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Bill King ’62 was named an Honored Vaquero during the 2011 Vaquero Show and Sale at the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum in November.
Along with his brother, Chuck, the Kings were born to be ranchers. Family roots link the brothers to Santa Barbara’s early Spanish settlers who owned and operated many large ranchos in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, as well as the original de la Guerra and Orena homes in Santa Barbara.
Though their family urged them to enter professional careers, they were determined to be full-time cattlemen after attending college. They launched the King Brothers Cattle Company and leased a 6,000-acre ranch near Parkfield in southern Monterey County.
“We thought we knew something about working cattle, but the years we spent in Parkfield showed us just how much we didn’t know,” Bill said. “At one branding Chuck and I roped a calf, but the ground crew ignored us. After a while, we realized that we were too far from the fire so we dragged the calf closer and the ground crew went to work. We’d still be there if we hadn’t moved closer!”
After three years, the Kings returned to Los Alamos and bought their mother’s herd and leased the family ranch. They expanded their cattle business as they married and began families, leasing several ranches, most notably the San Julian Ranch that had family ties.
In 1973, Chuck sold his interest in the cattle company to Bill and obtained a real estate license. Bill worked for Glen and Raymond Cornelius, much-respected local cattle traders and ranchers.
“They taught me a lot about the business end of the cattle industry,” Bill said.
Bill and his daughter Jenny still operate King Brothers Cattle Company. Jenny’s husband Luke Hardin and Bill’s son Billy cowboy for the family cattle operation. Bill’s daughter Katy also helps out on a regular basis. For the past 12 years, Bill and Jenny have also run the receiving station in Buellton for the Templeton Livestock Market, helping fellow ranchers to ship their stock to market.
For decades, both King brothers have been active in the Cattlemen’s Association at the local, state and national levels. They have served on the state and county boards of directors. Bill is a past president of the Santa Barbara County Cattlemen’s Association and in 2007 was honored by the Santa Barbara County Fair Board as Livestock Producer of the Year.
Chuck and Bill continue to participate in the tri-county Fiesta Rodeo events in Santa Barbara. They won the team penning in 1970 with neighbor Ted Monighetti and have placed in a number of the events throughout the years.
In 2005, both were honored by the Fiesta Rodeo Board as Honorary Vaqueros for their years of involvement in the rodeo as well as their contributions to the local cattle industry.
Bill and Chuck contributed photographs and documents on their family history for a book titled Reminiscences of Early California, written in 1932 by their great-uncle Dario Orena but published only this year by Dibblee Hoyt and Bob Isaacson.
“This wonderful book describes the way Vaqueros really lived,” Chuck said. “Dario provides a clear picture of life on the vast early California ranchos. He was born in the mid-1850s and died in 1937, so his life bridges the Mexican era and modern times. He describes everything from hunting grizzly bears to braiding a reata. Most of the action takes place in the Los Alamos and Santa Ynez Valleys as well as the Cuyama Valley. It is a great book.” The book is published by Muleshoe Press, is available for purchase at the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum, 3596 Sagunto St. in Santa Ynez.