From the October 2018 Issue
Photos by Elizabeth Hay
Alie McKee grew up in Lone Tree, California immersed in the western industry.
“A very small town, with sagebrush intermingled in jumbled granite rocks, and the snow capped Sierras in the background,” she said. “You might recognize Lone Pine from many old western movies starring Hopalong Cassidy, John Wayne, and the Lone Ranger.”
The mountains and desert were her childhood playground, amongst which she explored horseback.
“As a kid I got to experience life just like it was a hundred years ago. I’ve slept in old log cabin cow camps in the Sierras, cooked on wood cook stoves, and survived lightning and hail storms shivering horseback, stranded five miles from cow camp,” she said. “I got to skip school to ride countless miles pushing cattle through the desert in the heat, dust, and gnats, and I loved it! I grew up with a deep appreciation of the Western lifestyle and have always been proud to be a cowgirl.”
Horses have played a major role in Alie’s life since her childhood.
“I was very fortunate to have parents that made that happen for me,” she said. “They shared the same love and passion, and always kept me very well mounted.”
Some of her favorite horse memories include her time in college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and the connections she made there.
“I majored in Animal Science and minored in Equine Science. I was very active in Cal Poly’s Horse Program and there I made many great connections in the industry,” she said. “From these connections I ended up working for the San Juan Ranch for over ten years helping them fit and sell their well bred reined cowhorse yearling prospects at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Sale.”
Alie remembers her years of hard work with fond memories.
“Although, at the time, when we were in the midst of getting 25 yearlings that were mostly stud colts through their first trip to town, I wasn’t quite as thrilled with the project,” she said. “It was really cool to be involved with such nice horses and to get to watch them go on in their show careers and to think that I was a little tiny part of it.”
But those years of hard work aren’t nearly over. Alie and her husband live and work at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch.
“We try to uphold ranching tradition and act as caretakers of not only the land, but the history of this remarkable place. It is a cow/calf operation where we focus on good genetics and raising great mother cows. We are very active in heifer development, and always try to keep a nice set of replacements to AI and calve out every year,” she said.
“My husband Jeff is the brains of the operation, and I am always his ‘lovely’ assistant whether he wants assistance or not! He jokingly calls me the ‘Miss’management. But all kidding aside, our life is our work and our work is our life, and for us it is a good fit. Life is good!”
Alie also works part time in animal health sales where she works closely with the local ranching and horse community.
“This job goes right along with our lifestyle, and keeps me educated on the latest animal health protocols and even more connected with the ranching industry,” she said.
Outside of ranching, Alie enjoys capturing pictures of what she sees on the ranch and sharing with others.
“I take my pictures with my iPhone, because I always have it handy and most of the pictures I take are when I am working horseback,” she said. “Social media is a good platform to share what really goes on in the cattle industry in a positive light.”
Alie also enjoys collecting Western items like books, cowboy gear, and art.
“It is fun to find a treasure at a thrift store or on craigslist to add to our collection,” she said. “I am always looking wherever I go because you just never know where something will turn up, and you won’t find it if you aren’t looking.”
This industry is where she calls home, and Alie just can’t get enough.
“The people, the lifestyle, the history of the West. I just can’t get enough of it. It really is a tight knit community of good people that have your back,” she said. “They know what a hard days work is, and are very much one with the land and the animals that they care for. You won’t find a more hard working group that takes pride in their traditional lifestyle.”