The immigration and secure border issue in Arizona has gotten more press lately than a political love scandal. It seems everybody has an opinion on the subject.
If you could point to one thing that brought it to the forefront of political issues, it would have to be the murder of a southern Arizona rancher on his own property. On March 28, 2010, Rob Krentz became the poster child for the secure border issue. Unfortunately, it cost him his life.
Rob is without a doubt one of the most widely known ranchers in America today. As I read with interest all of the stories concerning the border and immigration, I started to wonder “just who was Rob Krentz?” I mean the person Rob Krentz, not the image or martyr that he has become. I know several of the Krentz Ranch neighbors, and when one of them approached me about doing a story on the subject, I readily agreed on the condition that it was with the Krentz family blessing. I am honored that they agreed, because now I feel as if I know who Rob Krentz really was. I only wish that I could have met him prior to March 28.
While interviewing several family members and neighbors of Rob’s, I got a glowing report of a great man. Friend, family man, conservationist, good rancher and kind-hearted were all thrown about.
From the time he was just a little boy, Rob’s dad, Bob, grilled into him the importance of doing things the right way. Throughout his life, Rob wouldn’t cut corners when it might have been easy to do so. Little things that some people don’t think twice about like moving cattle without the proper inspection papers or running red (illegal) diesel in his pickup truck were out of the question. You never cheat, not even one little bit, was what Rob lived by.
Rob’s family have been known as good stewards of their land. In 2008, the Krentz Ranch was inducted into the Arizona Farming and Ranching Hall of Fame.
Around the turn of the 20th century, the Krentz family emigrated (legally) from Alsace-Lorraine (which once was a little country between Germany and France and now is part of France). They were butchers by trade and first settled in St. Louis. Around 1902 they moved to Winslow, Arizona, operating a butcher shop and a ranch. Operating the Chevelon Creek Ranch south of Winslow, the family recorded one of the earliest brands in the state of Arizona, the 111-Bar brand, now owned by the Babbitt family. In 1907 the family sought out new ventures in the border town of Douglas, which was booming at the time. The Krentz’s bought the historic Tovrea Meat Market in Douglas and also the Spear E Ranch at the foot of the Chiricahua mountains. In about 1918, the meat market was sold and they concentrated their efforts solely on ranching.
It took several years, but eventually the Krentz family was able to buy up the little homesteads surrounding them when they became available.
Despite bad droughts, cyclical markets, government regulations, and a myriad of other issues, the Krentz family continues to survive as ranchers. The family ranch existed long before there was ever a United States Forest Service dictating rules to them.
This is the legacy Rob was born into.
Over and over again I am told about Rob’s willingness to help out. Rob’s neighbors have great stories to tell about Rob going out of his way to help them out of a jam. He was kind to strangers as well. He was known to help out a thirsty, starving or wounded immigrant on more than one occasion.
That may have been what got him killed. Rob’s last radio transmission to his brother. Phil, was something like: “Going to help an illegal in distress.” Rob and his dog, Blue, were found shot several hours later.
Rob was a favorite around brandings on the nearby ranches. He was nicknamed “Crunch,” and friends laugh as they recall the “Krentz Crunch” that Rob used on waspy calves. Rob was a large man, and after watching younger or smaller cowhands get mucked out by an unruly yearling, Rob would come running and put the Krentz Crunch on the offending animal. The move has been described as a cross between tackle football and wrestling.
Rob loved to hunt, fish, and do just about anything outdoors. He was a good roper, rancher, horseman, cowman, husband and father. Everybody I talked to had nothing but praise for Rob. He was easy to get along with, always positive and genuine.
Rob often told his family, “We are so very blessed to live in this beautiful place and to get to do what we want every day.”
Jim Olson lives on and operates his own ranch near Stanfield, Arizona. He writes a monthly column titled, “My Cowboy Heroes.” For more information, visit mycowboyheroes.com.