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Utah Bucket List: Riding with cattle, family, history on the Tavaputs Plateau

For Jensen family and “weekend help,”

moving the cattle across the Tavaputs Plateau is living the tradition.



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"We were neighbors six miles apart. We rode stick horses together as kids," Jeanie Jensen said of her husband. "It turned out to be a match made in heaven."

Her daughter and son-in-law relish the time they get to spend every day with their boys, 2-year-old Jax and Jet, who was born in March.

At a glance

The Utah Bucket List

Check out the bucket list’s Facebook page — facebook.com/UtahBucketList — or follow @UtahBucketList on Twitter and tell us what’s on your list of things to do in this life. “Utah’s Bucket List 2,” a collaboration between The Salt Lake Tribune and KUED-Channel 7, will air Aug. 11 at 7 p.m.

Dude ranches in Utah

There are plenty of ranches in Utah where guests can help with the work. Some more authentic than others; several include spa treatments — what would past cowhands say about that? The Utah Office of Tourism offers a list of 15 Utah dude ranches at www.visitutah.com/hotels-lodging/dude-ranches.

Guests to the remote Tavaputs Ranch on Utah’s Book Cliffs enjoy hiking, wildlife watching and tours of the nearby archaeological treasures of Range Creek. Learn more at www.tavaputsranch.com.

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"They are with us no matter if we are branding, working on the corral, herding cattle or hauling salt on the desert," Jeff Christensen said. "One of the best parts of my job every day is taking the boys with me. It really is kind of why we are here. Butch said it best: ‘This is not ours; it is for our future generations.’ We just need to make sure and take care of it so they can have it."

Jax and Jet each had their own cattle brands before they were even born.

"The state told us they had never registered a brand to an unborn baby," Jeanie Jensen said. The brands were instead registered in their mother’s name until they arrived.

Cattle bearing the brands of both young boys are already mixed in with the Tavaputs herd.

‘We could be at the ranch’ » Riding as part of a working ranch, in gorgeous country with people they enjoy, draws Steve and Gail Eslinger back to the Book Cliffs twice a year.

"Steve won’t even stop to look at other places along the way when we drive out," Gail Eslinger said. "He says it is time we could be at the ranch."

Their son has been traveling to hunt on the ranch for years, coming home with stories of the beauty of the land and his affection for the Jensens. He suggested his parents might want to ride horses in such a setting.


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"They don’t take a lot of visitors [for the roundup]. Working cows is serious business," Gail Eslinger said. "Our first year we came as guests and the last three times we have come as cowboys and cowgirls."

They cherish their connection to the ranch.

"This is not a dude ranch deal," Steve Eslinger said. "The family history goes back so far and to be able to do something that is not make-believe is special. They are doing this for a living. To be able to be a part of that is just awesome."

Jeff Christensen finds it inspiring that what he does every day is sought after by others.

"I don’t think you ever really know exactly what you have. This is how we grew up and we don’t know anything else," he said. "It is a pretty good feeling to know that other people want to do it so much."

brettp@sltrib.com Twitter: @BrettPrettyman



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