HEREFORD — Theresa Warrell did not grow up on a ranch. But the rough and tumble ranching lifestyle with the days long and dusty and where nothing is typical except the unexpected is definitely in her blood.
A former college professor and coach from the East, the 59-year-old Warrell landed in Southeast Arizona and at the Single Star Ranch here in 1998. And as she put it, “I never left.”
When she met Steve Boice, who was born and raised on a ranch in Sonoita, the two became fast friends and partners who developed a dual-purpose endeavor at the Single Star Ranch that includes raising beef and rescuing abused and unwanted horses under the Horse’n Around Rescue organization.
While Horse’n Around— located inside the Single Star Ranch — is mostly maintained by donations and a steadfast cadre of volunteers who feed, groom and train the equines seven days a week, the labor that goes into running the rescue and the Single Star cattle ranch is a 24-7 operation shared by Warrell and Boice.
Ask either one how a “typical day” begins at the Single Star, and the response is a chuckle.
“The first thing about a typical day is that there’s nothing typical about it,” Warrell said on a recent Wednesday in early August at the ranch. “Every day is different.”
On the afternoon when Warrell and Boice were able to sit down with the Herald/Review, she mentioned that the whole week had been and would be focused on the cows — branding them, shipping them, auctioning them off and yes, sending them to slaughter.
“Between the rescue and the cattle operation, there is no down time,” Warrell said. “Our motto here is ‘Siempre Algo’ — always something. Just when we think we’re gonna have a minute and we plan something — which we don’t do very often — inadvertently it gets changed or delayed.
“But every now and then it works and we have life,” Warrell adds with a smile.
The pair says they are proud of how their cattle is raised.
“We say that we raise beef,” Warrell says. “We’re very proud of the grass-fed animals that we have and that we can feed families. That is the crux of our cattle business.
“Our cattle are fairly pampered. At the moment they have plenty of lush green grass. We do have eyes on everybody, every day, so that we know they’re doing well.”
The 70-year-old Boice, who grew up on the storied Empire Ranch in Sonoita, said it’s important that people know where their food comes from.
“We know where these cows have been,” he said. “We know what vaccines they’ve had or not had. We know what they’ve been fed. They’re not fed hormones, they’re not fed all these other things.”
Warrell and Boice sell their beef by the quarter. Their cattle business started about 2½ years ago when Warrell purchased the Single Star Ranch in 2019 from former owner Joan Strom.
Taking a truck ride around the massive Single Star, one quickly come across the black Angus cattle that roam free through mesquite-covered desert recently turned green, courtesy of the monsoons.
Warrell says the aim has always been to raise beef that is indeed stress-free and well cared for.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to develop since I purchased the ranch in 2019,” she says. “It’s growing, it’s coming forward, it’s building and that’s kind of special.”
Unlike Boice, Warrell had to learn about ranching.
She landed at the Single Star Ranch in July 1998. At the time, she was “just visiting” and the ranch belonged to Bud and Joan Strom. It was named “Single Star” in honor of Bud Strom’s rank in the Army — a one-star brigadier general.
“Joan invited me to stay in the bunkhouse while I looked for a job for six months,” Warrell said. “I never left. That was 24 years ago.”
Warrell said she made herself useful and began learning about ranching from Bud Strom — that included riding, checking fences, birthing calves, etc.
“There is no little bit of ranching,” Warrell said. “You just jump in with both feet. I fell in love with it.”
Somewhere along the line, Bud Strom began referring to Warrell as his ranch manager, she said.
Boice met Warrell in the early 2000s while he was in the area on a construction job. He said that after his father passed away in 1973, “everything turned upside down” and he left the family ranch for the construction industry.
The idea to start a horse rescue emanated from both of them, as well as from Warrell’s inability to get used to butchering animals she had “raised and loved.”
“We were on the mountain pasture and I said to Steve, ‘You know it would be really fun to raise something we didn’t have to butcher,’ “ she said. “At the time, there was so much need (to help) horses. The whole slaughter issue in the industry had just come about.
“We had rescued a couple of horses and put them on the mountain pasture we were leasing, and we watched miracles happen with those horses. We thought, if we became official, we could help so many more horses. Of course, we were thinking about 15 to 20, but it became more like 50 or 60.”
Horse’n Around was born in 2010 with “11 critters.” Most of the equines were kept on the mountain pasture that Warrell and Boice had leased next to the Single Star property off State Route 92.
“That’s kind of how the idea got started,” Boice said. “We also had people who would call us and tell us that they had a horse that had to be turned out to pasture and could we take him? And that’s how we ended up with the first 11.”
By the time Horse’n Around celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020, the rescue had placed 101 equines in caring homes. By then, 173 horses had made their way to the ranch. Today, there are 54 horses under the organization’s care.
Like the cattle, these equines, many who have been removed from dreadful situations, are pampered and attended to daily by Warrell, Boice and a group of unwavering volunteers who help feed, groom and water them. The horses also get regular checkups from veterinarians, chiropractors and dentists.
“Horses have a heart like you can’t imagine,” Boice says of his charges.
Nodding in agreement, Warrell adds that ranching is an “all-encompassing lifestyle,” but not one that she or Boice would soon trade.
“I’ve had a fortunate path of careers. I have enjoyed them all. But this is my passion,” she said.