DOUGLAS — Under cover of night, 63-yearold Robert Blaylock snuck onto a Boxelder Road ranch to do some rustling. He had plenty of rope, a flashlight and everything he needed to make a quick buck off a Converse County rancher’s hard work.
The flashlight proved to be his undoing.
“He dropped his flashlight on the ground where he stole the calf, with his name (“Boge”) on it,” Grant explained.
Blaylock, of Glenrock, will serve 1-4 years for cattle rustling after his sentencing last week. For his offense, which he committed in April of last year, Blaylock faced a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Converse County rancher Rick Grant, whose calf was stolen by Blaylock, feels this is an important case.
“You don’t get too many convictions of cattle rustling anywhere, they’re so hard to catch,” Grant said. “When you get them caught, you want to make an example of them.”
Ranchers feel that rustling is more widespread than people realize. It can be a challenge to catch rustlers, because it’s difficult for ranchers to know if they’ve had an animal stolen, or if the animal’s gotten stuck in a creek or attacked by a lion or coyote. Even domesticated dogs can take out livestock, especially sheep.
Livestock stolen in Wyoming are typically sold out of state, too, which is a challenge for law enforcement. The practice can be lucrative: A stolen calf can fetch upwards of $500.
Fortunately in this case, Blaylock left behind some massive breadcrumbs. The Grants knew something was amiss when they saw a calf with a piece of rope around its neck and a distressed cow looking for its calf.
Converse County Sheriff’s deputies and Brand Inspector Tim Feeback came to investigate and found clear-cut evidence.
Converse County Sheriff Clint Becker said he’s proud of his investigators’ work on the case.
It’s difficult to know if the Blaylock conviction will cause rustlers to think twice going forward. Grant said he hopes the sentence will help.
“The fact that the judge was willing to give him jail time was a good feeling,” Grant said.
Becker said he’s unsure if rustlers will be dissuaded by the sentence.
“If somebody’s willing to steal livestock, then in my opinion I don’t know if this will deter them or not,” he said. “That’s a pretty low thing to do.”
Converse County rancher Bob Vollman and Grant both said that rustlers deserve more than a slap on the wrist, and that, while promising, 1-4 years is a bit light.
“A hundred years ago, hanging was the offense if caught stealing cattle,” Grant said. “You didn’t get much of a trial. If you were caught in the act, it was legal to take them and hang them on the site.”
These days, rustlers can drive away from the scene quickly, while at the same time the severity of punishment has dropped, Grant said.
“You hate to see those kind of things when they’re stealing from a man’s livelihood,” Vollman said. “I’m glad that he at least got that much. It probably would have been a little better if he could have gotten a little more.”