Beyond the ranch: Diamond 7 Bar Ranch finds opportunity around every corner in rural Wyoming
Alva – “You can be whatever you want to be, but you’ve got to go get it,” says Beth Reilly of the advice she gives her own four boys. “We can’t stand here and wait for someone to give it to us.”
It seems to be the advice by which Beth and her husband Pat live their own lives.
“Our great-grandfather homesteaded here in the late 1800s,” says Beth, whose maiden name is Mahoney. “We have a long history in this area.”
They first settled in the Centennial Valley between Spearfish and Deadwood, S.D. After coming to the Alva area to hunt because game was more plentiful there, the family decided to move that direction.
The family homesteaded and was able to purchase neighboring homesteads.
“This little area is tucked along this side of the Bearlodge Mountains and gets as much snow as anywhere,” says Beth, “and the snow doesn’t come off until late. Being tucked in the trees here, we don’t get the wind, so it makes the most out of the 15 inches of moisture we receive annually.”
She continues, “Sometimes, it’s late to thaw here, and our crops are slower growing than those out on the prairie. But, we stay green, so the game stays here, and what makes for good game country makes for good cattle grazing.”
Thompson Livestock out of South Dakota summers yearlings on the ranch.
“We have traditionally been a cow/calf operation, but just because grandpa and dad did something doesn’t mean it pencils out today,” says Beth.
The yearlings arrive in the spring and are shipped back out each September before hunting season gets into full swing. It’s an approach that saves the ranch having to ship in winter hay and the cattle are gone before hunting season gets into full swing.
“We don’t have much for fields,” says Beth. “There’s no way, if we’re fully stocked, that we can have enough hay to make it through the winter here.”
The ranch does have a small herd of cows and calves. The steer calves are fed out, either on grass or grain, and sold through the family’s custom beef business.
Hosting hunters on the ranch is a 54-year legacy.
“Those first hunters still come,” says Beth, noting that one of the hunters reminds her that he’s been visiting the ranch since before she was born.
From the hunting, broader guest services were launched. With the buildings and infrastructure in place to host guests, Beth’s parents first began operating as a guest ranch in the 1970s for about a 10-year stint.
Pat and Beth have put that business back in full operation, hiring Kendra Meidinger to oversee the ranch’s guest services.
“We want to project a working cattle ranch and what that looks like today,” says Beth. “We have a rotational grazing program. We split about 1,000 head of yearlings into two groups. Every group is moved every 14 days onto fresh grass.”
“They’re in two groups so, if things work correctly, we’re moving a group every week. That works perfectly for the guests who all get in on a cattle drive,” Beth continues. “We make the point that we’re not just moving them for the guests but as a best management practice.”
Guests also have the option of accompanying the ranch crew when they’re haying, fencing and doctoring, which is done with a dart gun. None of the activities are required, but they are an available option for guests.
Tire tank business
Another business, which now employs five people full time, began on the ranch in the late 1970s, early 1980s with Beth’s father, Gerald Mahoney. She says her family jokingly refers to the time period as the “winter of burning rubber.”
Mahoney, tired of stock tanks that did not hold up, was trying to tear the top off of a large mining tire.
“I’m glad he kept working on it,” says Beth of the effort that resulted in Giant Rubber Water Tanks, “because it’s turned into a really good business.”
When Pat and Beth purchased the tank business from Gerald, he had already established a dealer network and sold tanks into quite a few areas but hadn’t pushed the business to its full potential.
The Reillys have grown the dealer network to 140 from all across the country and a branch business in Brazil.
It’s the water tank business that also led Beth to their latest venture, construction of a livery where the ranch meets Highway 24 between Alva and Hulett. It’s the same area where an Old West town, named Bear in tribute to the family that once homesteaded there, is being built.
The ranch also hosts trail rides from this area, catering to guests on their way to nearby Devils Tower National Park.
Summer 2017 resulted in unexpected rapid progress for Bear, which was being considered on a five-year plan following construction of the livery. Some historic buildings, many of which originated in Devils Tower National Park, became available.
Beth and Kendra jumped at the opportunity and are now searching for an old schoolhouse and a historic church to add to their Old West town. There will be a mercantile, a family-friendly saloon and the world’s largest tire swing, built in tribute to Giant Rubber Water Tanks.
Long-term, Bear is slated to become a host site for many activities including weddings and Sunday church services. RV hookups may be another option.
“Setting goals and having those things out there, stuff just falls in your lap if you’re forward planning and thinking,” says Beth. “And, that’s kind of been the way we have progressed. If we have the dreams and if we’re not scared to dream the dreams, then a lot of times the stuff just makes itself available to us.”
Jennifer Womack is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org