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2019 Winter Cattle Journal: Mohnen Angus

Steve Mohnen is passionate about Angus cattle. He's spent the last 38 years studying the breed and building his herd of elite mama cows.

"I was 25 years old when I started working for Howard Hillman of Bon View Angus Farms in Canova SD from 1980-1985," said Steve. "While there, I learned how to AI and about the genetics of the breed. Bon View Farms was one of the most progressive Angus operations in the nation, and in starting my own herd back home, 90 percent of my cows originated from Bon View's proven 8-10-year old cows."

Steve added, "In 1980, my dad started purchasing bulls when I was working for Bon View and was proud of the calves they produced on his commercial cows. Our registered Angus herd began to grow, and we proudly became Mohnen Angus."

The Mohnen family has been a staple of the White Lake community since German immigrant Matthew Mohnen homesteaded the ranch in 1884. Since then, generations of Mohnens have worked the land.

"I learned my hard work ethic from my Dad," said Steve. "Growing up in a family of 11 brothers and sisters, we were expected to help on the ranch. I always enjoyed working with the cattle and hogs. In 1985, I came back home to work alongside my dad, and for the next 10 years, I built my own cow herd, as well."

In 1994, Steve and his wife Kathy purchased their own place, just four miles down the road from the original homestead site where he grew up. Together, the couple raised cattle and four children — Josh, John, Jenny and Jared.

Josh, his wife Katie, and their four boys — Koye, Kade, Kase and Kole — are back on the ranch. John, his wife Tory, and their two children — Gage and Laynie — also came back home to continue the family tradition in the cattle business.

Meanwhile, Jennifer, and her husband Ty Krell, along with their two children — Jake and Hadlee — ranch near Sundance, Wyo. Jennifer works for Wyoming Farm Bureau Insurance, and Ty serves as the vice president of the Sundance State Bank. Jared Mohnen owns and operates Dakota Ag Insurance Mitchell SD, and runs cattle on the Mohnen ranch, as well.

Today the ranch consists of a registered Angus seedstock herd located near White Lake, S.D., as well as a 275-head commercial herd located in Canova, S.D., which is managed in a partnership with a family friend. To support three families on the ranch, Mohnen credits slow and steady expansions over the years.

"We have continued to increase our land, which has allowed us to grow," he said. "Our early-calving commercial cows in Canova are used as recips in our embryo transfer program, which has allowed us to bring great genetics to our customers year after year."

Mohnen Angus hosts an annual bull sale, marketing 140 bulls, that is held on the ranch the second Thursday in February. February 2019 will mark the family's 25th annual bull sale. Although the Mohnens don't sell females every year, a fall female sale is slated for 2019. Also new in 2018, Mohnen Angus introduced an "Open the Gate" May bull sale selling an additional 35-40 bulls to customers.

"The Open the Gate sale allowed us to further develop a younger set of bulls with the same strict set of criteria as the bulls sold in our February sale," said Josh Mohnen. "This was our first year of doing this, but it gave us the opportunity to help our customers out who were needing bulls after semen testing or if a herd sire had gotten hurt. In previous years, when we had gotten those calls, we were sold out of bulls and had to turn them in different directions."

 

The Mohnens agree that it's the great people in the cattle business that makes it so enjoyable.

"We love the people in this industry, our customers and the relationships we've developed over the years," said Josh. "Our customer base is a big factor in our business. We need to have strong relationships in order to be successful, and we need to believe and stand behind our products."

With strong demand for Mohnen Angus genetics, the ranch has enjoyed tremendous success over the years. In 2013, Mohnen South Dakota 402 sold for $120,000 for two-thirds interest to Semex, Dale Edwards and Anvil Angus. In 2014, Mohnen Impressive 1093 sold two-thirds interest for $160,000 to Richard Angus and Genex. Other successful sires for the Mohnens include Long Distance, Dynamite, Substantial, Success, Global and many more.

Another prestigious highlight for Mohnen Angus was winning the 2014 National Western Grand Champion Angus carload show, with a set of 10 Angus bulls. Six of the 10 bulls were sired by Mohnen South Dakota 402, and all 10 went back to the pedigree of Mohnen's very successful well-known foundation cow, Mohnen's Jilt 910.
So what has been the secret to Mohnen Angus' success?

"It all goes back to the Angus cow, and the hard work each and everyone here does to make it successful," said Steve. "We have a lot of different ideas, and that's what makes it so rewarding. We are passionate about our part in the Angus business, and we will never stop working to keep our genetically-sound females. Angus are the best mama cows there are, in my opinion. Our cows graze until two weeks before calving. They aren't pampered. They are expected to work for us and be profitable."

"Raising quality cattle isn't just our job; it's our life," added John Mohnen. "Everything goes back to the cow, and the Angus cow has always been superior as a maternal female."

"Angus females breed back on time. They are functional, easy-fleshing, and good-uddered, can wean a calf that sells well at market and produce a premium beef product that consumers all over the world love," said Josh.

This passion for the breed extends to the next generation, as well, as the Mohnen grandkids are learning the ropes from a young age.

"Every year, the kids gain a little more experience helping us in the business," said Josh. "We started in 4-H this year, and Koye is really enjoying it. Every kid gets to keep one cow each year, and they get to make their own breeding decisions. It's a learning tool for them and a way to keep them involved and have something to build upon."

