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Frank O'Rourke (3rd from the left) taken with Spade Ranch cowboys in 1910.

Jim's grand parents, Frank and Jerene O'Rourke, purchased the RuJoDen in 1950 from the family that originally homesteaded the place in the 1880's. Frank and Jerene were born in dugouts near Gordon, Nebraska and as a young man Frank worked as a cowboy on the huge Spade Ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills.  He later wrote a book about those experiences entitled Retracing Old Trails.

Jim's father, Joe O'Rourke, worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado and Wyoming where Jim grew up. Joe and Jim began to change use on the RuJoDen in the 1970's which, for 25 years, was grazed by a free ranging herd of horses.  In earlier years the place was grazed by cattle and hogs, with crops of rye, potatoes and hay being produced.

Joe O'Rourke (right) - on the Roosevelt National Forest, 1949.

The entire ranch has been restored to permanent grass, forb, shrub and tree vegetation.  Cultivated fields have been planted to perennial grasses, some harvested as certified seed for biological weed control.  Where nine pastures once existed there are now nineteen allowing fine-tuned grazing management. Cattle graze no more than 20 days out of the year per pasture, the remaining 345 days are use by wildlife.  This system has increased the dominance of desirable native species.

Fuel loads in timber stands were dangerously high due to fire control and 70 years of no timber harvesting.   Ponderosa pine stands have been thinned of ladder fuels and dog-hair stands to produce a more safe, productive and visually appealing landscape.  Natural wildlife trails have been maintained and enhanced for wildlife movement and human enjoyment.

Jim and Lora are collectors of items from the past, including horse-drawn farm machinery.  We think you will find a stroll through these implements an enjoyable and educational experience as you consider the ingenuity of the pioneers.

Riparian areas are managed for regeneration of native woody species and have been expanded by tree planting and drip-irrigation. A fish pond has been stocked with rainbow trout for your enjoyment and use, either aesthetically or as an angler.

Missouri Fox-trotter mares are bred to a Mammoth Jack, raising gaited mules.