Richmond's urban cowboy is selling his Midlothian Turnpike ranch: 'I don’t want to leave, but I have to'

Posted at 11:14 AM, Nov 20, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- Home on the range isn’t always found in the American west. One man is proving cowboys exist in the city on Richmond’s Southside.

Charles Hughes Junior, Ollie to friends, runs the Lazy “H” Ranch.

“Yes. This was my home. The only home I bought myself. I like anything old but mainly I like the west,” Hughes said. “So I wanted to go with my western theme."

While there are no bucking broncos, nor antelopes at play, he said people seem to like his donkey.

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Hughes is content living in his own West World of old.

“I am the sheriff on this ranch," he said. "I can arrest you on this property. I have the right to do this by law."

The 83-year-old bought his house in 1967 for $7,300.

“I got married and raised three children here. Just as quiet as could be,” Hughes recalled.

In the late 1960s, the intersection of Midlothian Turnpike and Chippenham Parkway was considered the country.

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“No stoplights or nothing," Hughes said. ”They used to ride horses in the middle of it on Saturday and Sunday. Anyone who had a horse you’d see them riding.”

But over 53 years, urban sprawl swallowed up the prairie surrounding his cowboy castle.

“I remember the guy who sold me this property said they’re going to build 20 shopping centers up in Midlothian Turnpike. I laughed at him. I said where are they going to get the people," Hughes said.

Ollie’s ranch is now crowded by malls, mechanics, and motels.

“You wouldn’t classify them as neighbors because it is all business,” says Mr. Hughes. “There are no people living here.”

The Army veteran of the Cold War clutches onto a bygone era by collecting the past.

“I went to estate sales for 20 years. You’d be surprised what you can buy at estate sales,” says Mr. Hughes.

Surprises come following Ollie through his yard.

He has two outhouses and a set of cell bars from the old State Penitentiary.

But just as the Old West disappeared, so too will the Lazy “H” Ranch.

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“I just signed the last papers today. And I’m supposed to be out of here Monday,” Hughes said.

The Department of Corrections needs more parking for its headquarters next door.

So Sheriff Hughes decided it was time to sell. A difficult decision for this American original.

“I don’t want to leave, but I have to,” Hughes said. “Well, I want to take pictures of it. That will probably make me cry you know when you’ve been here so long. It is home.”

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