"I hope our kids love the Angus breed as much as we do, and they can continue Mohnen Angus for years to come," Josh said. "We are very excited for our future in this business. One day, we'll be retired and our kids will be selling the bulls in their annual sale. It's something to look forward to."

Yet, like all ranching families, the Mohnens have faced ups and downs. In the early 2000s, they were forced to disperse half the herd after a five-year drought left them short of grass. They've weathered the market swings, the inclement weather and other challenges over the years, but Steve never wavered in his goals of developing a premier Angus herd that would serve his commercial and registered breeders.

"We've weathered the challenges by selecting the best genetics possible each year," he said. "I built this cow herd from the ground up; nothing was handed to me. I never chased fads, and I've always just focused on raising functional cattle that work in my herd. My best advice to others is to keep your mindset on what you really want and don't look the other way."

He said, "Don't build your cow herd solely off the results of a 50K test. Just because a female has the best genomics scores, doesn't mean she stays. A functional cow with a good udder, temperament, structure and feet is critical. The power is in the genetics.”

Under the radar

Kris Rausch can sew and quilt with the best of them, and she will, someday. But right now there are livestock to be tended to.

Rausch shows dedication to the ag industry through her work on her family's farm, advocating for agriculture, and through serving in numerous organizations.

Rausch said she has always been involved in agriculture. She was raised on her family's farm next to the bridge at Forest City. Then after marrying her husband, Bob, Rausch began working on his family's farm near Gettysburg.

"[Working in agriculture] is one of those things that you need to be part of a partnership with your husband. If you're not involved, things aren't going to go well," Rausch explained.

Currently the couple farm and run around 400 head of cattle on their 5,000 acres.

"We farm to give our children and grandchildren a livelihood and a good place to grow up," Rausch said.

The Rauschs' two sons, Nick and AJ, and six grandchildren, are also involved in agriculture next to Bob and Kris. While each branch of the family has their own separate operation, Rausch explained that "we still do some things together."

On the family's farm, Rausch supervises calving during spring planting and the augers at harvest. She also operates the combine, tractors, and the baler in haying season.

Off of the farm, Rausch is involved in a myriad of agricultural organizations: The Rausches are members of SD Farm Bureau and served on the Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee in the late 80s through 90s. Currently a committee member, Rausch is a past president of the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts Auxiliary, a 40-year member of the local Medicine Rock Cattlewomen's Association, and has been a Potter County 4-H leader since 1999. She has also served on the Potter County Fair board.

While she was a part of the board, she noticed that kids were playing in the cattle and hog barns and didn't have a place to go during fair. To remedy that, she designed and organized the building of a playground featuring a wooden tractor, two-tiered fort with a bridge, sandbox, and slide.

"I don't talk about myself. I always try to do things under the radar so nobody knows that I do them. It's almost like it doesn't count if someone finds out about it," Rausch explained.

In the past, SDSU extension has offered classes in the Gettysburg community that allowed Rausch to get a certificate in Master Gardening and Master Clothing.

While she is a skilled seamstress, Rausch hasn't taken the time to sew lately. "I'm not old enough to quilt yet," she exclaimed. "There's too many cattle out there and too much to do!"

With her background in gardening, she says that through the years she has advised many people on tree and plant issues. "I always have people coming up to me and saying 'Hey I've got an apple tree with this problem,'" Rausch said.

Rausch was nominated for the SD Ag Woman of the Year award by Potter County Executive Director Mary Kay Schmidt.

When she came across the nomination form, she thought that Rausch fit what South Dakota Women in Agriculture was looking for.

"Kris promotes [agriculture] wherever she goes and tries to pass it on to younger ladies," Schmidt explained. "She's a hardworking woman and she's always there no matter what we need to get done."

Schmidt's family lived just a few miles from where Rausch grew up so the two have known each other for years.

"I'm glad she was honored for the award and I highly think she deserved it," said Schmidt.

Along with the SD Ag Woman of the Year award, the organization also chooses a recipient for the South Dakota Young Gun of the Year award which is open to nominees who are under age 25. This year's winner was Darian Roghair of Okaton.

In order to be in the running for the awards, an ag lady must be nominated. A friend or acquaintance fills out a form that asks how the nominee exemplifies South Dakota Women in Agriculture, how they are involved in agriculture at home, in their community, and through the state, and how they influence others about agriculture. After the nominations have been made, a committee selects the finalists for the awards.

In a press release, Amy Pravecek, board president of South Dakota Women in Agriculture explained that "Our annual awards are a fun way to spotlight some very talented and hardworking ag women who are making a difference in our industry. The nomination process presents an opportunity to encourage and support women in agriculture by recognizing what they do every day."

South Dakota Women in Agriculture is an association dedicated to helping educate women in agriculture and to help them network and grow through their annual conference which has been held for over 15 years. The group is open to any women involved in agriculture either as producers, agribusiness women, educators, or other roles in agriculture.

South Dakota Women in Agriculture recently named Kris Rausch of Gettysburg, SD as their SD Agriculture Woman of the Year at their annual conference at The Lodge in Deadwood on October 11-12th.

