The CowboyBaddies of Mason Ranch
The images in the "Own something Amazing, Do something Amazing" collection are of the Mason Ranch in Solano County which was founded in 1862 by George Mason. It has been passed down through the family ever since. Mason Ranch is over 3,500 acres and is currently home to about 350 cows and 25 bulls, and four families. My friend Kevin King’s children are the sixth generation to live on the ranch. Mason Ranch’s west most end juts up against the Napa County line on Atlas Peak, ends south at Highway 12, and extends north to Wild Cat Canyon.
Kevin graciously invited me to his father-in-law’s ranch to photograph sunset last spring. I was ecstatic to have the opportunity. It was a frigid and windy night. Historic rains had swept throughout the Bay Area, infusing the hills with a surreal green tone and lush wildflowers.
Accessing these vantage points involved sojourning through private ranch property, and an adrenaline inducing twenty minute ATV ride on rutted gravel paths traversing fairly steep grades. This vertigo prone SF lost girl clung tightly to that roll bar. However, as we climbed up the road, gently parting groups of cattle as we went, the golden light draping the hillside below me left me breathless and giddy—my vertigo dissipated. It was an amazing night filled with magic. I even met my first salamander, my prince charming. Laugh.
The next morning, a mandatory evacuation order was issued for the Mason Ranch. The four families decided together that the wives and children should evacuate in their travel trailers to Solano Community College, but that the husbands would stay behind to protect the ranch and aid Cal-Fire.
Kevin, with his family and friends, (Frank Lindemann, Curt Lindemann, Carlos Yanez, Doug Stonebreaker, Mike Parsons and family) spent the next several days moving the cattle to lower pastures, creating defensible space around the structures, digging fire breaks throughout the property, and setting up sprinklers on the roofs of the houses.
On October 12th, the Atlas fire swept over the ridge. They battled flames over 40 feet high side by side with firefighters from all over the state looking like CowboyBaddies with their filter masks on and chainsaws in hands.
Seriously, the month of July wants to feature them.
It was a pivotal day for the Mason Ranch, and the Atlas Fire. Containment went form 5% to over 40% that day. Although the fire came within a mile of their homes and charred over 350 acres of their precious grazing land, no human or animal lives were lost, and all structures were maintained. They pushed that fire back up the hill--it was a huge VICTORY! It was an amazing anniversary gift, yup, it was Kevin and Jennifer’s 15th that day.
The CowboyBaddies and their families are incredibly thankful and appreciative to all of CalFire Teams for their dedication and bravery. Two days later, the Mason Ranch families hosted a dinner for the current CalFire teams on the Ranch from Novato, Marin, Woodland, Roseville, and Laguna Beach, but wanted to extend their thanks to all of the CalFire teams and first responders who helped save their ranch throughout the intense week. “They are the true heroes,” Kevin King.
However, Mason Ranch was comparatively fortunate.
Those ferocious winds ignited over 20 different fires across Northern California that first night and following days. These fires claimed over 40 lives, 8,000 structures, 200,000 acres, untold wildlife, and left thousands without homes. Farms, ranches, and vineyards were destroyed. Entire communities' way of life and businesses were decimated, and the effects will be long lasting.
These photos are a celebration of the beauty of Mason Ranch, the beauty that will be again. They are inspirational and aspirational. They are an opportunity to do good for the NorCal community from wherever you are, while bringing some of the private beauty of Mason Ranch into your own home.
My deepest thanks to my friends at Mason Ranch, for allowing me the privilege of enjoying their property first hand. Thank you for giving me your blessing to share your story of courage and strength and to help support NorCal Fire Relief and Recovery efforts.
*CowboyBaddies photo by Kevin King of Mason Ranch, first Baddie on the left! Next Tyler Parsons, Mike Parsons, Doug Stonebreaker and Curt Lindemann.