"It's my home," Chris True said Thursday from his ranch house on the 1,047-acre Mindego Hill ranch he soon will be vacating.
"It will be real tough to leave, but we're going to a bigger, more productive ranch in Idaho," he said.
True and his wife, Veronica, will be relocating their cattle-ranching operation to a 3,000-acre ranch in southwestern Idaho, 22 miles from the nearest town, Midvale, which has a total population of less than 200 persons, more than half of them in the single school that includes kindergarten through 12th grade.
True said he will curtail his "day job" businesses of hauling horses in his small fleet of trucks and selling an organic dust-control product made from lignosulfates, the material in trees that binds the wood together, a molasses-like substance he calls "nature's glue."
"I plan to retire to a bigger ranch -- but that's an oxymoron," he quipped. "But it's what I've always liked.
"The ranch is my lifestyle."
True said he moved to the ranch when he was 13 with his parents, Admiral Arnold and Corinne True, in the mid-1950s. They earlier resided in Portola Valley.
In the early years, there was no electricity or telephone, and he had to ride his horse down back trails to school in La Honda. True chuckled at the recollection: "That makes it sound like the old stories about having to ride 12 miles to school in the snow," he said.
A telephone was installed in 1958, and electricity followed in the early 1960s.
"The first person I met was John Rapley. He and my dad were cattle partners. When he retired in 1977 I took over the cattle lease," True said. Rapley died recently at 105.
He said the decision to sell the ranch to the Peninsula Open Space Trust was easy. They simply made the best offer, and in addition it was his parents' wish that the property be preserved as public open space.
"It was my mother's and father's wish. Both tried to give half the ranch to the county way back," he said. Prior to his parents buying the ranch it was in another ownership for a short time, and earlier had been part of R.A. Isenberg's ranch, the next mountain to the north of Mindego. His family became the fourth owners of the ranch, which was created by Juan Mendico, a Basque rancher, in 1859.
In the past, True has been a critic of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District because he felt it didn't respect its neighbors, "but both POST and the district are addressing these issues."
He has been a member of Californians for Property Rights, a landowners' group that resisted government takeover of private lands by eminent domain.
True is best known outside the La Honda and Skyline area for his "Cow Pie Bingo" games to raise funds for schools and community services, both for the rural communities and Palo Alto and Menlo Park, among others.
The "bingo" game consists of creating a grid on a football or other field, having people "buy" certain squares and then leading a cow around until a cow pie emerges. The holder of the square with the cow pie is the winner.
True estimates over the years he has helped raise about a quarter-million dollars.
"I first did one at Palo Alto High School in the mid-1990s, and we raised $5,000," he recalled. The idea isn't original, and is done widely in the Midwest. Some use a chicken if space is a problem, he said.
But he expressed irritation that funds need to be raised in whatever way. A recent bingo game at Menlo-Atherton High School paid for the school's winning girls' basketball team to travel to a tournament.
"The school won't pay for them to go to a tournament!" he said, with a trace of scorn.
-- Jay Thorwaldson