For more information about South Dakota Women in Agriculture or their awards, visit their website at http://www.southdakotawomeninag.com

Leaving a Legacy: Raymond followed the Sutton legacy before him, left his own legacy

The Sutton name is tied to many notable livestock enterprises: some of the finest rodeos produced, the oldest privately-owned bison herd in America, quality Quarter Horses, and, at one point, the largest Hereford bull sale in America. Most of this was established and enacted by either Raymond Sutton Sr. or his father Edwin and carried out by his family. For his vision and creativity, Raymond was honored as a rodeo promoter at the 29th Annual Casey Tibbs Foundation Tribute Dinner last Saturday.

Raymond was born on the home ranch west of Agar, South Dakota, in 1906, as the third son of Edwin and Jessie Sutton. He took a strong interest in anything livestock-related. His particular talent was training heavy horses to drive and light horses to ride.

In 1911, Edwin introduced bison to the ranch after trading a Hereford bull for two bison cows and a bull. Raymond drove the bison as well. Unbroken yearling bison were a specialty act in rodeos by being hardnessed to a chariot, testing how long a man could last in the single wagon.

Edwin and Raymond also used the chariot for mule races; Raymond and one of the hired hands would race teams of mules against each other.

"Raymond was the cowboy of the family," his daughter-in-law Georga said. "His father Edwin was always looking for some way to make money."

So, in the mid 30s, the Sutton/Fairbank Rodeo Company was established. Raymond competed in bareback riding and bulldogging, the only brother to rodeo. He paid the price, however, getting bucked off at a rodeo, breaking his left hand and ending his violin playing.

"The partnership was successful for a number of years, but as the Great Depression deepened, the rodeo company was dissolved," Georga, who married Ray Jr., said.

Having said he would marry before he turned 30, Raymond married Beulah Cass on his last day as a 29-year-old. He continued his father's lead and established Raymond Sutton Rodeo Company thereafter.

In the early 1940s, Raymond Sutton Rodeo Co. had contracted a rodeo in Minneapolis, but when a conflict arose with the planned facilities, they seamlessly moved the event to St. Paul.

"Raymond took not only stock, but also a number of Native American dancers from the neighboring Cheyenne Agency as another specialty act," Georga said. "The rodeo went well and the gate looked to be profitable, but when Raymond went to settle up, the rodeo promoter that held the contract refused to pay."

He claimed that the contract had been breeched due to the change of location, so Raymond was forced to sell the livestock he had brought in order to pay everyone and get them back to South Dakota. This resulted in the disbanding of his rodeo company.

"For eight years, he worked his ranch and rebuilt his finances," Georga said. "In the mid 1950s, he joined with his brothers and Erv Korkow to form the Sutton/Korkow rodeo company. He was in the rodeo business again."

He had also joined the ranks of another business in the meantime: Quarter Horses. In 1948, Raymond and his brothers found an opportunity during the drought in Texas to buy a handful of well-bred Quarter Horse mares, the first of their kind on the ranch. Prior to Quarter Horses, the Suttons raised heavy draft-type horses, but seeing a change in trend with the ever-growing popularity of mechanized machines, the Suttons sent a whole train load, the largest of its time, of heavy horses to Chicago.

The first Quarter Horse mares foaled in 1949, and the Sutton's first production sale was in 1951, and the herd grew to include stallions from the lines of Three Bars, Poco Bueno, and many more.

Prior to acquiring Quarter Horses, in the late 30s, Raymond had a horse named Dude that he discovered was quite a jumper. That proved handy for practicality and entertainment purposes.

"Dude started off as a saddle horse on the ranch. There were miles and miles of fence and few gates in between, and so Raymond figured that if he put a coat on the fence, Dude would jump it," Georga said. "At the rodeo, he used to jump over three horses or steers packed together. It was a very popular act."

Many approached Raymond with offers to buy Dude, but he had always turned them down. One day, he went to his stall, only to discover he was gone. They never did find him.

Similar to discovering Dude's jumping talents, Raymond founded the Sutton bucking horse lines. Raymond had a palomino stallion Plaudits Sun Top that had been registered in the Palomino Breeker's Association but didn't pass inspection to be registered by AQHA.

"He tended to throw colts that bucked," Georga said. "Two of his sons became national bucking horses of the year. Some of his colts started out as saddle horses on the ranch but later bucked cowboys off in the rodeo. At the end of the ride, they pulled the flank strap off and rode them out of the arena."

When Raymond grew tired of rodeoing every weekend, he gave his partnership portion to his brother James and concentrated instead on building his horse and cow herds. James' son, grandson, and great grandsons still successfully manage Sutton Rodeo Co.

Raymond was a caring, humorous man who passed away in 1993 at the age of 86, but he is still fondly remembered by those close to him.

"When I was going to country school, we got to get out of school to go to the buffalo roundup," said Mark Byrum, who grew up neighboring the Suttons. "They would have the cowboys horseback bring in the buffalo up out of the river brakes on to some flatter ground, then there would be a bunch of old guys and other people in pickups that helped herd the buffalo into the pens. My mom would always tell me whatever I do, do not get in the pickup with Raymond. Guess who I always rode with!"

Byrum bought his first horse from the Suttons at the age of 10. He still owns several Sutton-bred horses, who he has named James, John, Raymond, and Lyle, all Sutton men.

