Eagle Scout living the dream as Philmont cowboy

Hobrock, with the rest of the Philmont wranglers in 1984. Photo courtesy of Brian Hobrock

A trip to Philmont Scout Ranch will change you.

Brian Hobrock remembers his first experience at Philmont as a youth in 1981. Fresh off the completion of his Eagle Scout service project back home in Kansas, Hobrock, 16, came to Philmont for a backpacking trek, but it was one particular day that changed his destiny.

“We did the horseback ride at Beaubien,” he says, “and I interacted with one of the Philmont wranglers. We talked a lot. After that hour-and-a-half, I knew exactly what I wanted to be. The light bulb just came on in my head.

“I knew I wanted to be a Philmont wrangler.”

Becoming a Scout

Hobrock remembers when he first joined Cub Scouts in Topeka, Kansas, in the early 1970s.

“It was a school night for Scouting,” he says. “The Cubmaster talked about all the cool things they did. I remember begging my mom to be our den mother, and she agreed.”

He remembers crossing over into Topeka’s Troop 175 a few years later.

“The adult support we got was second to none,” he says.

He remembers participating in his community’s bicentennial parade with the troop in 1976.

And he remembers never really questioning whether he would stick around long enough to become an Eagle Scout.

“I expected it of myself,” he says. “We all did what we needed to do to become Eagle Scouts.”

He remembers his Eagle Scout project — refurbishing a local cemetery where some of his relatives were buried.

“It was not taken care of very well,” he says. “It was so overgrown you could drive past it and not even know it was there. The first thing we did was make it so it was visible from the road.”

He remembers camping trips, often in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains.

And, of course, he remembers Philmont.

Before that trip, he had only ridden horses a few times.

When he was done, though, it’s all he wanted to do.

Hobrock, with his mom at his Eagle Scout court of honor. Photo courtesy of Brian Hobrock

The best summers of his life

When Hobrock turned 18, he applied for a job at Philmont.

“I remember filling out the application in the winter of ’83,” he says. “I had almost no experience. On the application back then, you could list the things you most wanted to do, and you ranked them first, second and third. And I checked wrangler as No. 1.”

He remembers getting a letter of acceptance in the mail a short time later.

“It said I’d been hired as a burro wrangler,” he says. “I had no idea what they did.”

He would learn soon enough.

Hobrock remembers spending the next summer at Miranda Camp.

“It’s probably still my all-time favorite place to be on this ranch,” he says.

His job was to hand out burros to Scouts to carry heavy items like tents and pots and pans on backpacking treks. He remembers living in a cabin less than a mile from the creek where the burro corrals were located. He remembers riding a horse back and forth to that corral every day.

He remembers spending time with the program staff, especially singing songs around the campfire.

“I can’t sing worth a darn, but I can sing real loud,” he says.

And he remembers when it was over, wanting nothing more than to come back.

He did just that, in 1984 and 1987, working out of Beaubien as a wrangler.

The summer of ’87, in particular, sticks out in his memory. A little bit older and wiser, Hobrock by this time was engaged to Susan, to whom he’s still married.

“It was the greatest summer of my life,” he says. “I went out on some cavalcades. I did some cow work.

“I didn’t want to come home.”

He diagnosed himself with that disease known as I wanna go back to Philmont.

It took more than two decades, however, for that to happen.

Becoming a cowboy

Hobrock got a degree in ranch and feed lot management from Highland Community College in Kansas.

He worked for a while as a cowboy in a feed yard near Garden City, Kansas, where he got valuable real-world experience dealing with horses and cattle.

He worked for a while for a veterinarian, where his real-world education process in the livestock business continued.

All the while, he and Susan raised three kids in St. Francis, Kansas.

He remembers visiting Philmont in 2011 for the first time in nearly 25 years. It did not cure his disease, however.

Thanks to some connections in the livestock industry, he was invited to help with a summer cow drive at Philmont a few years later.

Still, the disease persisted.

“it was like, ‘I have to figure out a way to get back here full time.’ ” he says.

He remembers hearing about full-time job openings at Philmont. He applied for almost all of them for several years in row.

“There were a few I thought I would get, and I didn’t get any of them,” he says.

He remembers being disappointed, but not angry or bitter.

He remembers being afraid that his time had passed.

“I was 53,” he says. “I was afraid they just weren’t going to hire people my age. There were younger people just as qualified as me. I just didn’t think it was going to work out.”

With the kids grown, Brian and Susan moved to a ranch in Colorado. He remembers thinking that would likely be where he’d stay, and maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.

A day in the life of Brian Hobrock. Photo courtesy of the Hobrocks

A destiny fulfilled

Brian remembers the day in 2021 when he found out there was an opening in the Philmont livestock department.

“My wife said, ‘Are you going to apply?’ ” he says. “I said, ‘I don’t know if I can not.’ ”

He applied. The process might have changed from when he applied for his first job at Philmont back in 1983. But the result was the same: He got it.

Brian Hobrock remembers when he got the call that would change his life.

“There’s been some highlights in my life,” he says. “Getting married. … My three boys being born. … But getting the call from Philmont saying ‘you’re hired’ … that’s right up there.”

Today, Brian and Susan live in a house with a view of the backcountry out of every window.

She is a business operations specialist for the Ute Park Division of New Mexico State Forestry. He’s a Philmont cowboy whose job is to support the horse ranch and Philmont’s livestock program. He spends his time either in a pickup or on a horse, tending to the Ranch’s animals.

“It’s a dream,” he says. “I’m living my dream every dang day.”

Now, when he sees young people working at Philmont, he remembers when he first worked there, all those years ago.

“I wish I had the perfect word to explain what’s so special about Phlimont, so that when I said it, everyone would know what I meant,” he says. “But I don’t know what that word is. It just gets into your soul.

“For me, this is our spot. I have no interest in ever leaving this place.”

Brian and Susan. Photo courtesy of the Hobrocks

If you know a Scout looking to get their first Philmont experience – maybe the experience that starts a lifelong passion like Hobrock’s –  the registration lottery for spots in 2024 is now open.

About Aaron Derr 418 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.