Kinsley Ranch Memories

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"It is a cold snowy Kansas day, 2/27/01, as I write to recall some incidents I remember about Kinsley Ranch, Amado, Arizona." -- Dianne (Dreyer) Thompson

Friends around Kinsley Ranch pool
Back: Lee Bell, unknown, Georgia
Front: Ruth Junkin, Ann Jeffries, Ana, Wilma Parker. Around 1952

My dad, Dick Dreyer, went to work as bookkeeper for Otho V. Kinsley, Sr., in late 1949 or early 1950, I am not sure. My mom, Mary, and I enjoyed many happy times while living and working at the ranch. My folks stayed friends with Otho even after leaving his employment. My dad took a position with a corporation that was opening a mine in San Manuel, AZ. My folks were one of the first residents in San Manuel, as my Dad was the man that made out the payroll to the workers building the mine. Now the San Manuel Mine is closed, and my folks have both passed away.

Kinsley Ranch, set halfway between Nogales and Tucson, was a working ranch as well as being known for its restaurant, swimming pool, and lake. The ranch had a rodeo arena, as well as rodeo stock. It was said that Otho was one who first introduced brahmas to rodeo, could well have been , because he was always interested in something new and different. They had rodeos there frequently He also supplied rodeo stock to many area rodeos like the Tucson Rodeo, Sonoita's, and quite a few others. Many of the up and coming cowboys would drive the rodeo stock trucks to the rodeos to earn their day money, for dreams of bigger winnings. Those were the young days of Jim Shoulders, Casey Tibbs, Bill Linderman, and other well known cowboys.

Mr. Kinsley would always help someone out as long as they didn't lie to him, or maybe not pay him back as promised. He was a man of his word and expected everyone to be the same. This was the day of a handshake to settle a deal.

There were many dances held besides the rodeo dances in the huge dancehall, and folks would come literally from miles away to dance the night away.**** One favorite was Pug Scott and her fiddle. There was also John E. Jones, and his group, amongst others. Usually the fee was a dime a dance, drop the dime in box and go dance. Tell you about my dad counting dimes later on.

There was an airport, and besides the rodeo semis, lots of large earth moving machinery, and well drilling trucks and supplies. The ranch was a diversified place of business. He raised cattle besides the rodeo stock, grew cotton, contracted rodeos, moved earth, and drilled water wells over a large part of SW Arizona, and northern Mexico. The ranch area was quite a beautiful place: across the valley from the famous outcrop called Elephant Butte in the Santa Rita Mountains. Many tamarack, cottonwood, and willow trees and the desert plants, ocotilla, mesquite, and palo verde. The ranch buildings were typical of the area, and with the lake and the swimming pool, it was lovely.

Across the lake toward the gas station
Postcard: Looking west across the lake and highway toward gas station.

Sorry to say but all this area has been, as far as I am concerned, ravaged by modernization and tourists. There is so much history in the Santa Cruz Valley that has been gobbled up by houses, golf courses, discount stores, and interstate. The lake disappeared when the interstate was built, and Green Valley has swallowed up most of the rest.

I hate to see Canoa Ranch go. I remember that main house well, it was so lovely. I baby-sat quite a few times for Deezy and Hal, before he was killed. That was a sad day, he was so welled liked. Glad to see she is going to keep the history of that lovely ranch going. (((INSERT LINK)))

----------------------------------------PART 2

I will tell you of my Dad's "counting dimes".

Usually after a rodeo dance of collecting a dime a dance, my Mom, Dad and anyone free, would count and roll dimes, a tedious job, but usually a nice amount. This one weekend there was to be a two day rodeo, hence, two dances. My Mom and Dad had decided to get away for the weekend, and Otho also left Sunday night. Monday morning my Dad went to the office to count proceeds, and make bank deposit but could not find any money anyplace. My Dad, Mom, me, Ken-the bartender, and the waitresses looked every place that Otho could have put the money, which was going to be a sizeable sum, but could not find it. My Dad had decided Otho had locked it in his car trunk, which he had done before when he didn't want to go to the office, but we were not able to get a hold of Otho to find out. The office was a small building with one window and one door that sat just north of the restaurant, right on the highway, where everyone parked. (Could this of been Otho's "jail"?) My mom then noticed the rain barrel that set in front of the office had a board over it with a big rock on it that was not usually there, and on examination, there was ALL proceeds, from the restaurant, swimming pool, rodeo, and dances for the weekend in checks, cash AND dimes in a big paper bag in the barrel. The bag split when lifted out. Let me tell you we counted dimes forever, had to turn the barrel over to get them all out. I know it was well over $300 in dimes, thought I would never forget the amount, but you know how it goes. I can say Dad did have a visit with Otho as to proper disposition of proceeds.

Otho was always leaving a trail of cash, not a lot, but he kept it loose in his pockets a lot, and when he would take it out of whichever pocket, some would drop on the floor or seat. Everyone knew the loose cash or change was Otho's, he would get it back. I, in my heart, think he knew every bit of the amounts he dropped, and was testing the people around him. He was always good to help someone out, and I never saw him mad too often.