Veteran salute: Sam Marty

"God has secrets that we aren't meant to understand."

After Sam Marty learned of two soldiers in his company literally blown into pieces a couple miles away from him, he wondered why it wasn't him. A pastor shared comforting words that he's held onto all of these years.

"I think about that a lot. I went and talked to a minister after that happened. It could have been me. I believe in God and Jesus. Maybe God spared me for a reason."

The Prairie City, S.D., rancher was drafted into the U.S. Army in early 1968. He was 20 years old.

Marty soon found himself in Fort Lewis, Washington, where the cold and damp April weather, along with mad, screaming drill sergeants made for miserable conditions at first.

He remembers that the coal furnace would often go out at night because the private assigned to refill it would sleep through his duties.

Marty said the company was composed of men from South Dakota and California. He recalls some serious teasing by the barbers when the "long haired hippies" were shorn.

There was fighting — he saw a soldier from Rapid City kick a guy's eye out, there was stress — he helped escort a man who experienced a mental breakdown. There was cold mud to crawl through, barbed wire to crawl under and a huge pile of sawdust to be moved, one helmet at time, for punishment when the company would "screw up."

Marty said the South Dakotans were generally quite capable of handling what was thrown at them.

"Back in those days, even the kids that grew up in town knew how to handle a rifle and stuff like that. They took orders well and were mentally able to deal with the stress." Many of the South Dakota recruits and draftees were Native Americans, he said, remembering that his bunkmate hailed from Pine Ridge. "He'd just gotten married and he was sure lonesome. We got along well."

When basic training was wrapping up and the company completed their individual physical assessments, Marty recalls earning around 297 points out of a possible 300. "I think there were only one or two guys that earned 300 points," he said. He remembers being paid around $43 per month for his time in basic training.

From the bone-chilling spring Washington weather, Marty was shipped to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where he learned to survive extreme heat coupled with humidity.

Marty didn't know a soul when he arrived, but made friends as he had in Fort Lewis.

As a combat engineer, he learned to look for land mines, build bridges and roads, and more. He remembers the tick infestation in the area, but says he never found one on himself.

Although he hadn't been allowed to attend church in basic training, he could do so in advanced individual training, and took advantage of the chance. He also enjoyed another change — no kitchen duty.

After his AIT training in Missouri, Marty was allowed two weeks off. He flew home — being held up after offering an elderly couple his seat, but eventually he arrived home. It felt good.

Marty said he helped with day to day ranch duties and did not feel anxious about his future deployment to Vietnam.

"When you are young, you don't really grasp that, in war, people are trying to kill you. You think you are invincible," he said.

But he remembers the somber faces on his mother and father and sister when he waved goodbye from the bus window after the two weeks had passed.

Marty again found himself surrounded by people he hadn't yet met — this time at a base in Oakland, Calif.

One night he had gone to sleep at about 11 p.m., asking his friend to wake him if any important announcements were made.

"I'd fallen into a deep sleep. They read a group off and called my name. My friend said, He's over there.' They came and found me. I don't know what would happened if he hadn't."

The soldiers flew out at midnight, landing in Anchorage, Alaska, to refuel. Marty recalls the view from the plane after it took flight again. "It was really pretty. Unbelievable. The sun coming up over those mountains."

That was the end of anything pretty in his life for a while.

The plane refueled again in Japan, then finally landed north of Saigon, Vietnam.

"When I stepped out of the airplane that night, it smelled like big petri dish of mold. There were no sewer systems, which meant there were a lot of sanitary issues."

Marty said he and others immediately went to training on a firing range. "Again, you had all kinds of people from throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Ninety percent of them didn't have a clue about guns."

Taking apart and cleaning the rifle was a regular occurrence because of the sand, mud and water that would jam it up.

Soon Marty found himself in the Delta, in a town called Tan An, south of Saigon.

One of his missions was sweeping for mines. "Every morning we'd drive to the infantry camp to build bunkers and then we'd drive back to the base camp at night. We always had to sweep this one area of road. You were always locked and loaded with rifles and machine guns." Mortar and rockets from the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese were a regular occurrence, he said.

"When we would find stuff (land mines) we set it off. They may be small, or they may pile mud on the road and you have to clear that off using c4 (a powerful plastic explosive). If we detected something on the road, we'd circle it, put an 'x' in it, and the next guy would put explosives in it and detonate it."

It was easy for the enemy (the Vietcong or North Vietnamese) to booby trap the two to three mile stretch of road nightly, he said.

Marty recalls one heartbreaking day.

"We had stood around, about 15 of us, getting our mine-sweeping equipment on, then made our regular early morning sweep through the road."

Marty said his team then went about five or six miles to an infantry camp where they worked for the day. When they headed back to home base, at around 4 that afternoon, they came upon a jeep that had been blown up, about an hour before, in the very same spot the group had stood that morning.

"The Vietcong had found a 700-pound bomb that had never gone off. They transplanted it and waited for an opportune time to set it off. When we came back the road was gone from shoulder to shoulder. They'd blown up a jeep with two guys in it. There were body parts all over. I saw a rib from one of the guys, and picked it up, then set it back down. From then on, war became real."

