By Fil Corbitt

Pat Rahbeck takes a break from loading hay.

Pat Rahbeck has been ranching in Nevada for forty years, mostly on her own.

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Pat Rahbeck is stubborn as hell.

She’s the kind of rancher that Nevada clings on to for a sense of identity. Residents in a state known for slot machines, alcoholism and paid sex see themselves a different way: tough, resilient, independent. Pat is all of those – and she refuses to slow down.

Ranching is Her Life

Pat doesn’t just ranch for a job. Pat lives it. Her house is filled with memorabilia.Old lasso rope, cowhide lampshades, and framed pictures of steers cover the walls of the high, vaulted-ceiling living room.

Pat's five bedroom house is a shrine to ranching.

Pat’s five bedroom house is a shrine to ranching.

On a book shelf: stuffed pheasants.Above the window: paintings of rodeo clowns.Off the side of the living room: a fully functioning bar, covered in spurs and belt buckles. This isn’t just stuff she collects – this is stuff she’s won. There’s a saddle in the corner that reads, “Reno Rodeo Queen, 1955.”

“I always wanted to be a queen,” Pat says, “I tried out for the queen contests in bathing suits but I never won. I always won it with a horse.”

Hay There

She wakes up before sunrise and walks down a small dirt road to her hundred-year-old barn, where she feeds three horses, a donkey and some retired chickens. In Gardnerville – 50 miles south of Reno – Pat grows hay, but it hasn’t always been that way.

When her husband died in 2007, Pat sold her entire herd of 160 cattle.Map

Growing, harvesting and baling hay was easier for her to do alone – but easier doesn’t mean easy.

Pat still slings hay bales into the back of her truck. She is 77 years old, and not quite five and a half feet tall. These hay bales? They weigh one hundred and five pounds.

That heavy lifting is starting to hurt.

“Four days ago…I thought I broke my knee. I had to call my brother down and I was in the hospital for 3 hours…I really wrecked it but I didn’t break it.”
That’s Pat’s mentality – wrecked doesn’t necessarily mean broken.

A Question of Inheritance

Pat refuses to let injuries slow her down. She’s still at it, and she doesn’t see an end in sight.
For her, the biggest uncertainty is what will become of all she’s built.
Her sons will inherit the ranch, and a plot of land like this one could really sell for a lot.

Pat's "Wind River Ranch" - land that Pat say's she'll never sell to developers.

The “Wind River Ranch” – land Pat says she’ll never sell to developers.

“They know I don’t want it sold but neither one of them wanna be a rancher,” Pat says, “It’d be a shame if they put houses over there on that river where it’s so pretty. So it’s hard to tell. Hopefully they won’t.”

And that’s a reality she has yet to deal with – they might. One thing Pat does know, is that she’s not going to quit.

This story was produced for the Next Generation Radio Project – Fil can be reached at FilCorbitt@gmail.com
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