Going “home” for us means a 14-hour drive across the prairie and Black Hills, to the upper “breaks” of eastern Wyoming. My wife’s great-grandfather homesteaded a ranch there more than 120 years ago. Her folks moved back nearly 40 years ago to build a life for their kids, and build a registered Angus herd. Teri’s youngest brother recently moved back with his wife and three young girls to continue the family tradition, and to build a future for his family that we all hope and pray will last another generation or more. It’s not an easy life, for sure, but it’s a good one.
When we visit the ranch it’s a “vacation” — we roam the pastures and hills, ride 4-wheelers, enjoy the vistas, and occasionally make ourselves useful by joining the family in working calves, feeding cows or fixing fence. It’s a time to appreciate the lifestyle and enjoy each other’s company. Then we drive back to Minnesota, the place our kids call home, and return to our normal routine.
Meanwhile, the family back on the ranch continues plugging away. For them, the ranch is a way of life, and a living – barely. They’re doing okay, but this ongoing drought means there’s not enough grass for the summer calves, and not enough hay for the cows in the coming winter. Feed prices and fuel prices are high. And as our family and their beef-producing co-horts across the country sell more cattle so there’s fewer mouths to feed, the price of cattle makes its downward slide on the market cycle.
We pray they will all weather the storm. And we’ll do what we can to help out. Because keeping the family on the ranch means, maybe, at least one more generation can call it “home.”