As April concludes, so does Carlos Rivera’s routine. Residents at Steam Pump Ranch had until the last day of April to move off their property, and that included Rivera, the caretaker.
“I don’t want to leave,” Rivera said. “That’s my home.”
His home is a patchwork of rooms. An outdoor stone fireplace, which was used to cook large amounts of meat years ago, is now enclosed with a roof and walls. Additions to the house are evident, with a mix of paints, bricks and obvious seams in the side of the building. A porch was turned into a closed-in storage area, and an extra room was added to the backside.
Rivera is 82, yet his hands are still strong. He is able to lift small bales of hay as he feeds remaining horses. He moves quickly and efficiently during his peaceful, isolated daily routine.
As Rivera waits for the water trough to fill, he sits on a stack of hay, staring off across the ranch — almost as if he is trying to take in as much as he can in his last few days on the ranch.
“There was nothing out here when I first came here,” Rivera recalled. “You would maybe see one car go by every hour.”
Rivera dropped out of school after fifth grade, and has since worked with anything that has four legs, mainly horses. He has worked at numerous ranches, from Romero Ranch, where Catalina State Park now resides, to places near Florence and Vail.
Steam Pump Ranch was home to about 40 horses in its prime — all under the care, training, and supervision of Rivera. It also had a chicken coop and a large riding track, which now is covered with a parking lot and a Chili’s Grill and Bar.
The 15-acre ranch was bought by the town of Oro Valley in late April 2007 for about $3 million. Current plans are to turn it into a town historical site, featuring the original homestead home.
The ranch was used in the late 1800s as a location for ranchers to bring their cattle to be watered, and as a resting area for travelers and stagecoaches.
Now, more than 100 years later, Rivera has packed up his clothes, furniture and other belongings to leave another ranch once more.
Over the past couple weeks. the caretaker has been taking his stuff, with the help of his sons, about eight miles north. He’ll live with one of his sons, who has two horses on a five-acre property.
This is the end of Rivera’s current lifestyle. He will help out around his son’s property, but his days of caring and training horses around Steam Pump Ranch will be just another addition to the years of history and memories in Carlos Rivera’s mind.