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WORKS IN PROGRESS                    The Ranchers

Stratford filmmaker captures vanishing cowboy

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For his documentary on a ranching family in Colorado, filmmaker Garret Maynard of Stratford thinks Manhattan would be the ideal location for a shot of his two central characters.
     He imagines the 60-something-year-old cattle rancher and his son in their cowboy hats and dusty shirts surrounded by the buildings and billboards of Times Square. He would ask passers-by if they have any questions to ask of these specimens of a dying breed.
     Cowboys are disappearing with the land on which they graze their cattle, he says, and he fears in 30 years they will be gone.
     "The cowboy won't have have any other place to roam, so to speak, so we'll potentially see see the disappearance of an American icon," Maynard said. Maynard, who grew up in Stratford, is making a film about the Mantle family to bring attention to what he sees as a threat to their way of life: the federal government's land use policies. The government wants to buy the land the family settled just after World War 1 because it is surrounded by Dinosaur National Monument.
     The Mantles also have grazing rights to tens of thousands of acres in the park; the deal was negotiated before the park existed. "They've built up an entire life and an entire culture based on the guarantee of that land being there," Maynard said.
     Maynard, 39, heard about the Mantles when he was filming a documentary about water-skiing two years ago. The story of the possible end of a ranching legacy caught his imagination.
     Maynard has worked his way around the film and television industries. He moved to California when he was 23 and went to film school. He was graduated from the University of Southern California.
     He lived in the Golden State for eight years, working on "Stark Trek: Next Generation" and other projects.
     Then he moved back to Stratford. Now he teaches film and video production at local colleges from New Haven to Norwalk.
     He also runs his own literary agency and production company.

Documentary filmmaker Garret Maynard shoots closeups of photographs in his Stratford living room. The work is part of an independent film he is creating on the plight of the American cowboy

     Maynard flew to Colorado in May and spent a few weeks shooting footage of the ranch in Dinosaur National Monument and at the Mantles' second ranch south of the monument.
     He went back in October and shot interviews with family members, park officials and others to piece together the story. He expects to complete the one-hour documentary within a year and hopes it will be aired on television.
     "Documentaries are the cheapest form of filmmaking," Maynard said. "It provides a good platform for showing what I'm really good at which is narrative filmmaking."
     In a production booth at the Ed McMahon Center at Quinnipiac College in Hamden, Maynard loaded up rough, silent footage of the ranchers and their land.
     Mixed with shots of the deep river canyons cut by winding rivers is footage of the everyday work of ranch life. Cows are herded into a narrow gateway and caught around the neck so cowboys can poke a brand through the bars. Calves are bound by their legs and quickly castrated.
     The family gathers around an open fire with fat steaks dripping on the grill. And some shots, the family and ranch hands stand still with the wind whipping their hair so Maynard could get shots of their faces. When the land on the Utah border in northwestern Colorado was settled, it was wide open. It's first resident, Charlie Mantle, spent his early years in a sod hut. Later, the family built a cabin and nearby the government established a small park to protect dinosaur fossils.
     In 1938 and 1960, the park expanded to protect local rivers and canyon walls with pictographs and petroglyphs. It surrounded the ranch.
     In 1987, Charlie's son Tim, moved off the land. Tim Mantle now runs the ranch with his wife and son, and they truck in cattle to graze.
     Since 1960, conflicts between the family and the National Parks Service have intensified. The park service wants to buy the land, but it is offering $1.2 million for the land valued at $6 million, Maynard said.
     "They really don't want the Mantles to stay there so they're waging a psychological war against the family", he said.
     Dennis Ditmanson, superintendent of Dinosaur National Monument, said that although certain federal land is set aside for parks, other land is open for grazing. It's wrong to generalize that the government's goal is to eliminate ranching", he said.
     "When the area became part of the National Park Service., we're not particularly interested in perpetuating grazing because that's not why the park exists," Ditmanson said.
     "It's almost poetic to talk about the passing of the cowboy, but it's a very complicated issue."
For Maynard, the fundamental question remains why families like the Mantles were used to open up western land, then shunted.
It's killing a unique legacy and a worldwide symbol of Americana he said.
     "What happened to Native Americans could eventually happen to the cowboy," he said.

For comments or for more information, please contact: Garret C. Maynard, 1549 Main Street Stratford, CT 06615 203.345.6167,

Vol 8, No 10 (c) 1999 
Sunday, January 10th, 1999
By Elizabeth Ganga
Staff writer

rancher tim rancher sleeping
Tim Mantle and his "livelihood" "Mormon Tea" makes for a quick bed

rancehr vista
North entrance to Utah's Dinosaur National Monument and the Mantle Ranch