Posted by: Bonnie Phelps | September 7, 2013

Friends of Joel Mendenhall

Joel Mendenhall Palomar Mountain Rancher

Many of you had the privilege of knowing one of the finest, hard-working young men that you’d ever meet, gentle-hearted and kind to all, Joel Mendenhall. As a local cattle rancher, Joel was carrying on the family tradition that goes back to the mid 1800’s, working on the land with his cattle business. Monday, he was repairing some heavy equipment at their feed lot and lost his life in a tragic accident.

A Celebration of Joel’s life will be Sunday afternoon, October 6th 2013, at 1:00, on the Mountain

From: Ernie Cowan, San Diego Union Tribune

Final goodbyes should never be to the young.

Sometimes fate makes other plans and there is the loss of a young life that crashes hard through a wide community.

On October 6 there will be a final goodbye to Joel Mendenhall, 30, who died last month in a tragic ranching accident. Friends and family, his parents, outdoorsmen, ranchers, business partners, his three young daughters and his widow will gather in a peaceful meadow on Palomar Mountain to grieve, share memories and try to make sense of a loss that most find difficult to comprehend.

Joel was a real cowboy who lived by the code of the old west. He was quiet, but friendly, dependable, resourceful, devoted to his family and always ready to help someone who needed it. He embraced the virtues and values of the old west, but also understood the demands and markets of today’s world.

Joel was part of the pioneer Mendenhall family that first homesteaded Palomar Mountain in the mid 1800’s. He understood his place in history and continued the legacy of cattle ranching but adapted it to the needs of modern society. He owned Homegrown Cattle Company and was a pioneer in providing quality grass fed beef to the Whole Foods Market chain. Motorists see his cattle as they drive through the Lake Henshaw basin on Highway 79.

He never punched a time clock and often worked well into the night in all kinds of weather to get the job done. His work ethic was based on doing what needed to be done. When you live in the backcountry you learn to be self-sufficient and be there for others who needed help in return for the help they offered.

He was a regular face at the Round-Up Café at Lake Henshaw where he greeted hunters on every opening day. He helped his parents; Frank and Janice Mendenhall operate the café, campground, cabins and fishing operations at the lake.

As part owner of My Country Club hunting ranch, Joel was always the first to help a young lady bag her first deer, an old hunter drag out a downed buck, or offer amazingly detailed instructions on where to set up for opening day of turkey season. He knew where the bass were biting, the eagles were nesting, the turkey were roosting, the big bucks were in rut or a mountain lion might be prowling.

He guided the regular guy and the dignitary on quail and turkey hunts, and enjoyed the competition between himself and his dad for big buck bragging rights.

Joel was comfortable on a good horse, skilled at roping and wielding a branding iron or just as competent at using a GPS and computer to map his land. He was the perfect bridge between his heritage and the modern world.

My favorite memory was on an opening day of turkey season when I saw his big red truck approaching slowly in the distance. Clear blue skies and a field of spring wildflowers carpeted the valley with yellow, and streams flowed clear and cold into Lake Henshaw. As the truck got closer I could see Joel’s broad smile and one of his little blonde girls wearing a camouflage cap sitting on his lap and helping daddy drive.

Spring will again bring fields of wildflowers to the grasslands of the Warner Valley. Winter rains will fill the rivers with new flows, but for those who knew Joel Mendenhall there will always be something missing without him here.

Maybe it would be a bit easier if we looked at Joel’s death through the eyes of a child.

His young daughter Kadence said, “Daddy is riding horses in heaven with God. We will see him again.”

A trust fund has been set up for some immediate needs, and his daughter’s college education. Donations may be sent to
Jenna Mendenhall
P.O. Box 103, Santa Ysabel, CA 92070.  *   *   *

Click to see a video from 2012, and hear Joel tell about Home Grown Cattle Company and life as a 6th Generation Rancher on Palomar Mountain, along with his lovely wife, Jenna, their three young daughters, and his wonderful parents, Frank and Janice Mendenhall.


  1. […] Friends of Joel Mendenhall | Palomar Mountain News. […]

  2. Please see Joel’s memories @

    • Thank you Don. Just added it to the post. Beautifully written about an amazing family.

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