Author Archives

All Articles written by // Madi Hester

Madi manages the mercantile leather shop.

December 10, 2016

Busy Bees

On this sunny December day, three women are bustling about the Chico Basin leathershop feeding a fire, developing skills, and making unique and important leather goods.

August 2, 2016


Last week in my rustic office, (know as the Chico’s leather shop and saddle house) smells shifted throughout the day from leather to horse sweat to beeswax as I built products to be sent out to several of our ranches and customers. The projects included card pouches (pictured) for the shop at Zapata, headstalls for our horses at the Wilder Ranch in South Dakota, bracelets and dog collars for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, and jewelry cases for

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May 27, 2016

Education Season

Last week we wrapped up our Education season with an awesome group of 70 fifth grade students. I led the horse demo and corral tour, and explained to the students what everyday operations look like on the ranch and the importance of horses and cattle for specific land management goals.

This group had great questions, asking about everything from the long dangling things on my chinks (fringe), to the reason for shipping some cattle and not others. Their curiosity was contagious,

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April 4, 2016

Office Space

Many of us in the Ranchlands crew have the unique privilege of working in many different settings. In a week, I may have four different “offices.” The sights and smells and sounds all vary, as do the responsibilities at hand.

In the leather shop there is the quite lull of birds singing in nearby trees. The crunching of gravel will sometimes trump whichever Pandora station I have set. The sent of leather, oil and hay fill the saddle house that is

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October 30, 2015


Throwback to October 2012 on the Chico Basin. This time three years ago snow blanketed the autumn colors at the Casita homestead.

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October 12, 2015


The rabbit brush and prairie grasses began to glow under the early evening sun as we drove out to the southern part of Chico Basin Ranch. Duke had the truck bed brimming with all the afternoon necessities: cooler, chairs, fishing rods, snacks, and our dogs. Saturday was clear, so as the sun began its decent, the mountains popped against their glowing backdrop. Even in the center of Upper Twin Lake the bugs left us alone. The air was cool and quiet, except for the occasional splash from a fish and

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September 4, 2015

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears- OH MY!

Swapping stories of wildlife activity is common table talk here at the Chico. Although lions and tigers don’t tend to come up too often in these discussions, there are a variety of other animals that are seen here on the ranch.

For instance, during dinner last week, Janet recalled encountering a bobcat on a quiet road in the Vega pasture and pointed out an owl watching us from a near by tree. In addition, antelope have been spotted almost daily

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July 22, 2015

Ranchlands’ Leather Shop

Ranchlands’ leather shop has evolved from a young rancher’s humble sack of tools, used for tack repairs, to a signature line of bags which will launch in the New York marketplace next spring. Here is a summary of the path traveled thus far.

Chapter 1: Duke Phillips grew up as a working rancher. Living in a remote area made leather work a necessity, so he learned the basics of tack repair at an early age. He enjoyed the craft and continued

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June 3, 2015


The past week was packed with enough events to fill a book. We prepped for our largest branding, slept under a lightning filled sky, welcome two first-time visitors, and said goodbye to a long time manager and his family.

The branding and camp-out were reminders of just how special our Ranchlands crew is. Everyone was eager to teach those that were visiting and effortlessly created an atmosphere free of judgment and full of camaraderie. Looking around, you would see people bursting

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