About three months later, Marty stepped on a land mine in the same spot. Miraculously, the mine had been planted upside do wn. "I got shrapnel in the base of my skull and gravel in my back and whatnot. I don't know why I wasn't killed." It was afterward that he visited with the pastor.

Marty spent about five days in the hospital and later received a Purple Heart.

The Vietcong would spy on the Americans sometimes, posing as South Vietnamese, and taking jobs within the compound as barbers or other things, he said.

"The Vietcong would apply for army jobs. You didn't know who they were. They would get in there and step off the distance to this or that."

Marty remembers the compound being mortared every night. He slept in a protected barrack because the regular bunker was unsafe. "A lot of guys would sleep in the bunker, I don't know why. One night the door where I would have slept was shattered. I'd have been killed if I'd have been there."

The infantry soldiers and helicopter soldiers had the worst assignments.

"I was lucky. The infantry guys had it awful, just awful. They didn't have facilities like we did. They were wet all the time, never had a warm shower, no hot food."

Marty's company built roads in rural South Veitnam in an attempt to provide safe living conditions where the fighting had decimated the countryside.

He has not forgotten the poverty and squalid living conditions the Vietnamese endured. He remembers mothers prostituting their young daughters, families living in boxes on top of landfills where the flies were so thick "you had to cover your eyes and mouth when you went by."

"Those poor people. That's what communism, socialism, dictatorship gives you." Marty remembers the Vietnamese as a happy people, and the children as very inquisitive and friendly. "We always had stuff for them. They loved us."

There are some fond memories, too. He saw Bob Hope perform, as well as Ann Margret. "There would be Philippine bands, Australian bands. We played a lot of basketball at night."

Still the tough memories remain.

"I can't say enough about how awful it was. War affects everyone differently, but killing isn't natural. To see someone you killed is not natural. It's not right, but sometimes you have to do it."

War weighed heavily on those at home, too.

His sister had shared a story about his parents. "My mother was in the kitchen one evening washing dishes and she saw the sheriff drive up the road. She didn't realize he was coming to bring the ballot box for dad, who was the chairman of the voting committee in our precinct. She nearly collapsed when she saw the sheriff's car coming.

"That was a tense time for the family, those 15 months. That's one part of wars and conflicts that some people don't realize exists," he said.

Marty returned home after 14 months in Vietnam. He ranched his entire life and now serves in the South Dakota House of Representatives for District 28B.

Hollenbecks receive ranch family honor

Glen and Yvonne Hollenbeck are each legends of rodeo in their own rights, and together, they have spent more than 40 years on the Hollenbeck Ranch Incorporated, where Glen is third generation, earning them the honored ranch cowboy family at the 29th Annual Casey Tibbs Foundation Tribute Dinner Nov. 3 at the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center.

"I'm overwhelmed," Glen said of the honor. "There are probably people that should be there ahead of me."

It isn't the first honor they have received of late; Glen was recognized by the South Dakota Quarter Horse Association earlier this year for raising Quarter Horses for 50 years.

Yvonne grew up in a ranching community in the sandhills of Nebraska, but her family, short of Canadian cousins, didn't rodeo. She found her way into the sport after high school through her career as a legal secretary; three men who made up Sandhills Rodeo Company asked if Yvonne would secretary their rodeo. If she wasn't acting as rodeo secretary, or even if she was, she would complement the action at area rodeos with organ music.

"I was a musician and Jack Hunter, an announcer from Ardmore, South Dakota, talked me into playing for the Crawford rodeo, and the rest is history," she said. "I played by ear since I had played in dance bands and things growing up, so I had quite a repertoire, and it was easy for me to match the action. Pretty soon, the biggest rodeos in the country wanted me."

Yvonne got to know Glen, a pickup man, as they bumped into each other along the rodeo road. He had been picking up broncs since he was about the young age of 17, and he also competed in bulldogging and calf roping.

"My folks inspired me to rope and built an arena for me," he said. "It wasn't much, but it worked. They turned out a lot of calves for me; my mother was one of my biggest supporters."

In 1960, Glen's mother had entered him in Little Britches national calf roping competition in Littleton, Colorado. His father thought the trip would be too expensive, but regardless they were off due west in a car weighed down with pup tents, food, and cooking utensils, pulling a two-horse trailer.

"We camped the whole week, and I won it," Glen said. "Dad was tickled. If I hadn't won it, I don't know what would have happened."

While on the road to pick up broncs at the match bronc ride at Sentinel Butte, North Dakota, Glen was in the company of Don Hight, a good friend and business associate of Casey Tibbs. Tibbs and actor Joel McRae were in the Pine Ridge area filming the movie, "Young Rounders." It was a thrill for Glen, Yvonne said, to meet his idol, Tibbs, and have coffee and a visit before going on to North Dakota.

Glen and Yvonne both were married and had two children each—for Glen, two boys, for Yvonne, two girls—prior to marrying one another 41 years ago. She and the kids joined Glen on the Hollenbeck Ranch 25 miles southwest of Winner, South Dakota,

"They were small. We had the Brady Bunch," Yvonne said. "They all rodeoed together. The kids had a lot of fun together, and they still get along."

When their children started rodeoing more steadily in the early- to mid-1980s, Glen retired from picking up broncs, and the demand for Yvonne's skills lessened.

