Joan Gibbs' introduction to the cattle industry was abrupt and unconventional.
In 1995, the self-proclaimed "Westport, Conn., city girl" had just moved from the East Coast when she literally was thrust into the cattle ranching business.
After settling down in a stunning home on Oak Creek's Henderson Park Road, Joan and her husband, Dick Gibbs, purchased 22 head of Hereford cattle from longtime Routt County rancher Lewis Kemry.
For those who remember January 1995, it was not the ideal time to begin cattle ranching.
"I think it snowed 29 out of 31 days that month, and of course, that was when we had to have our cattle delivered," she said.
The first time Dick told her to get the "bull board" out, Joan scratched her head in confusion.
"Dick knew more than I thought he knew about cattle," she said. "Anyway, a little heifer started to run away and he yelled, 'Joan, go get her.' Of course, I ran after her and she started running faster. I didn't know what I was doing : that was my introduction to cattle."
Ten years later, Joan is the recipient of awards for her work in the cattle industry.
Much to her surprise, Joan was named Routt County CattleWomen Rookie of the Year in 2005. Last month she was named Colorado CattleWomen Rookie of the Year.
"Dick said I was the oldest rookie he'd ever heard of," she said, laughing. "I guess I am a pretty old rookie."
Marsha Daughenbaugh, outgoing president of Routt County CattleWomen, said she could not think of someone more deserving of the award.
"She's one of those women that when she says she's going to do something, she's the first one there and the one who stays late," she said. "She has the kind of enthusiasm I sure we wish we all had."
Joan received the state award Nov.16 during the Colorado Cattlemen and CattleWomen state convention in Colorado Springs. The award is given to someone who has been a member of their county's chapter for less than three years. Gibbs joined Routt County CattleWomen in 2002 after being impressed with the organization during a luncheon.
"You don't have to own a cow to be a cattlewoman. All you have to do is support the cattle and beef industry," Gibbs said. "To be quite honest, what I like the most is the women. Those gals do all the work. I think it's just wonderful."
Members of Routt County CattleWomen feel the same way about Gibbs.
"Joan brings a sense of humor to our organization. She has an uplifting personality, and because she doesn't take herself seriously, she doesn't let us take ourselves too seriously, either," Daughenbaugh said. "It's great that we get to honor someone like Joan, because all too often we forget to thank the people we should."
Gibbs said her favorite Routt County CattleWomen activity is selling the organization's "ranch napkins" at craft fairs, working fundraisers and raising money for the many scholarships the organization gives to area high school seniors seeking to further their agricultural educations.
While she may be a little more knowledgeable about the cattle industry than she was 10 years ago, you won't find Joan out chasing heifers these days.
"I opened the gates for Dick about two weeks ago," she said. "I really don't think I should have anything to do with them."
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