Shelly Sabrowski Brings Ranch Tales to Life at Wilder

by Shelly Sabrowski

With calves being born every day on the ranch, Don and I keep busy with ear tagging, giving new born shots, and feeding the cow herd hay until the grass appears again.

Hereford Calf

Hereford Calf

We had two premature calves born recently. Don and Calvin rushed the cow to a Montrose veterinarian at midnight fearing she might need surgery. The vet was able to assist the cow without surgery and saved the calf’s life. She was born a few weeks early with a bleak prognosis. Around the clock care and bottle feeding of the calf with all Sabrowski’s involved did the trick. She is now paired with her mother and turned out with the rest of the cow herd.

Sweet Pea

Sweet Pea

During this same time, another premature heifer calf was born, but the mother was too weak to nurse her. I immediately fell in love with her and named her Sweet Pea. She drinks three bottles a day and feels good enough now to buck and run. Holly Schiavo’s boys, Zabe and Jonathon bottle fed her when they were at Wilder for Spring Break. Sweet Pea loves anyone with bottle in hand, so if you have kids or grandkids who would like to feed her, they are always welcome!

Calvin came home for Spring Break and we kept him busy calving and plowing the last of the snow of the season. He took time to get caught up with high school friends and work on his truck. He was just awarded his second term as a FITSAM which is a student success mentor for next year. He will be the first Junior at OSU to be honored with this position. He’s finishing his Sophomore year happy to pass Financial Accounting and Business Calculus this semester.

Snow is melting quickly on the ranch which means we are in the middle of mud season. No complaints from us, as this will give significant amounts of water this spring and summer for the hay meadows and fishing stream. Rarick Creek is running so quickly right now, we can hear it from our house. The seven bull elk who graced us with their appearance all winter are being chased to the high country as the snow recedes.

Snowblowing with the new BobCat A770 skidsteer.

Snowblowing with the new BobCat A770 skidsteer.

Jay Barton’s crew were not slowed down by the 38” of snow this winter while working on the Homestead 11 Riverfront Home. It is turning out to be something special. Don and I take tours in it to see their vision unfold. I am excited to see the rock fireplace being built. This is something you don’t want to miss when you come to Wilder. Take a tour of this new home yourself!

Reservations for the owner’s cabins are starting to fill up the online calendar. More and more homeowners are letting me know their summer plans of horseback riding, barbeques, fishing and family time spent in the most beautiful place on earth. I am looking forward to a fun filled summer with Wilder Thursdays, catching up with you all on long, lazy horseback rides and enjoying watching your grandkids bottle feed Sweet Pea!

Happy Trails!

Shelly Sabrowski

The Roper Cabin – A Reflection of Ranch Beginnings

Roper Cabin

The Elmer family purchased the Roper cabin from Albert Roper. The young girl in the front is Alta Marie Dunbar, who was born in 1898 and died in 2002 at the age of 104. Her parents started Harmel’s Ranch Resort nearby.

The Elmer family purchased the cabin from Albert Roper. The young girl in the front is Alta Marie Dunbar, who was born in 1898 and died in 2002 at the age of 104. Her parents started Harmel’s Ranch Resort nearby.

Commonly known as the Roper Cabin, the hand-hewn log structure located near the crossroads of County Road 742 and Jack’s Cabin Cutoff breathes history. Although sights and sounds of occupants are long gone, the home with a split-rail fence was carefully crafted and signifies the beginning of the historic ranch now known as Wilder on the Taylor.

“The house is where the Stevens brothers set their roots down and filed for an easement for Spring Creek irrigation to come in. Spring Creek ditch ties into Rarick Creek by the house,” says Ranch Manager Don Sabrowski. “The ranch had the first irrigated hay meadows in Gunnison County.”

James E. Stevens filed to homestead the ranch in 1898 and the footprint of the original house is visible, Sabrowski confirms, but there have been various additions and owners over the years.

