WILLCOX — A feud between two neighbors has lasted six years and, last Wednesday, it involved all the surrounding property owners and a Cochise County elected official.
The Range News attended a meeting over fencing between ranchers and landowners in the area of Page Ranch and North Sheppard roads outside of Willcox.
Dan and Denice Hatch and their rancher neighbor, Ron Klump, have been going back-and-forth over Klump’s cattle. Denice accused Klump of cutting fences, destroying gates and property destruction all the while letting his cows run wild in the area.
Klump told the Range News that he has had to obtain restraining orders against the Hatches, and he has offered to put a cattle guard in the gap of fence between their two properties but the Hatches refused. Klump maintained that a cattle guard would be the best option to keep his cattle away from his neighbors’ yards and off the roads.
Roughly a dozen landowners and ranchers clustered around as they discussed options in the rainy drizzle. Multiple residents voiced their annoyance of Klump’s cattle running unfenced near their property.
District 3 Cochise County Supervisor Peggy Judd was present and had invited the Arizona Department of Transportation representatives as well as an officer from the Department of Agriculture. At one point, Judd proposed the clearing and construction of an entirely different road on Klump’s land in an effort to curb hostilities while continuing to allow cow grazing. However, that idea seemed to be quickly forgotten as a possibility.
After a somewhat heated debate, everyone loaded into their cars to visit the site of the fence break between the Klump ranch and the rest of the local properties. The location of the proposed cattle guard is at North Sheppard and Rancho Secreto roads.
“This right here is where the cattle guard needs to go. This is where the fence used to be before we had to drive up here to get to our house,” Klump said. “I feel bad that all the neighbors had to get involved in our fight. This was our fight, but all you guys had to get involved in it and I apologize for that. I never thought that it would go that far and, for two years, I asked the county for a cattle guard.”
Denice said that the use of a cattle guard would be a waste because there is a gas line where Klump would like to place the guard. Instead, Denice voiced her hope that the area she lives in become a No-Fence District, meaning that Arizona’s open range laws do not apply and ranchers are responsible to keep cows off their neighbors’ properties.
Eventually, it was put to a vote among the locals as to what to do regarding the wandering cattle. The popular vote was given to implant a cattle guard in North Sheppard and Rancho Secreto roads.
“It’s not going to resolve anything. Look at what’s been done already, look at the cut fences, look at the downed fences. When you came through our gate that was across our driveway, you see our gate post that was all mangled? Just beyond that there’s property that belongs to us, he cut the fence. He told the deputy that he cut the fence. The deputy’s response was, ‘This is a civil matter, there’s nothing we can do,” Denice said.
Although the neighbors voted on the fact that a cattle guard would be preferred, only three of them offered to help pay for the $1,500 piece of equipment.
“I’m going to pitch in $100 myself, and let’s see what happens,” said Judd. “If you wait for me to come up with the money ahead of time it’s going to be a while.”