ST. GEORGE — Although it has been more than 30 years since Southern Utah rancher Oscar Robinson Judd held a set of reins tightly in his hands, it was a birthday wish come true when he had the chance to ride a horse once again.
Celebrating his 93rd birthday at Brooksby Gravel Ranch in Long Valley, Judd had a hankering to get back up a horse before he “passed to the great pasture beyond,” his niece DaNell Glade said, adding that the family had been wondering how to make that happen.
“With a little help, Oscar got up on the horse and rode around the yard,” Glade said. “It was 1986 when the old rancher last got up on one of his horses. … It sure made his day, his month and his year.”
Judd couldn’t agree more.
“I’ve been on a horse 90% of my life, and to be on one again, I felt real big,” he said. “It felt real good having my feet back in the stirrups again.”
Born on Sept. 4, 1927, in Kanab, Judd said although life growing up during the Great Depression wasn’t easy; he could still remember having to wear a pair of hand-me-down girls shoes. But still, he loved the rural life in Johnson Canyon, helping his family raise cattle and riding horses.
“I really enjoyed life with the rest of the kids,” he said.
As was the social convention in the 1930s, Judd attended a one-room school. He graduated high school in 1945, at which point his career goal was to become a mechanic. Although he did become a “shade tree” mechanic, the United State’s government had other plans.
Judd served in the Army Air Corps from 1946 to 1947 as an engineer, operating heavy equipment. His duty stations included several across the U.S., Okinawa and Luzon.
Whether it was fate or divine providence, an extended stay during a second posting in Okinawa may have saved his life.
“The roster came up, and they were shipping off all the draftees home,” Judd said. “The next day I looked for my name, but it wasn’t there, so I had to layover another month.”
Returning home in April 1947, the military added a one-month furlough to the end of his enlistment. The extra time gave Judd one year and one month of service and exempted him from being shipped to Korea where hostilities would soon erupt.
“All of my buddies that came out earlier had to go back in and fight in the Korean War,” Judd said. “I figured that there was something there why I didn’t have to go back into the service.”
Being back at home meant being back to work on the family ranch for Judd, and he soon added his own herd totaling close to 500 head of cattle.
The highlight of his time on the ranch from the 1950s to the mid-1980s was the six-day cattle drives during the spring and fall.
The cattle ran from the “Divide” where state Routes 89 and 14 meet north of Alton, then on to the sand dunes near Mt. Carmel before making their way to Zion Canyon, Moccasin, then Bullrush before settling in their winter pasture located near Pipe Spring National Monument in an area know back then as “Sunshine.”
“There was never a dull moment,” he said.
Judd now splits his time living in Utah and Arizona.
Along with learning carpentry and being able to fix just about anything, Judd’s joys in life include weaving rugs, a talent he learned in the 1970s from the local Navajo weavers, and driving his Caterpillar to push over cedar trees to cut for firewood.
Up until two years ago, logging was something Judd continue to do, Glade said.
“He just loved pushing over those trees with his Cat,” she said. “He was always busy and always had projects going.”
Described as “good-natured,” Glade said her uncle continues to live his own life and care about his family.
“He is a good guy,” she added.
Oscar married Myrtle Brooskby on Feb. 14, 1950. She died on Sept. 4, 2009, which was her husband’s 82nd birthday. The couple had six children and 13 grandchildren.
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