It was evening in Calf Creek valley, and the setting sun crept toward the western horizon, pulling the shadows up the water-streaked ledges, transforming them from pink to red. An occasional Cadiz fly hovered above the water as Calf Creek coursed its way through lush green pastures around a cluster of outbuildings that were the center of Calf Creek Ranch. The creek meandered through the ranch on one short leg of its trip through the Grand Staircase National Monument, passing through deep slot canyons and over cascading waterfalls before emptying into the mighty Colorado River.
It was there in the stark grandeur of the upper reaches of the Grand Staircase that Angeline Reichert was preparing for the fight she believed was her destiny to wage. Her father, Rusty, and his father before him, William Reichert, built a ranching empire, a 640,000-acre spread known as the Diamond T, the largest cattle operation in all of southwestern Colorado. Rusty’s only son and Angeline’s brother, Julian Reichert, stole the Diamond T from Rusty, or so she had been told, and she was determined to get it back. She would extract her father’s lost heritage from her evil brother, the man who Rusty once called his son.
Angeline had never met her brother Julian, and she had no desire to meet the man who destroyed her father. The story was clear. Julian tricked his father into willing the ranch and its massive holdings to him as the sole heir, and then he pushed Rusty and his beloved wife, Lola, out of his life. Angeline could not stop asking herself what kind of man would strip his parents of their home and then relegate them to a lonely existence in a place that overlooked their lost dream—a small cabin on the outskirts of the ranch.
Angeline could never forget the sadness she felt when Rusty explained to her that it was there in the roundup cabin, where she was born, that he suffered the second blow to his life’s dreams. Lola died giving life to her. He reminded Angeline that she was what kept him going through his despair. He also revealed that she had an older sister, her namesake, also Angeline. That sister, twenty-two years her senior, and two years younger than Julian, died in an automobile accident at the age of twenty-seven. With the help of an Indian woman and her husband who lived near him, Rusty raised Angeline to adulthood, and it was there in the cabin he gave her her life’s mission. He told her how she would restore to him and to her that which was rightfully theirs. Rusty explained to Angeline that the power of the Diamond T was its reputation for producing the best beef animals in the west. He told her how he and his father, her Grandfather William, had built that reputation by buying and breeding the best animals they could find. Rusty described, through his anger, how Julian, over his objection, dramatically changed the way the Diamond T developed its line of cattle.
“Julian got pulled into the hocus pocus of genetic engineering as a way to change how new calves developed,” he told her. “It’s not right, messing with the way God designed to pass traits from one generation to another, but he’s done it, and you will use his own secrets to get the ranch back.”
Angeline didn’t argue with Rusty when he talked about genetic engineering because she knew she couldn’t change his mind. What she did know was that the Diamond T had developed a line of beef cattle that was superior to anything in the country, and they did it by altering the effects of a gene called myostatin.
Myostatin “manages” the development of muscle tissue by acting as an inhibitor to its growth. In animals, where the myostatin gene mutates, muscle mass increases, and the animals are larger and meatier than animals with the normal gene. Julian Reichert’s researchers created a synthetic gene that blocked the effects of myostatin, resulting in cattle that were 20 percent meatier than any other strain. The Diamond T generated in excess of ten million dollars annually, in sales of genetically engineered sperm and eggs and market beef.