Jim and Clara (Haymaker) Boyd lived in a house on the upper ranch, with Jim working for Albert Robert, who at that time owned the lower part of the ranch and lived where the historic Wilder cabins now stand along the Taylor River. In 1920, the Boyds bought 40 acres that included the cabin from Charles T. Stevens for $500. The ownership ended up being short-lived as Boyd was thrown from a horse and killed that fall while guiding hunters to earn extra money.Roper Cabin

Albert Roper bought the land and cabin from Clara and relocated the spruce trees that still stand today from the lower ranch with the help of his children in 1923. Roper also built the hay barn and calving shed near the cabin.

When Don and his wife, Shelly, started managing the ranch in 1995 and first went into the Roper Cabin, one of the first things he noticed was that 1946 newspapers from St. Louis covered the walls to make the home more winter resistant. “You could go in and read about what was going on at that time.” The logs for the walls are still in good shape and if a roof were added, the cabin probably could last forever, Don notes. “Someone went to a lot of trouble to make it a nice place.”

Anita Leonard, who managed the ranch with her husband, Cass from 1953 until retiring in 1995, never mentioned anyone living in the Roper cabin during their tenure, Don recalls. What she did relay is that rooms were added onto the house and it became a saloon and dance hall of sorts that was frequented by workers building the Taylor Park Dam. Next door, there was a schoolhouse that kids attended while the dam construction was underway. The schoolhouse was moved to Harmel’s Ranch Resort just down the road years ago and still stands today.


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Winter Wonder at Wilder on the Taylor

Elk Migration at Wilder on The Taylor

The heartbeat of the ranch is the Sabrowski family who have lived at Wilder for 20 years and raised their family here.  They manage the entire ranching operation at Wilder which includes the historic hay and cattle operations that have been the center point of the Taylor canyon for over 110 years.  They also provide a turn-key operation for the owners at Wilder. In this letter from Shelly, she shares why she enjoys the changing of the seasons and the excitement that wintertime at Wilder brings.

Winter brings a slower pace for our family along with breathtaking beauty and the challenges snow can bring.

Cattle at Wilder on The TaylorBy this time of the year, all of the cattle are off of the high summer pastures and are making the snow covered hay meadows their home. Their routine consists of our son Clay coming out to feed them every afternoon as soon as the school bus drops him off. He drives the John Deere 4230 with the round bale feeder out to a swarm of hungry cattle in the middle of the west hay meadow. He is pushed and nudged by wet cold noses of the “pet” cows we have. He obligingly scratches cows #19, #8, #10, the black baldy cow, and too many others to name. With experience beyond his years, he cuts the strings on the round bale, hops up in the cab and begins feeding a nice row of hay. On the weekends, he plows the snow into wide rows so the cows can eat on solid ground.

All of the hay stacked high in hay shed is almost gone from Don selling it to local horse owners. He has quite a number of local buyers who even go so far to call in June asking him to save hay for them to buy once it’s baled.

Hay Harvest at Wilder on The TaylorWilder’s native Timothy hay is also sought after by the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) held in Denver every January. For the past three years, Don has sold them three semi-loads of hay. This is the only source of hay they sell to all of the horse and livestock exhibitors who come from every state to show their animals. The cherry on the top is both of our sons, Calvin and Clay, have the opportunity to go with the hay and offload it each year. It takes about two days to accomplish this feat, and they both have a lot of pride since they are the ones who harvest it. As soon as the first semi rolls in, lines of people form waiting to buy it. (Calvin pictured harvesting the hay in August)

Calvin Sabrowski Jr AngusA couple of weeks after stacking all that hay at the NWSS, we head back to Denver so the boys can show their Angus breeding heifers against some of the best cattle in the country. Last year, Calvin placed fifth in both his breeding class and open class with his heifer, Chevelle. At first Calvin was disappointed until the breeder we bought her from told him he placed very well considering the heifer who won his classes was bought for $180,000 and the second place heifer went for $80,000. He was shocked! It’s called the Super Bowl of livestock shows for good reason. It takes lots of hours washing, working their hair, exercising and practicing setting up to show. Every day they are able to, the boys spend four hours working their show cattle.

