Women in Ranching: A tale of two ranches
This tale of two ranches—both named Elkhorn—all started fairly simply in 1922 with the purchase of Elkhorn Ranch, Montana. It was a summer guest ranch operation that also offered pack trips. It was run by Grace and Ernest Miller and—eventually—their son Bob Miller.
In 1945, the ranching operation doubled with the purchase of the Elkhorn Ranch in Arizona, as a winter ranch. And here the story gets a bit more complicated. When patriarch Ernest Miller passed away in 1949, that left both operations in the hands of Grace Miller, Bob and his new wife, Jan. In 1961, Grace and Ernest’s daughter Barb and her husband, Ron Hymas, moved to the Gallatin Gateway, Montana ranch; Bob and Jan moved south to Arizona permanently.
Today in Arizona, the 3rd generation —Charley and Tom Miller and their wives Mary and Anne— run Elkhorn Ranch, just southwest of Tucson. When Barb and Ron retired, they sold the Montana operation to the Minton Family, long time guests. Ginger Hymas, Barb and Ron’s daughter managed the ranch briefly during the transition, and then the Mintons hired Bob and Jan’s daughter, Linda, to take over the reins. Got the picture?
Mary Miller clears things up: “So, you can say that the Elkhorn Ranch in Arizona has been owned and operated by the Miller Family since 1946 and the Elkhorn Ranch in Montana has been under continuous management by the Miller family since 1922.” That’s a lot of history and hard work. And the Miller family, now into their third and fourth generations, are running two Elkhorn Ranches to this day.
“Both ranches are in really lovely country,” notes Mary. They’re very scenic, mountainous, with great riding terrain.” Obviously, they’re very different, from the green pines of Montana to Arizona’s Sonoran desert. The Montana ranch has more structured evening activities—such as campfire sing-a-longs (because of the number of children)— whereas the Arizona ranch is less structured after dinner.
But there are a lot of similarities, too. “Overall, the spirit of both ranches is very similar,” notes Miller. “And many guests say that it hasn’t changed a lot over the years, which they consider a good thing!”
Both ranches have really top notch riding programs, catering to all levels. Mary Miller adds that “they’re special because we tailor the rides daily to the guests’ needs and abilities”. Guests have the same horse and saddle all week and the option of many different trails, scenic walking rides, as well as loping. Both ranches do half day, as well as all day rides.
Says Linda Miller: “There are so many things to love about both Elkhorns, but it’s mostly sharing the life style with so many different kinds of people.” And her favorite aspects? “There is nothing like teaching a child to love riding or showing a Grandma her first bear in these huge spaces.”
But just don’t ask her to choose between the two ranches. ” I can’t compare Montana and Arizona as both have their assets,” Linda adds. “Montana has lots of kids – both guest and crew – but Arizona has a longer season to enjoy.”
However, one thing is certain: both Elkhorn Ranches—Arizona and Montana—feature plenty of down-home hospitality.