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The Arbuckle Ranch is still a working cattle ranch fifteen miles north of Alzada, Montana. My uncle, Lee Arbuckle, owns the ranch today - and leases it to a longtime neighbor. According to the memoir My Life on the Range, by John Clay, the ranch is part of one of the original cattle ranches in Montana, started by the Dickey Brothers in the early 1880s. My great-grandfather George Arbuckle took over the ranch in the early 1900s.
When I wrote In Open Spaces, I debated whether to use the Arbuckle name - and thus run the risk of offending family members. I chose to use the name for two reasons. First, I wanted to honor the members of the Arbuckle family who built this ranch. People there endured hardship that our generation can't possibly imagine, and their efforts make my life seem downright luxurious. But the main reason I chose to use the name Arbuckle was, well, it's just a damn fine name.
It is important to note, however, that the characters in this fictional Arbuckle family are not modeled after the actual family members. The book characters on the ranch took on their own personalities, and they made their own decisions. As much as I tried to control them, they proved to be just as independent in spirit as the people who inspired them.
The ranch sign at the family homestead
Frank Arbuckle on his favorite horse Charlie
Albion, Montana, circa 1912. Frank is the kid in front wearing overalls.
The chicken coop at the Arbuckle Ranch just before it was torn down
The Arbuckle Ranch house today.
The ranch homestead today
Russell Rowland - 1990
Frank [Blake] and Mary Lee [Sophie] Arbuckle