By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal
GLEN – The cowboy lifestyle is alive and well at Little Creek Ranch.
Horses, colts, longhorn cattle and beefalos – the offspring of a buffalo and a cow – roam the pastures. Vintage farm equipment dots the landscape. Signs around the property declare “ranch hands only.”
And owner Harold Little greets visitors in his boots, hat, plaid button-up, an “L” belt buckle and jeans.
His brand of choice?
Don’t let his appearance fool you – Little is business-savvy and is cultivating an agritourism attraction in Alcorn County.
He sells the feel of the Old West. The ranch is featured on Mississippi’s agritourism trail. It offers trail rides, RV camping, primitive camping, special event space, nature trails, fishing, hiking, mountain bike trails and wildlife watching.
Little leads trail rides weekly through 900 acres that have been in his family since 1842.
A two-hour ride is $40 per person. He’s had visitors from across the country mount one of his 22 horses and follow him into the woods.
He clients include people who have never been on a horse and people who are professional riders. He includes a 30-minute training session in a fenced-in arena before the excursion.
“I put them in there to get comfortable with them and to get them comfortable with the horses,” he said.
He’s carved out miles of trails that are friendly for beginner riders. The trails feature creeks, bridges, rustic sign posts, native plants and plenty of wildflowers.
“Almost every time we ride, we run up on some deer and turkey,” he said. “When it’s just a couple of people and you aren’t talking, you can get right up close.”
Many of his animals, including the longhorns, are only visible by horseback. His 20 donkeys also make an appearance on the trails.
“I’ve got two that are really cute because they are nothing but legs and ears,” Little said.
Little ventured into the agritourism business by accident. He was in the construction business for 30 years and would work on his family’s land in his spare time.
Visitors would stop and ask if he did camping. Then, people asked about trail rides.
“I didn’t have the slightest idea that I’d do this in the beginning,” he said. “Most of the trail-riding has come since 2000.”
He also built a regulation-size riding arena. Plus, he spruced up a barn, adding Western store fronts, a stage, picnic tables and sleeping quarters for about 30 people.
The wood inside the barn has been reclaimed from structures throughout the property. It fits in well with the rustic farm equipment displayed throughout the facility.
He rents out the barn for weddings, youth group retreats, family reunions, corporate activities and other special events.
“It definitely is a lot of work and sometimes it makes you wonder if you haven’t lost some of your better judgment trying to keep it together,” he said.
But, he finds the time spent on upkeep for the business rewarding.
“The work on the place isn’t something I mind doing at all,” he said. “As you’re here doing the work, it brings back memories of the past and causes you to appreciate it even more.
“That has to have a great meaning because it isn’t about money, that’s for sure.”
Fall is his busy season. He offers hayrides in a wagon and hosts school groups looking for a fun and educational field trip.
Trail rides are popular then too, because riders can see the fall colors up close. He’s expecting a good show of colorful fall leaves soon.
And this fall, he’ll have his annual open house, called a cowboy gathering, on Oct. 15.
Despite the Wild West atmosphere and his horse-riding skills, Little doesn’t consider himself a cowboy.
“I think everybody else does, but I don’t,” he said. “The guys out in West Texas who ride every day regardless of the weather, they are the real cowboys. They work as ranch hands and have pastimes in roping, they are true cowboys.”