Otho Kinsley with his lion
For a couple of years, Otho also had a lion.

I do recall one busy Sunday, a sailor had gotten off the bus enroute between Tucson and Nogales. He decided to stay and drink, eat, and catch the next bus. He, dressed in his whites, proceeded to get quite drunk and obnoxious. Otho went over in his quiet way to ask him to watch his language, and the guy smarted off. Otho picked him up off the barstool by the back of his shirt, and the back of his pants, out the screen door they went, across the highway, and he threw him in the lake. Just like that! I wish I could of seen the look on that sailor's face. Otho came back and had my Mom take a blanket over to him, and get him some dry clothes so he could get on the bus that was coming soon. I bet he never got the mud stains out of those whites, and Otho came back in, sat at the bar, took a big gulp of coffee, like nothing had happened, but everyone was laughing so hard. Otho enjoyed every minute of it!

Otho didn't really seem to have a regard of if he was rich or poor, altho he knew everything there was to know about his operation, don't think he didn't. My Dad would shake his head when Otho asked how much was in the bank because Otho usually had something in mind, and my Dad knew tomorrow there would be zip in the bank. My Dad got wise and would leave out enough of the amount to cover operating expenses. One day Otho left for Tucson with cash to buy a new car, a big Buick or Olds, and he would be right back. He didn't come, and he was quite late. Well, they were fixing the highway by Canoa, and had the road blocked with a detour into the desert. Someone made the remark, "Otho probably drove that new car through the detour signs", as he only knew one speed-----fast. You guessed it, drove right through them, banged up the new car good, don't believe he was hurt any, but I believe he bit down on the cigar he probably had in his mouth. Anyhow, he got a ride back to Tucson, and wrote a check for another brand new car, and came home. He never mentioned anything about the extra check till a couple of days later, although all was fine.

My Dad said he had never enjoyed a job more than working for Otho, as they really got along in their way, enjoyed fishing together, drinks together, following Otho water witching, flying, both enjoyed animals, although my Dad was not very fluent in the Mexican language (another story), and the job was far from monotonous. Helen, Otho, and my folks went fishing to Guamays, Mexico, a few times, and they would go "across the line" for dinner a lot, just to get away. They used to go to The Cavern, wonder if still there. It was supposedly a cave used by bandits and Indians, made into a place to dine. Unique, and good food I went with them one particular time. I remember Otho asked me if I had ever had lobster, I was about 15, and I hadn't. He told the waiter to "bring the biggest lobster for this young lady," and he enjoyed every minute of it, but helped me eat some of the meat after showing me how to crack it. I still like fresh lobster.

If you wanted a good steak, people from all over the state knew to come (some would fly in) to get a Kinsley Ranch club or T-bone steak. The T-bones were served on a heated platter, sizzling as they were set in front of you. Steak was the only item on that platter, and sometimes hung over the side. Otho insisted on the best cuts, and he got them. The Mexican food was excellent; I learned how to cook Mexican food from the good cooks they had.

My Mom and I were "pitch-in" waitress and cook. You never knew on a busy day, and they sometimes were very busy, a cook would just walk out, and my Dad would get my Mom to fill in till they could calm the person down or in a few days get another. My Mom had never done anything like that, and she became a very good in that setting. She always was a good cook, but from a family of 3 to about 50 is quite a jump.

I was great at peeling potatoes, real potatoes, no other was used. My good friends, Albert and Alice Duarte, and I, sat in the storage room many a busy day sitting around a 5 gal. bucket of cold water which we would put our peeled potatoes in. We then had another bucket where we would put the French fries after we put them through the slicer. Best French fries ever.

Formerly the dining room at Kinsley Ranch
The dining room at the Cow Palace, formerly Kinsley Ranch. The beams, posts and rock wall are unchanged. But the windows were on the outside wall, now they face another dining area. (2001 picture)

I learned how to waitress there, with Otho's guidance on how to treat a customer, and that lesson has stayed with me all these years. Otho told me these people are paying me to eat in my home, and I expect them to get that individual service. He would watch from the background, and If you were lax, you knew. I used that lesson quite a few times working in restaurants in the past, and I can say I never lacked for tips.

The restaurant that is there now, is big and busy, but I bet not watched with the keen eye of Otho's, mmmmmmmmm maybe it is.



Otho Kinsley was well known for his art of finding and drilling for water in the desert where water is a needed commodity. He would wander with , I believe, a willow branch, until he felt he had located where they could drill for water, and I think, was usually accurate. When my Dad first watched Otho he was really amazed how that willow branch could find water. He later learned that someone with practice also took in vegetation, and land formation to pinpoint where there was available underground water. Otho would get someone to fly over an area, carrying his willow branch, if he felt a twinge, he would go to the specific area and search further, usually with results. My Dad would hitch a ride on some of these jaunts, and realized that from the air for the educated eye, you could see the varied color of vegetation that might give a hint of more moisture than other places.