Elk Migration at Wilder on The TaylorWith the snow on the ground and weekly storms bringing in more, we also see changes in the wildlife migration and changes in the Taylor River. By early December, I start looking for elk migrating from the south side of the ranch heading to the Almont Triangle. Jack’s Cabin Cut-Off is closed for the season to allow the elk a place to eat and calve in peace. This wintertime at Wilder, we didn’t get our first snow until later so that delayed the migration but when they came, they did not disappoint us. This year was really special because for the last month, there have been 250+ bulls, cows and yearling elk hanging with the cattle in the west hay meadow. They come and go, but it’s quite a sight even for us.

It was especially exciting for one of our homeowners who came to Wilder to celebrate Christmas on the ranch. They had family in who never had seen elk before. It was neat for me to hear how much they enjoyed seeing not only elk for the first time, but that many at once.

Wilder on The Taylor Ice PackWe had another exciting event take place on the Taylor River. On New Year’s Day an ice floe occurred to the magnitude by which we had never seen before. It began as an ice dam in the river above Rosie Lane Campground. As the water freezes and thaws, it builds layers of ice. When the conditions are just right, the dam breaks and the sudden flow of water flushes ice down river. We have seen this happen every year that we have lived here. What made this one different was the sheer amount of ice and water coming all at once. Calvin was able to witness dozens of Bald Eagles swarming over the ice, picking up fish that had surged on top of the flow. What a sight to see!

Wintertime at Wilder on The TaylorI go down every few days to see if any of the ice that backed-up has melted or shifted. The river has made a channel through the ice and still runs underneath. The ice creaks, moans and sometimes pops. I could stand there for hours watching and waiting amazed at this sight.

The best thing about living at Wilder is nothing ever stays the same. The seasons change, our jobs change accommodating the seasons, and I get to watch my boys grow up right before my eyes. I truly feel blessed calling Wilder my home.

Sabrowski Family Proud to Manage Shared Ranch

Don Sabrowski - Wilder on the TayorResponding to an ad for a ranch manager in the Western Livestock Journal landed Don and Shelly Sabrowski square at what is now known as Wilder on the Taylor, a 2,100-acre shared ranch, between two massive snowstorms in February 1995. Fresh off jobs working for a yearling cow/calf operation in Rye, Colorado, they were hired by Sonny Brown, who purchased the ranch in 1988 and had 511 head of cows, 25 bulls and 12 horses along with 300 acres of hay.

Ironically, the husband-and-wife team who fit the ranching lifestyle like smooth leather work gloves are both city kids who met at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Both earned degrees in animal science, and Don double majored in agricultural economics. While growing up in El Paso,Texas, Shelly was active in Future Farmers of America and developed an interest in working with livestock. Don spent his early years in Albuquerque,N.M., and knew he wanted be involved in ranching or building.

At Wilder, not only do the Sabrowskis oversee the hay crop and a herd of 50 heifers and five horses, they take care of maintenance, are involved in the property’s development with three homes currently under construction, and welcome homeowners and guests. A portion of the high quality Timothy horse hay is sold in the Colorado Springs area.

They are pleased to be raising two sons, 15-year-old Calvin and 10-year-old Clay, in an agricultural environment. Both boys help out with chores and are extremely active in 4-H along with their parents, with Shelly as co-leader of the 35-member Future Fitters and 4-H Council advisor and Don as a member of the Junior Livestock Committee.

For a short time, from the drought of 2002 until Jackson-Shaw purchased the property in 2007, there were no cattle on the ranch. The Sabrowskis are happy the bovines are back, with part of the herd fed to finished weight onsite so that homeowners and guests at Wilder can enjoy all-natural beef.

Both have appreciated seeing added investment in the ranch for improvements. Don emphasizes, “It’s been a privilege to be part of the history and to maintain this beautiful piece of property for 17 years.”

Ranching at Wilder on the Taylor