Rancher’s life centers around the seasons | RecordCourier.com

Rancher’s life centers around the seasons

by Lisa Gavon
Special to The R-C
Renee Mack with family photos on the wall behind her.
Lisa Gavon

She would crawl up in the apple tree after dark, hiding amongst the rustling leaves and sweet smelling fruit. She didn’t mind waiting there with a gentle breeze blowing on a hot summer night. She was just a child at the time. Her relatives would be coming home late from a poker game and it was sure to be entertaining. Renee Mack loved to listen to their stories recounting the events of the evening and the banter that ensued from her secret perch high up on a sturdy limb.

It is a fond childhood memory, and those trees are special in themselves. Each was planted after the birth of one of her great-grandfather’s 10 children. This tradition created a beautiful orchard around the family’s main house: a remarkable structure that has held five generations so far. They are one of only a few ranches in the state of Nevada that have stayed in the same family for over one hundred years. Even the fence surrounding it is historic, coming from the Nevada State Mint when it shut down.

Herman Henry Springmeyer had been a “hussar” in Prussia. His experiences as this type of calvary soldier made him want to leave. He had simply seen too much of war, suffering, and death. Ready to start a new life, he came to Nevada with his fiancé, the beautiful Wilhelmina from Brussels in Belgium. She was a woodcutter’s daughter, and they were married in Virginia City.

Renee reports that all the children turned out “pretty good” except for one that was there at the hanging tree incident on Genoa Lane. They also lost one of their girls when she was only 5 years old. A group of the boys had gone out hunting, and one was swinging around a gun when it went off and the little girl was shot. The boy never recovered from the burden of being responsible for this fatal injury.

It is sorrows such as these, as well as the joys that you can discern somehow woven into the very timbers of the house. HH, as her great grandfather was known, was a great protector of his family. He made sure everyone was set up with property, choosing Renee’s mother Claire to receive the home ranch. It was unusual at that time to give a female child this sort of inheritance. Though he had kept a loaded shotgun by the door to keep away suitors he did not like, HH developed a real fondness for the cowboy Maurice Mack.

Mack had a tough life, but he rose above it all. He was raised in Walker and his father had abandoned the family. His sister drank lye and his mother got pneumonia. Both of them died, and he and his grandmother set up a place to feed the people passing through on the stagecoach to eke out a living.

When he married Claire, they ran the home ranch and raised their son Duane there. Duane got the nickname “Scotchie” when he was in a Reno movie theatre. There was a large earthquake, and everyone got up to leave because of the danger, but he would not go and stayed to see the finish of the film. The name stuck, and no one called him Duane anymore. He joined the Navy in WWII and served in the Philippines. He was a member of the Nevada State Legislature and very well known and respected. Renee says that he was a “really good guy.”

Scotchie married Mary McCulloch at the family house. They met while both were attending UNR. Mary became a school teacher at Minden Elementary. They had Renee’s older brother Thomas who is now a physician and cancer researcher living in Los Angeles with his wife and three children. Renee grew up and married, staying here to oversee the family homestead. Today, her daughter Kristin Marcyes lives nearby with her three boys.

It is her oldest, son Brian Parks, who is now running the place all on his own. She worries about how hard he works, but he loves the land as much as she does. There are 500 acres and a large herd of cattle. It is a big responsibility. Their intense work ethic has been passed down from generation to generation. Many romanticize the ranch life, but the thing that has remained constant through changing times is the amount of incredibly demanding physical and intellectual effort it takes to keep things running smoothly.

There were many years that Renee worked for a title company and sold real estate to maintain that delicate balance. But it has always been the ranch and her family that have been at the center of her heart. In 2005 she was chosen Rancher of the Year in the Community Recognition Awards. Renee was acknowledged for being a leader in preserving Carson Valley’s agricultural lands. She is passionate about ranching and conservation.

Renee was very close to her grandmother Claire, and learned this singular way of life, her deep love of honesty, and desire for real truth from the time she spent with her. Her relationship to horses has also been central to her existence. Even as a child, she was a skilled horsewoman. She had her Missouri Fox Trotter for over 30 years, and it saddens her not to be able to ride any longer.

What continues to motivate her is the change of the seasons. She finds something very special in each of them, looking forward to the next winter as much as she appreciates the summer. She has seen both drought and flood, wind storms and heat waves. There have been huge celebrations for Thanksgiving and Christmas, with delicious food and joyous laughter filling her home. There have been long nights taking care of the animals and solitary, still mornings breaking up the ice. There have been days spent researching new equipment, techniques, and completing the endless paperwork that supports a real working ranch. All of it has made her life. She is part of this land herself: her ancestors that came before her holding that same miracle inside them as well. This heritage cannot be broken.