The water of the Santa Cruz River was mostly underground . Some folks had artesian wells. Kinsley Ranch had two wells: one pumped into a pressure tank to provided water for the ranch; the other pump's output fed a gentle fountain in the shallow end of the swimming pool. The water in the swimming pool changed approximately every 24 hours, so did not have to have lots of chemicals in. It was COOL water, but so good. The water then flowed through a culvert under the highway into the lake, which was about 1/2 mile in circumference, from there the water irrigated the cotton fields.

I did go along with Otho and my Dad one day to locate some water. He gave me the branch, showed me how to hold it and walked me in a direction he knew water was, and to my amazement, that branch just pulled itself right straight down. I have tried it a couple of times since, worked pretty well, but would not hire out.

Stories of Otho and his bets with people were repeated many times. Folks would want water in a certain place, Otho would tell them they would not find it there, so he would say "double or nothing." If water was found where they wanted it, they would not be charged, but if where he thought it was, they paid double. I think he might earned a little extra cash a few times. It was quite an art and a good business. Robert Duarte was his right hand man when it come to the drilling of the wells.

Robert and Rita Duarte lived and worked on the ranch a good many years. I went to school in Tucson every day with their children, Alice and Albert. We were good friends, Alice and I still keep in contact., she has lived in Boosier City, La. a good many years after her husband retired from the Air Force there. Albert died at young age a few years ago of complications of diabetes. He was such a good person.

Their grandmother lived with the family. She would not speak English, so if I went to the house and tried to converse with her, unless I spoke Spanish, she would ignore me. She finally forced me, and thank you for that, to speak pretty good, much of which I have forgotten. Alice had to make a supply of tortillas on Saturday, and one day I went to get her. She said I could help her and we could go sooner. I know Grandmother really enjoyed herself watching me to struggle to finally make, I bet, the first square tortilla, oh well, I learned. Lots of good lessons and good times with the Duarte family. Olga, the younger sister, still lives in the Tucson area.

Going back to the well at the ranch. I went to be certified as a life guard so in the summer that is what I did at the pool, loved every minute of it. One day the overflow was not working right and I had tried to unplug to no avail. Well , Otho had gone on a trip and come back with these lovely, red kangaroo leather boots, about $100, which was a lot and not too many kangaroo boots at that time. He wore his jeans inside of them as they were high top boots. Well, he kept giving me instructions about the overflow, and when it didn't work, he went, shut off the pump, came over, walked down the steps into the water in his new boots, fixed the overflow and walked out, dripping wet. All I could think of was those wet kangaroo boots. I believe he wore them till they dried so they would not shrink. I know he sat under the tree by the pool with his boots in the sun for a long while. They lasted quite a while.

Otho was a big man, not fat, but tall and wide, he moved deliberately, and with ease. He loved to dance, especially waltz. I always loved to dance, and being taught by my dad, I was one of few that could waltz. Whenever there was a dance*, he would find me or I him so we could dance a waltz, or two, and he was so light on his feet.

He had a good sense of humor, but with he, like my dad , you had to look at their eyes to make sure they weren't serious. He was always a gentleman, except for obnoxious sailors or such.

One year , must of been Feb of 52, it was Tucson Rodeo time, and lots of cowboys drifted in out of the ranch at that time. My Mom was all excited because two of Otho's old friend were going to be there to visit for a while, and he had asked Mom to fix some steaks for he and his friends. I couldn't understand the excitement, but then I wasn't in the right generation to understand who Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard were.** They were famous in the 30s and 40s I believe for their movies and rodeo activities. I can remember them sitting together by the big round table in the front of the bar by the juke box, to me they were "some old cowboys" I still have my Mom's autograph she got from Hoot Gibson that day.

Otho had many friends in many places, wish he was here to tell all. Don't you have some memories of some of his experiences.

Dianne (Dreyer) Thompson, 2/27/2001

Tag along comments by Otho, Jr.

Robert Duarte

I had heard that the Duarte family did not speak Spanish in their home so that the kids would learn English well. One summer, I was on the well rig with Robert, his helper, and my driller.The four of us were drilling around the clock in the Sonoita area and camped there since it was a four hour drive to the Ranch. They all spoke Spanish almost exclusively with the deliberate intent to teach me Spanish by immersion. Long, animate, often hilarious conversations in Spanish around the campfire were supposed to make me learn the language. Didn't work. (My driller, a former goat herder and ex-con, seemed pleased to show me how to use a shovel to pick up cigarette butts without getting extra dirt--learned it in the prison yard.


Those western and Mexican dances at Kinsley Ranch were great. All the dancers circulated counterclockwise around the floor. And there was plenty of room for dancing. On a warm evening the side panels of the hall could be swung up to let the breeze through. And the concrete patio surrounding the hall let you be outside too. Some dance sponsors brought hot tamales to sell (Otho had the drink concession.). A nickel apiece, hot, home-made, wrapped in real corn husks--those tamales couldn't be beat.

Evidently after a couple too many, cowboys would challenge Otho in some way. He said to me, "Watch, some young guy will pick a fight with me...." No one did that night.

**Famous cowboys

I don't have a name for this cowboy. But, at the ranch, he related that he had been in the movies and needed to practice with his horse. On the grassy area beyond the pool this cowboy practiced having his horse fall--just like in the movies.

Assembled by ovk. Last updated 8/25/2001.