"They went to canned music and screaming announcers. They quit using rodeo organists, and there were several good ones around the country," she said. "The kids started rodeoing, and it became hard for us to go to professional rodeos. The kids needed us so we both quit."

Temporarily shifting their focus within rodeo was rewarding and worth it for the Hollenbecks. It became a family event, and the kids were mounted on home-raised and home-trained horses.

"Rodeo brought us together and kept us together," Glen said. "Every rope horse we've had, I've trained them. We've never bought a trained horse, and a majority of them came off the ranch."

In 1982, at the age of 40, the oldest calf roper in the competition, Glen won the Mid-States Rodeo Association championship calf roping; in 2003 and 2006, he won the U.S. Calf Roping Association Championship in the senior division, pulling home a new horse trailer, or lawn ornament as Yvonne calls them, each time; and just last year, at the age of 75, he won the Senior Pro Association World Tie-Down Roping Championship in the 68 and over division.

He accredits a great deal of his latter win to two new knees. "They have really given him his life back, as far as calf roping and being able to get on horses," Yvonne said.

Yvonne has found her own success once again, this go-round in cowboy poetry. She was a closet poet for some time, before her friend outed her.

"A writer friend of mine came to visit, and she had asked to see my poems," she said. "Next thing I knew, a lady came up to me in a grocery store and said, 'I really liked your poem!' My friend had published one of my poems in Stock Growers magazine."

She will grace a sold-out crowd with her poetry at Homes on the Range as part of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, Feb 1. with Michael Martin Murphey, Brenn Hill, and Trinity Seely. Her poetry has taken Yvonne all over the United States and Canada and allows her to promote rodeo, ranch life, and beef.

"A lot of it is humorous about things that weren't humorous when they happened," Yvonne said of her poetry, which makes her husband hesitant to cowboy with her, even though she has been his top hand since they married four decades ago, for fear that he will turn up in one of her poems.

"If we go out and do something, and it doesn't work out quite the way I planned, I tell her, 'Don't write a dang poem about this! No one needs to find out,'" Glen said, chuckling.

At the age of 76, Glen is slowing down, and Yvonne's grandson is on the ranch to help where needed.

"I need to stand back a little bit," Glen said. "I think I'm working, but I don't get much done. I really hurry, but I don't go nowhere."

From the start: South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Richter Ranch Family

Neal Richter began helping his dad move cattle on the family's ranch near Enning when he was about 8.

"That was a bad idea because I was hooked," jokes Neal, 36, a fourth-generation cattle rancher.

"He always wanted to be on the ranch," explains his dad, Dick, 72.

In fact, so strong was Neal's desire to make ranching his life's career, that as a high school student, he took on extra classes so he could graduate a semester early to be home fulltime for calving.

"That first calving season, it happened to be a nice January and February, with 40 to 50 degree days. Calving was easy, I thought, 'this is great. The next calving season wasn't so warm, but I'm still here,'" says Neal, who graduated from Sturgis High School in 2000.

Although his formal education ended that year, Neal's intake of knowledge and information in regards to improving his and Dick's cattle herd genetics and management is a daily practice.

He reads agriculture publications, takes in seminars and workshops and works closely with local SDSU Extension staff. In 2010, he participated in SDSU Extension's first beefSD class. An intensive three-year program led by livestock experts and innovative South Dakota cattle producers, who provide cattle producers with research-based information on everything from improving genetics and cattle health to feed rations and grazing practices. Through beefSD, Neal was able to collect data on five of his calves – from weaning through the feedlot and on to processing.

"Ranching is just like other careers, there is always more information available to improve things, so I have to work to keep on top of it," he explains. "beefSD opened my eyes to how what is happening here on the ranch will impact what happens down the chain."

Among the management practices which have improved things is hay testing and supplementation. This was one of the topics covered during beefSD that made sense to Dick and Neal. So, today, the men have their hay tested to ensure they are feeding their cows a balanced ration. "We feed supplements as needed based on test results," Dick says.

The men market their calves at weaning, so birth weight and vigor are a large focus of their breeding program.

"We used to wean, feed and then sell," Dick explains. "In this country, we don't raise our own corn. Most of what we grow is to replenish hayground. So, when the calf prices started coming up, and we could make more money selling them right off the cow, without feeding them, that's what we decided to do."

And, according to the feeder/finisher who has been buying the Richter calves several Octobers in a row, they gain and finish well.

"The guy who bought them said 75 percent of them graded choice," Neal says.

Although the same buyer bids on their cattle each year, when it comes to marketing their calves, the men are loyal to Ft. Pierre Livestock Auction Inc.

"Marketing is a terrible big part of ranching. Even before Neal started ranching with me, I took the calves to Ft. Pierre and I thought they did a good job by me," Dick says.

Neal adds, "They have gotten to know us over the years. They know our brands and they will call us when someone is looking for the type of cattle we raise."

The men raise mostly black baldy cattle, from black Angus cows, which they breed to Charolais bulls. "Our goal is to get to all F1 cross cows," Dick says. "My dad was one of the first in the area to raise black cross in the area. And, at that time, if you weren't raising Herefords, you weren't thought too much of."

Dick and Neal are partners in the sense that they run their cattle together, share labor and expenses.

