As a relative newcomer to Sonoita I welcome any opportunity to learn about the area’s history and culture. Filled with stories and personal experiences about the challenges of establishing and operating a cattle ranch, and dealing with environmentalists, government agencies, and cranky neighbors, Richard Collins’ “Cowboy is a Verb” is a must read.

Collins and his wife, Diane, moved to Sonoita in the early 1990s to establish the C6 cattle ranch, located in the Canelo Hills. It was an especially challenging time to embark on a ranching venture as the Endangered Species Act and environmental organizations and activists threatened to put a stop to cattle grazing on public lands, and the C6 relies on several Coronado National Forest grazing allotments for economic viability.

Collins’s descriptions of the Patagonia and Sonoita communities, the role of the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, and long-term residents capture the flavor and personality of the area. He aptly portrays the beauty and challenges of the area’s landscape and climate: “The weeks of anticipation through day-after-day of total dryness makes the coming of the monsoon thrilling. Its arrival feels like a reprieve from capital punishment.” He shares his love for his horses, cows, and the wildlife, vegetation, and land throughout the book.

His review of the work of the Canelo Hills Coalition provides an excellent overview of how the enlightened ranchers in this area chose to collaborate with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to apply scientific range management processes to ensure the health of the watershed. As Collins notes: “The rancher’s guiding principal should be to maintain the land’s innate capability for self-renewal.” 

“Cowboy is a Verb” is available through the University of Nevada Press or at