit- few- many calves in the back That I’d like to see more cows back here but I think the leads still up here, so we’ll- if we can get the calves pushed ahead of some of the cows and they get the cows wrapped in around behind ’em, you’ll some mothered up >>So you wanna- you wanna get the mothers and the calves together? >>Yes, yes. There’s a lot less stress on all of ’em, your calves will use a lot less energy when they’re- know that their mother’s just a little ways away Instead of- they think their mothers are still back behind us in the field where they just came from >>It’s a family affair Ken’s son Shane lives near Sacramento but still knows how to crack a bull whip, so he comes back to help round up the cattle [calling to cattle] Shane’s son-in-law Justin and his son Jared are also keeping the cattle moving Boy, it strikes me this is a real family operation you got here >>Yeah sure, and most of the people that work for us if they aren’t related, we- y’know, we usually feel like they’re family eventually But definitely, it’s a family- a family operation for more than a hundred years now, and we’ve really, really been lucky and blessed This place has given us a lot, and we try hard to give back to it. [laughs] >>You know, I notice, you know a lot of family members in various families, ranching and farming families, generation after generation, they kind of peel off, move away >>Sure >>You gonna stick around? >>Sure, I peeled off already Went to go see what- what else is out there for a short time and realized how much I liked this place So, yeah, I’m gonna stick around My wife’s having a little baby and we have a- we already have a nine year old girl and so, if they want to stick around they can and do this and if not, they can go check out the world their own way, so >>And tell me about coming back, you decided to come back >>Yeah, went off to school and got a teaching credential and stuck that out for a couple of years And this is where my hearts at, so Working for Ken has been a blessing, it’s been very challenging at times ’cause we’re not always seeing eye to eye, but for the most part, it’s been a very nice way to wake up every day and go live my life

I couldn’t ask for a more fair boss, and we’ve learned a lot from my grandparents, and my dad, and uncle and aunt >>Keeping family close is important Ken’s brother Duane hung up his ranching hat several years ago and is the historian and photographer of the family The first McGarva’s arrived in California from Scotland in 1903 >>And then in 1912, my grandparents, my dad, two brothers and a sister came over and they were going down to Liverpool to get on the Titanic, but they had over-booked it, or had filled it up, and so they didn’t get on, which was a pretty good break. [laughs] >>Duane’s photographs capture the beauty of the area and this family’s heritage >>One thing I want to mention about this valley and Likely, we have all had good neighbors, and that- everybody gets along, works together and everybody gathers everybody else’s cattle in the fall You don’t ride by and say, “Well that’s so and so’s, he can come get his own cow.” It- we don’t do that here My father and all the other neighbors around here, their fathers and grandfathers, they all worked together so it’s just passed on down, generation to generation ♪♪ >>Ken McGarva is in front today Alone, leading the cattle He can’t see his family members bringing up the rear, they are too far back He must trust that they are keeping the cattle in line In a few months those cowboys in the back will get their chance to be in charge The next generation of McGarva’s will purchase a portion of his cattle ranch And like that faith he has in them now, he’ll have to trust that they’re getting the job done >>Oh it’s- it’s what we need to do I mean, it’s our livelihood A lot of guys say, “What are you going to do when you retire?” Some of them say, “Buy a ranch.” [laughs] We are about to turn this outfit over to the kids and Jackie and I bought another house across this valley over here, and so we’re- we’ll be moving over there in the next few months, and see how the kids make out I guess >>Ken and Jackie got married as teenagers and have spent their life on the ranch Full-time ranchers don’t get many days off, so after Ken retires Jackie is looking forward to being able to travel >>That’s on our honeymoon [laughs] >>Taking a picture of me >>We were taking pictures of each other. [laughs] >>I ask Ken what his family means to him >>Well that’s a tough one I love my wife more than anything ♪♪ [calling to cattle] >>Jared McGarva has plans for the future of his family’s ranch He’s exploring direct to customer beef sales The future of Likely is also on Jared’s mind >>Oh, heck yeah We’ve got- we’ve got maybe, I don’t know, four or five different young families that are startin’ up that are about my age, in their early ’30s, and late ’20s And a lot of young guys like Jesse and Alex over here that- that they’re just about thinking about that type of stuff So it’s- it’s all we can do We try hard to- to keep people in the town. [laughs] Yeah, we need more babies. [laughs] ♪♪ >>As the cattle come down off the dusty mountain road, Ken stops them at a fenced in area on the edge of the highway While the calves find their mothers >>Cutest cowboy on the range >>…Family members stop by and the cowboys get a few minutes to relax >>I did this in Quincy one time; I was getting ropes to make sure ♪♪ >>And the youngest generation of McGarva’s gets a feel for the saddle Likely is just a few miles down the road >>The lunch rush is on at the Most Likely Café >>Hamburger >>It’s a small crowd Folks here are concerned about the future but there is resilience in their spirit and signs of hope There are plans to turn that closed down school into a community center Volunteers still report for duty at the fire department And the area continues to be popular for out-of-town hunters

