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Life After the Ranch
Bill Cooke Lisa Cooke Vienna Cooke Lacey Cooke Hannah Cooke Maura Finkelstein Rob Wright Shaun Terhune Anders Heintz Johnny Ferguson Jared Ficklin Robby Cabezuela
Q&A with Bill Cooke
Bill Cooke
Q: What was reentering modern civilization like?

A: It was so profound when we came back from the ranch into the real world. First thing that struck us was the speed at which the van was traveling on the highway, which was only about 50 miles an hour. It seemed really fast because we were used to horse pace. Getting back into town, it was really very obvious how much light and sound pollution there was. Lights hurt our eyes. Every sound that wasn't a natural sound seemed to be overly magnified. Coming into this little bitty cowboy town we were coming back into -- Alpine -- felt like being dropped in the middle of New York City in, in a traffic jam.

Q: What was the hardest adjustment returning to the 21st century?

A: I didn't realize we would be as much affected by things as we were in terms of climate and sleeping conditions. I had gotten very used to sleeping on a terrible bed. Rock hard, sleeping on boards. First night back, I couldn't sleep in our bed. I ended up sleeping on the floor because the bed was too soft and it hurt my back.

Q: What was the biggest challenge for you on the ranch?

A: I was really under a microscope with my family in terms of trying to get through this thing as the ranch owner. It was also challenging in that the cowboys didn't seem to understand or respect that my wife and I work together as a team. They were looking more toward me being the ranch owner and her being my wife and a lesser participant.

Q: Were you surprised by what was expected of you?

A: I'll tell you that going into this, my goal was to fly under the radar and be a strong person that worked hard and got the job done. I hadn't had any idea that I would be right smack in the middle of controversy and conflict. I certainly didn't sign up for it thinking that that was going to be the case. It became the case. You have to adjust to what cards are dealt you. That's what I did. It was like a management training class in an intense way.

Q: How do you feel about the cowboys' premature departure?

A: Maybe halfway through, I reached a point of, where I had to change my management style into a more autocratic dictator type. I held a meeting where I told them how I felt about how they were doing, which was I was not happy. During that meeting they told me that "If one more person gets fired, we're all going to leave." That was their way of hanging onto whatever power they could. I think at that point they realized that I had more power than they thought I did. At the end of a cattle drive, most ranch hands probably would have moved on. They probably would have been paid out at the end of the drive and not even returned to the ranch. In the case of this particular scenario, they did come back to the ranch, which is how it was structured. But there wasn't much for them to do anymore.

Q: And Jared?

A: I will give him the credit he's due. He was probably the hardest-working guy of all the hands. He was up the earliest, worked the longest. Was dedicated to the process of learning how to be a cowboy and being a darn good one. He was very passionate about tracking cows and learning how that worked. He probably grew as much or more than anybody did out there in terms of, of the skills of being a true cowboy. What got in the way was his ego. He wasn't a team player.

Q: What have you concluded about the cowboy way of life?

A: People go into that lifestyle not because they want to make a bunch of money, but because they love the way of life. They love being one with nature and working with animals. It's a slower-paced lifestyle, less media influenced. It's about being a little more independent and making your own decisions. All of those things go into what I think is cool about being a cowboy.

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