It's a bit different from the way Dick took over for his dad, Joe.

Growing up, Dick was the youngest of five boys. "Neighbors always accused Dad of raising a haying crew," Dick jokes.

Dick says he always enjoyed ranchwork, but because Joe and Elsie's ranch was small, he never anticipated he would be able to stick around after high school. "We knew that once we made it out of high school, we were going to work off the ranch," he says.

When he and his brothers, Fred, Carl, Ted and Bill, were young, the livestock on the farm was diverse. "We had 21 milk cows, about 50 commercial cows, pigs and chickens."

He recalls how each member of the family was responsible for milking two or three cows. "We would sell the cream and keep the skim milk for the bum calves. We would sell the cream in Enning and the mail truck would take it to a creamery in Sturgis."

After high school, Dick went to South Dakota State University for a year and decided he needed to be closer to home, so he began taking classes at Black Hills State University and eventually completed a four-year degree in business administration.

While he was working to finish his degree, community members approached him asking if he would take a break to teach at the Union Center school. "They knew I was qualified to teach with a two-year degree. I didn't know anything about teaching, but I took on the challenge."

Dick says that although the kids tested him, he had a lot of community support. "We didn't have teacher in service or parent- teacher conferences. The teacher was invited to dinner. And, it was expected that you'd show up. That's where the parents got to know you."

He adds, "I was ill prepared. I had to teach myself how to teach. I enjoyed the kids and watching them learn."

From 1967 to 1975 he taught school five years and completed his degree. He taught fifth through eighth grade at Union Center Country School and seventh and eighth grade in the Enning Country School. At the time, Dick received $3,850 a year for teaching.

During the school year, he helped out on the ranch. Joe paid him in cattle. During the summers, he did construction work, which led him to start his own construction company.

From 1975 to 1991 he built several residential and commercial buildings throughout western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming. Locally, he oversaw the volunteer crews who built the Community Center in Union Center and the Enning Ambulance building. Dick gave back to his community in other ways as well. He served more than a decade on the Rural Electric Cooperative Board and as president of the board for the Enning Volunteer Ambulance.

Most of the income his construction company earned, Dick invested back to the ranch, buying or leasing more pastureland and cattle. His late wife, Nancy, supported the family.

Nancy spent her career working for Western Dakota Technical Institute and served as the Admissions Administrator and as the Director of Western Dakota Technical Institute. "She loved her career. They called her Mrs. Dakota Tech," recalls Dick of his wife of 37 years who passed away from cancer in 2013.

Dick returned to the ranch full-time in 1991, after his dad passed away. To help the couple manage two, off-ranch careers, as well as the ranch, the family lived in Sturgis where Neal and his brother, Bryce, attended school. "She would go that way and I would go this way," Dick recalls.

Bryce says living in town and working on the ranch gave him and Neal the best of both worlds. "We gained a lot of experiences from both. The work ethic I have today is the main thing that I acquired from work on the ranch, where I was able to see what a good day's work is as opposed to what others see as a good day's work," explains Bryce, who lives in Sturgis with his wife, Kristen, and their four children, Ryleigh, 14; Jordyn, 12; Madisyn, 10; and Ryne, 6.

He works as an ag loan officer in Sturgis. In addition to work and family, Bryce serves on the Meade 46-1 School Board and volunteers to coach soccer. He says he inherited his dad's "neighbor mentality."

"What I mean by neighbor mentality is the ability to have a conversation with anyone about any topic and although we focus on our family first, we are always willing to do anything for those who need help," Bryce says.

He adds that he is thankful his brother Neal is carrying on the family's ranching legacy.

"It makes things feel complete and whole. I am glad we are not faced with the situation that many are, where the family operation was sold off and will not continue on. If that was the case, it would feel like something was very much missing," Bryce says.

Dick agrees.

"I always knew Neal wanted return to the ranch. I couldn't handle the ranching alone. And, like most young people, he pays more attention to how the cattle grade and technical part of raising cattle," Dick says. "I always wanted my sons to have the opportunity to return to the ranch if they wanted, or if they wanted to do something different, they could do that too."

Since Neal returned to ranch full-time with him, the men have more than doubled their cow herd and leased or purchase land to accommodate the expanded number of cow/calf pairs they raise. In Meade County, it takes about 20-25 acres of grassland to run a cow/calf pair per year.

To see more photos of the Richter ranch family and read about other South Dakota ranch and farm families, visit http://www.sdfu.org.

–South Dakota Farmers Union

Seim Family: Decades down and more to go

Lifelong rancher Wilford Seim was surrounded by friends and family as he celebrated his 100th birthday, Sept. 23, 2018 in Lemmon, South Dakota.

Wilford is one of many in the family who have dedicated their lives to raising good quality cattle in northwestern South Dakota.

The first Seims to arrive in America were choosy. They didn't settle where everyone else did, but forged their own trails.

Tim Seim, great grandson of first settler Hans Seim, ranched with his uncles Wilford and Horace most of his life, on the original homestead, which has been added to multiple times.

"Hans was a true pioneer," says Tim.

"He left Norway and traveled to America – twice. He lived here for several years and worked different jobs. He visited a sister in Decorah, Iowa, went to Wisconsin and then on to Chicago, Illinois, where he worked as a coachman for a wealthy family and then later as a surveyor's helper.