One question those visitors always seem to have, “What’s with this town’s unusual name?” >>Well the story is that they were all together and they were trying to come up with a name so they could have a post office >>The early settlers then, before it was named Likely it was called South Fork >>Well there’s already a South Fork California, so they couldn’t have that >>So they said well we’ll have to change the name, so there was a bunch of old guys sitting around the store in Likely and they were trying to decide what to name it >>Just kept coming up with names And they weren’t- nothing was working And some guy said, “Do you think we are ever likely to get a name for this town?” >>One of them says, “It’s likely we’ll never find a name for it.” >>The other old guy said well let’s call it “Likely.” So, that’s how it got its name >>That’s the story I heard Is that the one you are hearing, too? >>Is that a true story? >>That is a true story ♪♪ >>And if you are headed into Likely for lunch on this early afternoon, you might want to avoid Highway 64 ♪♪ The last two miles of today’s trip are down the road to the pasture on the edge of town ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ There’s still one more leg of the cattle drive to go before the cattle get to the McGarva ranch, but tonight… they rest >>Oysters are ready >>Back at the ranch, the family gathers for fresh oysters right off the grill This is California of course, but it’s also cattle country, so Jackie has made a beef pot roast Ken and Jackie’s son Ross McGarva and his wife Kelly are here from Oregon >>That can just stay in the container it’s in >>Ross will also be a part of the next group in charge of the ranch After a long day on horseback they’ve earned this moment >>Cheers >>They’ll be back out with the cattle soon enough ♪♪ As the sun sets on Likely tonight, the town faces an uncertain future >>There’s lots of little towns like the several between here and Reno that the same thing’s happened to Little town of Madeline over here, all it’s got in it now is a post office And the store and café there is closed and the gas station Most of us who live here hate to see what’s happening Y’know, we’re hoping something can happen to keep it like it is >>As for Ken McGarva, he learned early Sit tall in the saddle and make sure it’s cinched tight Most importantly, let the horse know who is in charge So imagine letting go, your legacy, your family name >>You know, you hate to give up what you worked for all your life >>Handing down a ranch is one of the most difficult things a family can face Disagreements lead to discord and a family legacy ends up in the hands of the highest bidder instead of the next generation The McGarva’s admit they aren’t immune to those challenges; there are reminders all around them >>We’ve got two of the old family ranches here now that are in absentee ownership and they don’t even live here >>The devil is in the details, and the McGarva’s are still working those out, but Ken vows to help the next generation with the ranch Soon he’ll no longer be leading the cattle, but this cowboy hanging up his hat for good? Not likely Before we go, just a reminder to visit our America’s Heartland website You’ll find us at AmericasHeartland.org Thanks for being with us We’ll see you next time, right here on America’s Heartland

>>You can purchase a DVD or Blu Ray copy of this program Here’s the cost: To order, just visit us online or call 888-814-3923 ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ >>America’s Heartland is made possible by >>CropLife America- Representing the companies whose modern farming innovations help America’s farmers provide nutritious food for communities around the globe The Fund for Agriculture Education- A fund created by KVIE to support America’s Heartland programming Contributors include the following: