This is an archived article that was published on in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Tavaputs Ranch •

Last week, I worked with the seventh generation of Wilcox-Jensen cowboys. Although I'm older by at least three of those generations, they already out-cowboy me.

It's in their blood. Sons of Jeff and Jennie Jensen Christensen, Jax, 4, and Jett, 2, are the latest generation of family to work a 9,000-foot-high ranch filled with bears, cougars, foxes and other predators.

Despite the fact that I worked on the ranch years before they were even thought of, much less born, Jax and Jett already ride, rope and brand better than I ever will. It's in their blood.

It's also in their upbringing. According to the Bible, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Proverbs 22:6 implies that if taught the right way to do things, kids won't go wrong later. Although it comes across as something of a guarantee, it is far from it. Lots of people, including me, depart from the way they were raised.

I was raised to be — well, I'm not sure. I asked my father, and he said it was only ever hoped that I would still be alive by the time I was officially raised.

Him • "We really had no plan beyond that."

Me • "Then I'm glad it more or less worked out."

During the evenings at the ranch, I watched Jax and Jett play. There were no video games, toy soldiers, sporting gear or coloring books. It was all cows. Hundreds of small plastic cows, semitrucks to haul them in and fences to corral them. Oh, and horses.

When I was 4, I set the garage on fire. Today, my grandsons play video games. At the ranch, Jax and Jett hauled cows to "their winter range." They also check the television for weather reports.

Curious to see how much of their behavior was brainwashing and how much was actual thought, I pointed to a cow and asked Jax to hand it to me. He informed me that it was not a cow, but rather a bull.

Me • "How do you know?"

Him • "Because it has balls."

I looked. Sure enough, all of the toy cows/bulls were anatomically correct. Say what you want about the power of imagination, there's nothing like that kind of serious attention to detail.

Jax and Jett went back to their ranching operation, which covered the entire front room floor. They argued breeding, mileage, pasture and sale prices. They told Grandpa Butch (Poppy) that they were training to own the ranch one day.

Couldn't argue with that, so I decided to help them learn. I scrounged up a paper clip and a cigarette lighter.

Me • "Jax and Jett, I notice that none of your cattle are branded. Let me show you —"

Grandma Jeanie • "Kirby!"

She was right. I shouldn't try teaching the future cowboys of Tavaputs something I didn't know much about myself. Sonny and I waited for our opportunity to train them our way.

That came the following day. Every cowboy — or at least everyone who works the Tavaputs Ranch — needs to know how to herd by cannon fire.

Using friction fuses, Jax and Jett yanked the lanyards and sent bowling balls far ahead of the herd. Their smiles told us that we had broadened their "training" considerably.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or

Correction: June 15, 9:20 a.m. • Earlier photo captions of Jax and Jett Christensen misidentified the boys' last name.