This past week I spent some time in Western Nebraska, near Chadron. After three day in the panhandle, I was ready to move. It is some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. Granted, It was 73 degrees and sunny while I was there. I was told, by a resident, not many people can handle the sideways snow blowing in during the winter. It can be a tough way of life out there. Your nearest neighbor might be an hour away. Getting snowed in happens nearly every winter. But, for folks out west, they wouldn’t trade a day of it for anything.
Western Nebraska is cattle country and ranching country. Now, most people don’t know that there is a difference between a farmer and a rancher. For most, it is an interchangeable title. But, a rancher is the first to tell you it’s not. Just because you farm, doesn’t mean you ranch and just because you ranch, doesn’t mean you farm.
The men and women who are proud to be called ranchers raise cattle. They aren’t usually sitting on a tractor planting corn. They are on horseback, raiding cross country and caring for a cattle herd. They often own or rent thousands of acres of land on which their cattle graze. They find land where they can. In that panhandle that might mean driving an hour from their house to their pasture. I did just that with one ranching family this week. The family, include three children, loaded horse and hauled them the 50 or so miles to one of their pastures. Most families are extremely close and any business can be a family affair. But on this family ranch gave the phrase a whole new meaning.
Mom, Dad, Brother and Sister saddled up on horses. I could tell, the six and four-year-old were already experienced with horses. The youngest road with Mom. Now, safety is of course their main concern and Dad made sure these kids had the best behaved horses. But, chasing cattle from one end of a field to the other is something these kids were more than capable of doing. Working and ranching is something they’ve been doing their whole lives. It’s the way they are being raised.
For this young family, they are already passing down Nebraskan values. While Mom and Dad are in the stages of growing their operation, they are setting up a future for their children and a future for their ranch. These kids will have the tools and know-how to take over a ranch and provide food for a hungry world.