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cattle jam photo of cattle on twisp streetShauna Hicks leads cows and calves owned by Del and Donna Prewitt into Twisp on Sunday morning. Photo by Solveig Torvik

photoThis truck moved along at the very end of Sunday’s cattle drive to warn drivers. Photo by Karen West

A handful of cowboys were in the saddle before daybreak Sunday to start moving 150 cow-calf pairs to spring pasture through the town of Twisp, and by all accounts quite a few of the spectators were regulars who turn out every year to watch the traffic-stopping spectacle.

The Angus-cross cattle belong to Del and Donna Prewitt, whose valley roots extend to one of the first white families to settle the Methow in the late 1880s. The Prewitts live near Tacoma now, and their Lazy 3 Ranch is run by Dave and Shauna Hicks.

“I’m not the ranch manager; I just sleep with the manager,” Shauna Hicks told Grist, adding that her husband has managed ranches for 45 years, in Northern California, Nevada and here for the last 18 years.

photoNo time for shopping en route to spring range. Photo by Solveig Torvik

For Sunday’s adventure Shauna led the cattle in “a horrible bright orange vest” for safety purposes while Dave, in a similar vest, took the rear. “It’s an art,” she says, proud she’s “never lost a lead” in all the years she’s done it.

“A lot of people think you drive cows,” she added. “You don’t. Cows follow the lead. I’m like Little Bo Peep … You’ve got to keep the lead pulling the drag.” And that’s a challenge when you have grass-hungry cows spotting the lawn at Twisp Works, for example, or the tempting clumps along the side of Highway 20. That’s why five to ten friends and neighbors, all volunteers, were along to stop traffic and keep things moving.


Sunday happened as planned. Everybody was in the saddle by 5 a.m. and ready to move the herd. The route was from the foot of Balky Hill Road down the East County Road to the old mill site in Twisp, where everybody took a break so cows and calves could “mother up” again. They get separated along the road and start to bawl. “A cow and calf will go back to where they last nursed,” Shauna explained. “They’re hard-wired to do that.” So everybody is given time to find mom and quiet down.

photoJennifer Epps leads the cattle to their turn-off at Autumn Lane. Photo by Solveig Torvik

The goal was to move through Twisp close to 7 a.m.—it only took about 15 minutes bridge-to-bridge. There were no hitches, just bystanders shooting photographs. From Twisp the animals traveled a couple of miles north on Highway 20 before being turned up a draw off Autumn Lane and onto the state-owned Big Buck Wildlife unit. They’ll eat spring grass for a month before moving higher to summer pasture on the national forest where they are permitted to graze.

In six months, the 150 cow-calf pairs moved Sunday will be counted as 300 head of cattle. But they are less than half the total herd in the Lazy 3 operation, Shauna said. The ranch has three separate Forest Service grazing permits.

“We’re dying out,” she said of small cattle operations like theirs. “My grandchildren won’t get to do this.” But she takes satisfaction in knowing they’ll see the photographs and hear the stories from the days when grandma and grandpa knew how to raise up cattle and take them to sweet spring grass through a town like Twisp.


photo of cattle by hank's marketCattle trot past Hanks supermarket. Photo by Solveig Torvik


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