Tony Guisto is something of an urban legend in Big Sky Country — at least to one doctor.
“Being on a ranch is physically demanding,” he told The Produce News. “I’ll do it while I’m young and dumb. If you’re going to work cattle with horses, you’re going to get hurt.”
And right he was.
In the blink of an eye, the horse being ridden by the 25-year-old dropped to the ground during a wintry ride. Guisto’s foot was trapped in the stirrup, and his bones snapped. The doctor who attended Guisto said this type of break is known as aLisfranc fracture and was prevalent among horsemen during the Napoleonic Era.
Because this type of break cuts off circulation quickly, only one form of treatment was available at that time in history.
“Back then, they would cut off your foot,” Guisto said.
With advancements in medical science, Guisto was spared such a fate, undergoing three surgeries to get him back in the saddle.
Guisto is the son of Kathryn Klein and Brad Fowler, owners of Hood River Cherry Co. in Hood River, OR. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2010 with a degree in geography. Initially, he intended to be a teacher. But he changed his mind. Guisto said his parents were adamant that he should work outside the family business to gain some well-rounded business experience before returning to the company.
“I love agriculture,” he said. “I’m really into horses.”
So his decision to sign on as a ranch hand at the Green Ranch in Buffalo, MT, wasn’t such a stretch. And he said the experience has served him well.
Cowboy culture isn’t about the romance portrayed by Hollywood. “It’s a dying culture,” Guisto said. “It’s not a real pleasant job unless you like it. You’re out all the time. It’s great if you don’t mind hard work and long hours.”
Guisto said there’s also a natural tie-in for him that lies below the surface. “Being I’m a geography major, human culture is a part of geography,” he commented.
The hands get together over morning coffee and plot out the day. Guisto said often times they are out alone all day attending to their chores. With such a solitary setting, he said he’s learned a valuable life lesson that will transfer when he returns to the cherry orchards.
“One thing that rules is communication,” he said. “It’s good to learn how to take orders from someone else. And I’ve learned how important communication is.”
Not all ranchers work from horseback. Guisto has drawn an interesting parallel between ranching and farming.
“How ranchers ride horses is like riding a tractor back home,” he observed.
Fencing and fence repair are important parts of his job, and Guisto said this is another skill that will translate well to his life on home turf.
“Orchardists aren’t very handy doing fencing,” he chuckled.
With this somewhat isolated lifestyle, Guisto said going to the city — the closest being two hours away — is an urban experience.
“The culture is different. It doesn’t sink in for a few days. People from Bozeman look at you strange,” he said.
A quiet life is not an unknown to Guisto. Back home in Hood River, he said, the community is small enough that people know each other. “You kind of get to know everyone in the valley,” he stated.
In addition to his love of horses, Guisto is an avid outdoorsman.
“I’m an odd fellow,” he said.
He was a member of his college ski team and enjoyed bicycle racing and mountain biking. He loves bow hunting.
“Bow hunting is more of a challenge,” he said. “Bow hunters are environmentalists in a hunting way.”
Guisto got his pilot’s license the day before he left for college, and he owns a J3 Piper Cub. He said he’d love to fly a helicopter to blow water off the cherry orchards, but acknowledged it’s a dangerous occupation.
For the past two years, Guisto has served as food-safety officer for the family business. Even in the wilds of Montana, Guisto is available to discuss family business and maintain the company’s spray records. He plans to return to Hood River in 2014.