As a kid, I used to spend a couple of weeks each summer at “The Ranch,” a magical oasis in California’s arid San Joaquin Valley. The family-owned property contained a eucalyptus grove, lily pond, reservoir and hundreds of steers, horses, chickens and pigs, all bound by fields of alfalfa and barley. Beyond, thousands of acres of tumbleweed desert radiated toward distant mountain ranges to the east, south and west. To the north, the land stretched forever, proof enough to an emerging consciousness that the world, despite Columbus, was really flat.

My dad and his brother ran the cattle business from a nearby small town, Wasco. Each y