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In fact, Dave's horse looks quite content, saddled and waiting patiently at the fence in front of the hundred-year-old Higby house. Behind him are an ancient gas pump, the ranch's original pumphouse, and the old red barn. Behind all that is the purple mountain majesty Miss Johnson had her students write about.

Inside, the Higby house is amazingly unchanged. Despite the millions the Higbys may have collected toward the end of their tenure, it is a Western farmhouse, plain and simple. "The Higbys were kind of tight, actually," Dave says. "Frugal, you might want to say."

"If you look under the eaves," Monique points out, "you can see the gunnysacks they used for insulation."

Dave has heard the talk that Greenland's days as a ranch may be numbered. "As far as what the owners plan to do, I have no idea," he says. "But this is still America, it's their place, and whatever they decide, it's their right. Meanwhile, we're still here."

What's changed is the area around here. "The highway, for one," Dave says. "The highway's kind of the blues. We try to help everyone that breaks down, but there's so many of them anymore. You couldn't call us remote anymore. Not in the least. We don't have but a couple of ranches as neighbors anymore."

The rest of the neighborhood is occupied by new houses on half-acre to five-acre plots, as well as several high-end subdivisions. "Some of these people seem to live almost in a compound more than a house," Dave says. "I hate when one of our cattle gets onto their land, like they will, and I have to try and make things right. These people don't contribute as far as ranch life is concerned. Sometimes I think they figure the fences fix themselves."

Recently Dave had the unpleasant experience of moving a herd across a dirt road in front of a car-phone-screaming BMW driver. "These people are always a week late and frantic, and then they get upset because we're holding them up," Dave sighs. "They move here, but they don't seem to enjoy the rural lifestyle."

Too bad, because Greenland could still show them how it's done. Just last month, teams from four ranches spread between the mountains and the plains gathered at Greenland for a friendly, if competitive, weekend of cowhand games. Shooting, fishing, roping and polo, in which each team had to include a rank beginner, were all part of the program, although no dancing was indulged in at the red barn.

The Greenland team won--but for how long? Their brand of fun is rapidly becoming extinct in these parts. The ranch that earned its own highway exit is on the road to becoming history.

"The people around us seem to feel we are interlopers somehow," Dave says. "Could that be true?

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Robin Chotzinoff
Contact: Robin Chotzinoff