At the Run Down Ranch, All kids, young and old, are welcome
It’s possible that Sparky O’Driscoll is working longer hours now that he’s retired.
The jovial Oakley resident begins his day at 4 am, and doesn’t turn in until his Run Down Ranch menagerie is settled.
Sparky’s life story is a continuation of Kamas Valley history.
His great-great grandfather was one of the first settlers in this high-mountain vale. Sparky grew up there, married, and raised his daughters.
In 1972, Sparky bought an old ranch property in Oakley.
At the time, he was the fleet coordinator for a film production company. During a break between jobs, some of the crew helped him fix up the house on the property.
“When we pulled up,” Sparky recounts, “one of the carpenters took a look at the place and said, ‘Well, that’s a run-down ranch.’” The name stuck.
“I’ve always liked miniature horses. Ever since I moved here, I’ve bred mini-horses and we used to let the babies run around in the yard. People would come by with their kids and take pictures. I could see how happy the horses made the kids feel.”
A year and a half ago, when Sparky retired, his wife, Julie, suggested that he share his love of animals with the community.
He built corrals next to the roadside barn, and he and Julie put the word out that they were looking for animals. Some, such as Gobbles the turkey, were rescued. Others, such as the alpacas, were donated.
The Run Down Ranch Kids Farm houses animals common to rural life.
Sparky and his team of ranch hands, local youth, and relatives, feed, care for, and play with the farm’s goats, sheep, donkeys, pigs, chickens, rabbits, turkey, alpacas, miniature horses, and a miniature bull and cow.
Sparky’s favorite, Rosie, an undersized bison who had been bottle-fed as a baby, died a few months ago.
“She was such a sweet animal,” he says. “She loved apples and carrots. I’d put carrots in my pocket and she would follow me around and get the carrots out of my pocket.”
Providing a tangible value
The farm is organic and represents its caretaker’s genuine humor.
For a dollar, visitors can hand-feed a cup of grain to Moodonna, the miniature cow, or Kevin Bacon, the accommodating pig who enjoys having his back scratched.
The farm accepts donations, and guests can make an on-the-spot Venmo contribution. Sparky’s not concerned about bottom line or profit margin. He just wants to cover the costs of feeding and taking care of the animals and their corrals.
“The town gets money from visitors, and people who are staying in Park City bring their kids here. I’ve had people who live in Chicago say that their kids have never seen a farm animal, let alone been able to touch one.”
Several locals bring their kids every week to experience what Sparky calls an end of an era.
“There is value in knowing about animals. I appreciate being able to offer this to people. Knowing that this is something those kids will never forget makes it all worthwhile.”
Run Down Ranch Kids Farm
22 West Boulderville Road
Oakley, UT 84036
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