The Craig zoo

Resident boards town children's animals on ranch, along with her own menagerie

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As soon as Moffat County Fair organizers decided to add chicken roping to the 2006 fair events, they called Mary Martinez to reserve the chickens.

Martinez has chickens. And ducks. And geese and turkeys. Along with goats, pigs, steers, lambs, horses and llamas.

"I love my animals," Martinez said. "One year we took nine animals to the county fair."

The Craig native met her husband, Stan, in 1996 at a 4-H event. When they leased 100 acres four years ago, she decided to fill the place with animals.

As a youngster, Mary only entered 4-H crocheting and knitting events. However, her children are more involved in the fair's animal events.

Her son, 19-year-old Tony Webb, has been in 4-H for eight years.

"He shows steers and pigs and was in the catch-a-calf at the stock show," Mary said. "He caught and raised a Hereford."

Mary's daughter, 17-year-old Bailee Porter, shows steers, lambs and pigs.

"She also entered crochet and leather items during her seven years in 4-H," Mary said.

Martinez doesn't only look after animals for her own children to enter in the fair.

She also supplies baby animals to other children for projects, sometimes boarding them for kids that live in town.

"I like to help the kids that don't have money for their projects," Martinez said. "I tell them just to pay me later when they sell the animal."

When boarding animals for town children, Martinez expects them to care for the animals. She makes sure the children clean the pens and walk the animals each afternoon. She makes sure that all the animals have hay, feed and shelter.

Sun up 'til sun down

Preparing animals for county fair projects is not a short-term commitment.

Martinez puts the Billy goat in with the females on the first Sunday in August, so that babies will be ready for selection by the children as 4-H projects in April.

In the fall, Martinez helps the children prepare their animals for showing at the fair, sometimes driving to Maybell to sheer lambs with the youngsters.

"It's neat to help the kids," she said. "I really love that."

Feeding the animals is a big event at the Martinez ranch. A lot of lives depend on Mary.

Her animals eat once a day, always in the evening, and it takes time to feed them all.

"I have five pigs that eat pellets. Eight 80-pound bags last about a month when they're little," she said. "Now they're eating two to three bags a week. They all eat better than I do."

The goats get cracked corn and rolled oats, and go through a 5-gallon-bucket of feed each day. The birds eat a diet of cracked corn and poultry mix.

The Martinez property is irrigated and the hay crop goes toward feeding the four-legged animals in the winter.

Inside the Martinez home are many clues that give away the owners' love of animals.

A laptop computer keeps track of important dates for vaccinations and listing the ear-tag that match mother and baby goats.

A veterinarian book on the table helps Martinez diagnose health problems, and a set of scales stands nearby, ready to weigh the next baby.

The Martinez menagerie is not only for 4-H projects.

Each year Mary helps the Horizons organization by supplying animals for a petting zoo during its Special Olympics dinner. She brings her animals to Sheep Wagon Days, as well.

She purchases turkeys at Murdoch's each year to grow for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, although they frequently won't fit in the fryer because they have grown too large.

She presently has 15 geese, and often won't accept payments when people want a goose for their yard or for dinner.

The geese make good watchdogs she said, making a lot of noise if someone enters the yard.

Martinez will often share pig pens with neighbors, butchering the swine when the time is right.

It's all worth it

Her involvement with animals keeps her and her husband in demand at times.

"When people need help moving animals, me and my husband are there," she said. "He does the horseback part, and I stay on foot. I like that better."

A 4-H leader for the past four years, Martinez has passed on the job this year to pursue other interests.

She's currently busy building pens for the next batch of goats, expected at the end of the month.

Winter takes much more work when tending to the animals, and it takes more money for heating bills.

"You need heat lamps when you are kidding out," Martinez said about her goats. "Birds are also tougher to raise in the winter. The turkeys will fight, and their little feet freeze."

There's a propane heater on the horses' water-tank, and electric heaters for the goats' water on the Martinez ranch.

The birds get fresh water every day.

"I'm out there at night with headlights and flashlights praying the hoses are thawed," she said "If they're frozen I put them in the washing machine."

Besides farm animals, Martinez has a couple of cats, and dogs, including two Corgis and a Jack Russell Terrier. She expects to get a border collie before New Years.

A visitor unfamiliar with Martinez might ask, "Is it worth all the trouble?"

Martinez has to smile at that question.

"Sometimes my mom and dad, (Bill and Dorothy Webb) come out just to look at the animals," she said. "If you can give back to the community, that's important. People did it for me as a kid when I lived in town."

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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