Rock and roll rancher
Stagecoach — Beef is not what’s for dinner, at least not at Jon Gibbs’s house.
After a long day of tending to cattle on his ranch, Gibbs comes to the dinner table where his vegetarian wife Heidi has prepared veggie burgers.
“I’ll take what I can get,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs confesses he has taken a liking to many vegetarian dishes, but after eating, he is usually hungry again in a few hours.
With a schedule like his, it’s easy to understand why.
As a full-time rancher on the 470-acre Bar GS Ranch on Henderson Park Road in the Stagecoach area, Gibbs spends most of his time mending fences and tending to meadows and the cattle that feed there.
Gibbs is also a father of two, a 4-year-old girl, Mayana, and 1-year-old boy, Nyle. On top of that, he is a local rock star, performing with two local bands.
He came to Steamboat Springs in 1990 from Connecticut to attend Colorado Mountain College and ski.
His father Dick Gibbs had lived in Colorado before and recommended it. And when he brought the young Gibbs to Steamboat Springs, he purchased a small portion of land from area rancher Bruce Henderson for his son to live on.
As Jon got acquainted with Henderson, he gradually learned the basics of ranching. As he had not selected a major at CMC, he soon found himself working full-time on the ranch, and gave up college.
“I would never last behind a desk,” Gibbs said. “There’s just no hope for me there. I love being outside, and I enjoy working with the animals.”
Dick Gibbs said Jon had not had much agricultural training before moving onto the ranch.
“He was mostly interested in music,” Dick Gibbs said. “He really didn’t know what he wanted to do at college.”
But Gibbs had found his niche. He could work on the ranch in the day, and play music at night. He began singing and playing lead guitar in a local western/rock band called Steelhead, and later another band called Duckbutter.
As his bands toured all over Northwest Colorado, his ranch was also flourishing.
Word of successful ranching got back to Gibbs’ parents, and in 1995, Dick and Joan Gibbs decided to retire and move to Steamboat Springs to join him.
Now they live on the Bar GS Ranch about half a mile away from their son.
“It’s different living on the farm with my parents,” Gibbs said candidly. “I had to make some adjustments, that’s for sure.”
Now Gibbs and his father sometimes work side by side.
“Jon and I like working together,” Dick said. “But all I do is just stand to one side and open the gates for him. I’ve turned pretty much everything over to him.”
On the ranch in the winter, Gibbs has more free time to spend with his wife and children. He has already taught Mayana to ski the “green” slopes of Mount Werner. But Gibbs said he only skis when he is with her.
“I’m a knuckle dragger,” Gibbs said. “There’s so much snow here, it’s so easy to just kick back and float.”
In the summer, it’s a different story on the ranch.
Gibbs has to irrigate and drag the meadows, mend “tons of fence,” bail hay and check the cows every two to three hours. And with the cows also come the tasks of vaccinating, branding and ear-tagging, all intense chores that require a great deal of strength and patience.
“We’re pretty in tune with our little cow herd,” Gibbs said. “It’s nice to have the calves born right here on the ranch. We name our calves too.”
Gibbs said one of his cows is named Joan after his mother. And, the two bulls on the ranch are named Cornelius and Black Magic, or sometimes Black Tragic if he isn’t acting right.
But as winter is still here, Gibbs is taking advantage of some of his free time. When not with his family, he is jamming with one of his two current bands in his farmhouse studio or at local bars or parties.
He plays lead guitar with the Smokehouse Band, a quartet and sometimes quintet that plays “old cowboy songs” ranging from covers of Willie Nelson to Johnny Cash to original tunes. Gibbs says the group is at its best when all five members are present, the fifth being a fiddle player.
Gibbs’ other band, Worried Men, is “more of a bar band.” While starting a show off much the same way the Smokehouse Band would, playing country songs, the band gradually evolves to Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan covers. And in the wee hours of the night, the band does something most people might not expect.
“That’s when we bust out the heavy metal,” Gibbs said. “We’ll bring out the Black Sabbath and the Metallica for the late-night crowd. By that time, everybody’s having such a good time, it doesn’t matter.”
“He’ll play anything,” said band mate Willie Samuelson. “That’s why I like playing with him. He’s really easy to get along with, and that’s why I like hanging out with him.”
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Gibbs must find time to sleep. As a dedicated father, rancher and musician, it seems impossible to get enough sleep. But as busy as he is, he still finds time to be a good neighbor.
“One time when my husband was out of town, he plowed my driveway so I could get out,” said Bonnie Porter, a neighbor of Gibbs. “He’s helped other people get unstuck with his tractor, and he helps with repairs on other ranches too.
“If anyone needs anything, Jon is pretty much there.”
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Colorado’s House of Representatives on Monday passed House Bill 1232, which aims to provide a lower-cost, higher-quality health insurance option for the individual and small group markets on the state’s health insurance exchange.