Mark Hendrix grew up in Fallon, Nevada, near Reno, but every weekend he’d head out to the family ranch two and a half hours east of the city, riding a horse for 8-12 hours a day. He earned a degree in range management at the University of Utah, and now he’s the range ecologist at Custer State Park in South Dakota, where he oversees the health of the park’s resources, from timber sales to the health of the park’s buffalo herd. He does much of this while perched upon the back of a horse.
It’s not the standard 9-to-5. Rather, it’s the sort of job many people dream of from inside a cubicle — or worse, from inside a bus to Mountain View. (Or worse, from inside a meeting with investors.)
“It doesn’t pay real well, but then, it doesn’t really feel like a job,” he says. “I enjoy it. It doesn’t feel like I’m going to work. And the cost of living isn’t high, so you can just live and enjoy yourself — you just really have fun, out there with yourself, your horses and your dogs.”
Below, his toolkit — and his one, firm rule for any newbies looking to pair a new Stetson with some denim.
“They’re good for spotting wildlife when we’re doing survey counts through the winter and making sure they’re staying healthy. I have a pair of Diamondbacks, and I also have a pair of the Razors, their high-end model, which has a better clarity of glass, so you can look farther into the distance and it’s still clear. The optics are really crisp when you look through them, and they’re better for viewing early morning and later in the evening, when there’s less light.”
Hondo riding boots
“These are the riding boots I’ve been wearing since I was 16 — the same pair — and they’re just about done. I’ve had them resoled twice, and I don’t think I can do it again. I’ll wear them to social events but mostly for riding; they’re really comfortable for riding a horse. When you sit in a saddle for 12 hours, your boots need to have really good support, and these do. They don’t have a lot of cushion, which is why they’re better for riding than walking around.”
Custom saddle by Duane Coombs
“Duane worked for my family for a while — he was really a mentor to me, and encouraged me to go into range management. He builds about 10 saddles a year; it takes about a month to build one. A custom saddle can be tailor-made for your seat. Everybody’s different; everybody’s pin bones are different. With a custom saddle, it’s more like sitting in a recliner than sitting on a board. I’m still using the same one I got when I was 16.”
“What’s really cool about my hat is that I got it from my wife’s grandfather, who got it in the ’70s. He wore it a few times, but nobody in his family really wears them — so five years ago, he was like, ‘Here you go, at least you’ll use it.’ It looks brand new because he kept it in a box. It fits me perfectly — tight enough that it won’t fall off, but not so tight it cuts into my head. The problem you’ll see with people wearing Stetsons is that they’ll try too hard, and maybe wear one with a tight pair of Wranglers because that’s what they saw at a rodeo or something. You can just wear a normal pair of pants.”
Carhartt pants (and Cinch jeans)
“The Carhartt pants are thick, durable pants with a double layer, where pants usually wear out the fastest. And then when it comes to riding, I like Cinch jeans — I buy them long so they don’t ride up on my boots. The way they fit is better for riding.”
AmLactin Alpha-Hydroxy Moisturizing Lotion
“Dry skin runs in my family, and I had dry skin here and there as a kid — that’s what happens when you grow up in the middle of Nevada. You’re not supposed to wear it in sunlight [editor’s note: that’s due to the alpha hydroxy solution], but I’m usually in long-sleeves, so I’ll use some on my arms.”
Garmin Vivofit 2
“The nice thing about this is that it’ll count your steps — or when you ride your horse, it’ll tell you how far you went: Did you go 20 miles? It’s pretty basic, but it does the job.”
Podcast: The Bobby Bones Show
“He has a morning show out of Nashville, and I listen to that. They talk about different things going on in the world, and their lives. They have a variety of segments including one called ‘Tell Me Something Good,’ and they’ll play some different trivia games. They have a good mix of music and talking.”
Pandora’s Thumbprint Radio
“I’ll listen to country music while I’m out riding. My last three songs are Tim McGraw’s ‘It’s Your Love’ with Faith Hill, Jason Aldean’s “Show You Off’ and George Strait’s ‘You Look So Good in Love.’”
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