Cattleman settles near Breck
BRECKENRIDGE – Peter Packard has lived the cowboy life.
His house near Mount Baldy southeast of Breckenridge has all the fixings of a life on the range, from the wooden architecture to the wrought-iron-and-wood table littered with outdoor photography books and a Cowboys and Indians magazine.
The Colorado native – who admits he’s proud of that status – was raised in Colorado Springs. He followed his older brother, Guthrie, to college at Arizona State University in Tempe, majoring in animal husbandry.
“He introduced me to fraternity stuff and girls,” Packard said. “I said, “This beats the heck out of boys school; I’m in.”
Their father published law books for a living and hoped his boys would follow in his footsteps. But the two had other plans.
In 1967, they bought a cattle ranch in Elbert with about 50 head of cattle. That spread – the Packard Cattle Co. – grew over the years to include other parcels, including a 16,000-acre ranch in Limon, which eventually held more than 700 head of cattle.
Packard married his first wife, Patricia, in 1971. The couple had three children, two girls and a boy.
Packard and his brother continued to attend stock shows throughout the West, and were the first to introduce the French maine-a-jou cattle to the United States. The Packards’ best performance in a stock show came in 1979, in Houston, when they received grand champion female and reserve grand champion bull.
“That was a great life,” he said of the ranchers and cowboys he associated with. “They were wonderful people, very honest and easy to deal with.”
The ranching life isn’t an easy one, and in 1984, Packard was looking for change. He moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., and eventually started selling off parcels of the ranch. He traded the last parcel for the house he and his second wife, Elizabeth, now own overlooking the Valley of the Blue.
“It was hard,” he said. “It (the land) will never be the same. We had about 5,200 acres of land that was good to us. They’re not making more of it.”
In Arizona, he started work at the Out of Africa Wildlife Park on the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation near Fountain Hills. The 40-acre park took injured or illegally obtained animals and placed them in one habitat under the theory that they could coexist.
“The owners believed you could put lions and tigers and mountain lions in the same habitat,” he said. “It’s kind of like the United Nations. Here’s animals that could kill you at any moment, yet they choose to live together.”
There was a lot of interaction between the animals and people there, too. And in eight years of working with lions and swimming with white tigers, Packard was never injured.
“You have to read the animals,” he said. “You don’t go in while they’re feeding. And you don’t go in while they’re in season. It was something I was so fortunate to be there. I have a lot of great memories. Animals are often a lot easier to work with than people.”
In 1994, he and Elizabeth left.
“It was time,” he said. “Things were changing at the park. But it was hard to leave. We wanted to come back (to Colorado).”
They visited a relative in California and were waylaid for another seven years in San Luis Obispo, where the couple bought a house that was in foreclosure proceedings.
Since their arrival in Breckenridge 14 months ago, Packard has joined the All Electric hockey team, coaches the Breckenridge Blast women’s hockey team, has volunteered at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center and worked on trail projects in town. He’s most passionate about photography, having spent 10 days in Alaska shooting bears and eagles and five weeks in Africa.
“If I could get away with sitting at the airport, I’d take pictures of people all day long,” he said. “The human being is a study in itself. But a dream photography trip? I could go to Africa and disappear for months. I could do that real easily.”
The couple fixed up and sold the California house last year.
“We always had the itch to come back here,” he said. “I love being here. This is God’s country.”
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