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The Los Angeles Times featured a familiar cowboy on its front page yesterday: Steve Tellam, who runs cattle out near Ramona.

We profiled Tellam and his dying industry in this 2007 story about the implications that the decline in cattle ranching has for land preservation across San Diego County.

The Times goes up-close with Tellam in a beautifully written piece. Here’s a tidbit:

Steve Tellam has three screws and two plates in one knee and has broken his other kneecap three times. He has busted his collarbone, ankle and too many fingers to recall. He nearly lost a hand when his wrist got tangled in a rope tied to an angry cow.

“Haven’t broken my neck yet,” he says, not a joke but a statement of fact. Comprehensive health insurance is unattainable. The best he can do is a catastrophic policy for $1,000 a month.

Mike Tellam, who runs a firewood business on the side, nearly lost a thumb recently while building a fence; he was back at work with his one good arm a few days later. Willie (Tellam, their father), a stiff-walking textbook on arthritis, recently had knee replacement surgery; he was back on his horse in five weeks. There is no time for injuries, because being a cowboy takes a lot of time.

“With cows, every little thing that goes wrong can eat up half a day,” Steve Tellam says.

“What’s it like when it goes right?” Willie mutters to himself.

ROB DAVIS

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