Tue, June 25

Head Em Up, Move Em Out<br><i>Historic M Diamond Ranch is the perfect getaway for an authentic taste of the Old West</i>

Staff photo by Carol Keefer

Wranglers Kevin and Stephanie Kennedy offer customized cowboy adventures. Name it, they probably can do it, he says.

"It's special because it's a working ranch," Peggy Ingham will tell you. "There is no other working ranch that is open to guests. It's not a movie set, it's not a stage show — it's the real thing."

When Peggy and husband Larry Ingham bought the M Diamond a year ago, they brought along experienced cowboy wrangler Kevin Kennedy, his wife Stephanie and their horses.

Their job? Besides the many duties a working ranch demands, they are there to provide you with just about any type of western adventure you might imagine and want.

For example, with a party of six, you can go on a mini cattle drive complete with real cows and horses. Or, if you are an experienced rider and want something other than the typical nose-to-tail trail ride, which by the way they also offer, they can arrange a customized ride. They do special things like rodeo style events and roping. If you're looking for a group outing for you and your friends or your company, check out their cowboy cookouts.

You'll ride a wagon up a hilltop pulled by two steady draft horses named Moe and Joe to the cookout site. There you will meet Jan Carey, a former Wyoming Cookout Champion. Enjoy some of the best wide-open range views you'll ever see while taking in the savory smells of a mesquite fire and Jan's Famous Cowboy Beans simmering on a huge hand-forged grill.

Come spend an hour or two or even half a day. They also offer weekend packages.

Not only will your visit to the M Diamond be fun, but it is an educational experience as well, an actual piece of the Old West.

The M Diamond Ranch was first settled by Irvin Walker in 1908 who homesteaded the site. Walker came to the West to catch, gentle and sell wild horses; his first customer being the U.S. Cavalry at Fort Verde.

Walker's tradition continues. Just last year, the M Diamond provided horses to the park for its Fort Verde Days' festivities.

At the M Diamond, you're likely to feel as though you've stepped back in time. It's miles and miles of sage brush, barns, corrals, mesquite trees, wide open range, cactus, horses and cows. It runs all the way from Beaver Creek to Happy Jack with its 44,000 plus acres of deeded and allocated grazing allotment leased U.S. Forest Service land.

"We want visitors to come to learn about the history of ranching and in particular about modern-day ranching and range management in order to make informed decisions about protecting wildlife habitat, rural economics and open spaces," Ingham encourages.

The ranch is only about a half-hour drive from nearby communities like Sedona, Cottonwood and Camp Verde tucked far away from the pressures of ordinary life. The ranch is on a rather primitive piece of gravel road, four miles past the V Bar V Petroglyph site. No need to worry about getting there though. A ranch hand will gladly pick your party up at the Intersection 17-Sedona exit or from one of many area lodges.

When you arrive at the M Diamond, you will be greeted with big friendly smiles with a guarantee that you'll know the ranch hands by first names before you leave. Their ranch motto — "Cattle are the only herd on our ranch. Guests come in small groups."

The ranch is open sunup to sundown most days. You might need to leave a message, but expect a return call in a prompt manner. Call for reservations, prices and more information at (928) 592-0148.

The M Diamond is one of the oldest working cattle ranches in Arizona that strives to keep alive the way of the west. The ranch still raises and sells cattle, as well as buying, training and selling Quarter Horses. It is located six miles southeast of the Sedona Interstate 17 exit.