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Louise Marie Moulton Hanson

Courtesy Photo

Louise Marie Moulton Hanson


Louise Marie Moulton Hanson: 1914 – 2014

Rancher, Environmentalist


Louise always had an intuitive mind. As a child, she would adjust whatever harness she could find to fit her pony to drive tandem with a big ranch mule. Off she’d go out into the wide-open spaces of Orange County with her dog aboard and possibly one of the other ranch children that she played with.

She loved the outdoors, her pets, and the ranch she grew up on. It was her life.

She learned fluent “ranch Spanish,” as she called it, from being around the ranch cowboys, and she enjoyed “keeping up” her fluency for 90-plus years.

When Orange County became too crowded, Louise and her sister, Charlotte, headed north in search of more open space to raise cattle. Louise visited the Alisal Guest Ranch while looking for the location she thought was what she wanted, and she found it near Santa Ynez.

For several years, Louise had the perspective and foresight to put several ranches together, here in Santa Barbara County, assembling a total of 14,000 acres with which she could raise cattle and have farmland to grow additional feed for livestock.

In thinking ahead about what she might do to keep the ranch preserved in its entirety, she became aware of the California Rangeland Trust. This was the answer to keeping the open space for generations to come after she was gone. She put her Gaviota ranch in trust as ranch and farmland in 2013.

Louise was up every morning at 5:30, on the phone with ranch business by 6, then breakfast and out the door by 7. She’d ridden horseback across every inch of the ranch. She roped at her brandings, keeping an eye on how others treated her cattle. She knew every canyon, fence line and their gates, springs, troughs, where fault-line slippages were, and could tell you exactly how to get there.

In later years she drove her jeep out to see the cows and check the barley fields — fixing fences and cleaning troughs along the way if she saw something she thought needed to be done. Her jeep became her office at times once cell phones came into the picture … and what a picture it was, with Louise often sitting on one of her hilltops when an idea came to mind. Work was never done, and it’s what kept her going.

She could look at the grasses in an area and tell you what the soil was lacking and if the cows did well or needed an extra supplement. She loved all cattle and had her favorite breeds, but she liked to crossbreed to “see what happens” at times.

Louise was well read and educated. She enjoyed engaging in political conversations, be they national, state, or certainly Santa Barbara County. She was especially on top of environmental issues that may have involved the ranch. She would not hesitate to call or write someone if she wanted more information on a current matter.

Louise was a strong-willed woman in all regards. It was the ranch that allowed her to live the life she loved and enjoyed so much; she loved her cows, but she loved her ranch more. It was hard at times, but she never wavered. She was respected and admired by many if not all who knew her and her strength of character.

Although the ranch will stay the same, for those who were fortunate enough to be a part of her life, we will sure miss that lady.

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