By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming ranches could never be called a dime a dozen, but there are some ranches that stand out because of historic value, the quantity and quality of natural resources, or the sheer beauty of the place.
The Bar Cross Ranch in Cora, Wyoming could qualify on all of these fronts.
Not only is it one of the oldest ranches but is 35,000 acres large and sits in one of the most picturesque parts of the state. That might explain a price tag of $35 million.
Some people say for that price, the buyer gets more than just a ranch, the buyer gets a part of history with a lineage that is remarkable.
Not only does it have a pedigree in the ranching world but a lineage associated with one of the most prolific bands in modern history.
The Grateful Dead
Cowboy State Daily columnist Rod Miller, a fifth generation Wyomingite who grew up in a ranching family in Carbon County, said the importance of the ranch dates back to his childhood friend, the late John Perry Barlow.
Barlow’s family founded the Bar Cross Ranch in the early 1900s and he spent his youth there, until being sent to Colorado to attend the Fountain Valley School. There, he met young Bob Weir, the Grateful Dead’s co-founder, and the two became fast friends.
Perhaps Barlow is best known for being affiliated with The Grateful Dead as one of two principal lyricists for the band.
Barlow was accomplished in many, many fields. One-of-a-kind, Miller said.
“John Perry Barlow was probably the only renaissance man that Wyoming ever produced,” he said.
And many of the Dead’s most popular songs were written at this ranch, Miller said.
“That’s where it all happened, man,” he said, mentioning the songs “Cassidy”, “Estimated Prophet” and “Mexicali Blues.”
Miller cautioned that any story about Barlow should go deeper into what else the “renaissance man” accomplished, mentioning that he founded the Electric Frontier Foundation and wrote and delivered the Declaration of Cyber Independence.
But Miller also noted that Barlow wrote songs with founding member Bob Weir as well.
Sold Ranch For Barlow
After years of being away from the Bar Cross Ranch, Barlow returned in 1971 for a visit and ultimately stayed for 17 years, running the ranch after his father had suffered a stroke and became incapacitated.
Jim Taylor, a real estate agent based in Billings, Montana, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that he actually sold the ranch for Barlow at the time and knew the Dead’s lyricist and all-around renaissance man relatively well.
“He was a very interesting guy, very engaging and obviously, highly intelligent,” Taylor said. “I am not a Grateful Dead fan, though. I’m musically handicapped.”
Miller said when Barlow returned to his family’s ranch, he would hire hippies and Deadheads to help out on the ranch. Taylor said that Weir even joked about having to earn his keep when he would stay at Bar Cross.
“It was like the sort of place where hippies could get away from the city and come and hang out with John Perry and the Grateful Dead and some really creative people from the late 60s,” Miller said.
Miller could remember visiting the ranch as a child and seeing the biggest mosquitoes of his life. His mother was friends with Barlow’s mother. He also alluded to signatures hidden away on one wall in the house featuring signatures of not only the Dead, but Marlon Brando and Dennis Hopper.
Taylor said he has had several inquiries about the ranch, with one person who said they were willing to make an offer on Bar Cross, sight unseen.
However, the realtor does not think that the Grateful Dead history has much, if anything to do with the sale of the ranch.
“This place has everything you could ask for,” Taylor said. “Buyers want something attractive and this is absolutely appealing in every year. It adjoins national forests and it’s an hour away from Jackson. It’s very safe. This is a really outstanding investment, because a ranch will never be worth zero.”