He ended up in Washington state where he helped survey the Northern Pacific railroad. After several years he traveled back to Norway, serving as interpreter on the ship. At the time, the trip required a boat ride around the tip of South America. He later returned to America, this time for good.

In 1874, he married Kari Brekke, from Granvins Sogn, Hardanger, Norway, where he had been raised. He found her in Iowa. They traveled together to Nebraska, then Capitol, Montana, eventually settling on the South Grand River in northwestern South Dakota, where they "squatted" before the Homestead Act was passed. In 1903 they homesteaded on the same property, in what is now Perkins County.

Tim's uncle Horace remembers stories about Montana life. "They had a bull branded with the HS brand that they had brought with them from Nebraska. He disappeared after they had been in Capitol for a while, and they figured he had gone back south, toward Nebraska so they set out to look for him. After a couple days, they heard that he had headed west up the Little Missouri River further into Montana." Because he was branded, they were able to easily recover the bull and trail him home.

While in Capitol, the Seims and neighboring families built a fort to protect themselves from Indian attacks. Legend tells that they spent many long days in the fort and entertained themselves with music and dancing. After spending a couple of years in Montana, Hans set his sights on the unsettled grasslands of the Grand River region, and he worked all summer building a house, sheds, chicken house and milk cellar. He then returned to Montana for the winter. In the spring when the family packed up and headed 100 miles east to their new home, they were surprised to see lush green range after a widespread prairie fire the previous fall. As they crested the hill at the rear of their new ranch, they could see only ashes where the new buildings had been built. They pitched a tent and began to build a new dugout and then another story-and-a-half home. Hans later gained a contract to plow fireguards for neighboring cowmen.

Hans and his wife Kari were blessed with 10 children.

Kari died at the age of 41 after her tenth child was delivered.

Hans was killed the next year, 1896, on the way home from a supply run to Dickinson, North Dakota, when the wagon team spooked and he was thrown in front of the wagon and then run over.

Some of the children headed to Spearfish to attend school. A neighbor lady cared for Lena, the baby, and the older brothers stayed to tend to the homestead.

Eleven years later, one of the older sisters, Bessie, had move back and was living on her own homestead and teaching sister Lena. One clear February morning the two set out to visit their brother Henry who had been sick. A howling blizzard hit and their brothers and neighbors searched in the blinding wind and snow for the girls. They discovered Bessie's crocheting, then an overshoe, and another overshoe, but not the young women. The sisters perished, buried in snow, and were finally uncovered ten days later, just yards from their home.

Wilford said that they year Hans was killed, he had contracted with the Turkey Track, to winter cattle. The Turkey Track was a big cow outfit running on open range. Hans's boys Nels, 16 and Willie, 13, took responsibility for the care of those cattle, as well as their own. After several years of ranching together, the brothers parted ways and Willie – Wilford and Horace's father – took over the Turkey Track horse camp. Willie sold his cows when the Turkey Track moved to Canada in 1900 and bought a small herd of registered Hereford cattle from a neighbor. Wilford said the Seim cows are descendants of that herd.

In order to maintain their herd during one particularly dry year of the "dirty thirties," Wilford said they trailed a bunch of their cows and two-year-old steers to come reservation land around Fort Berthold, North Dakota, for the winter. "Someone talked my dad and a neighbor into sending some of our cattle up there in 1936. It was a pretty dry year," said Wilford.

Although the cows were able to graze all winter, they were supplemented with cake.

Wilford not only rode the 14 day trail, arriving on Labor Day, but he stayed the winter with them. He remembers that another rancher trailing with them had bought a five gallon jar of sauerkraut which they ate the entire trip. Finally, several days into the trip, someone asked if he knew how to cook and when Wilford answered, "yes," he was appointed to make pancakes from that point on. Wilford never did re-acquire a taste for sauerkraut.

The cattle and Wilford remained in the area through the winter, spring and summer. In early fall, the three-year-old steers were shipped out of Halliday, North Dakota, on the train. In November, the cows were trailed home.

Wilford and Horace both recall trailing three-year-old steers to the railroad at White Butte, South Dakota, at shipping time each fall. "We would ship at the same time as the Longwoods," said Horace, adding that they would trail with the neighbors to the railroad.. "If we had cull cows or bulls to sell, they would go along, too. The bulls had to be tied up in the railcar," he remembers.

According to Wilford, anyone sending cattle on the train was required to rent an entire car- room for 24,000 pounds, whether they had the cattle to fill it or not. Because most of the cattle were at least three years old, their horns were quite long, creating a need for substantial space in each railcar. Wilford estimated that the steers weighed around 1,350 to 1,400 pounds at shipping time.

Wilford was asked to travel with the steers on the train to Chicago once. "I rode in the passenger car located in the caboose with the other folks shipping cattle," he said. "I was 21 years old (in 1939) and I didn't know a darn soul. There was a guy from Baker, Montana, who took me under his wing. He knew I was a greenhorn," he said.

"If the train began picking up cattle in Roundup, Montana, then it would stop in Aberdeen and all the cattle were unloaded, fed, and loaded again for the rest of the trip," said Wilford. "If they started loading cattle around Miles City, Montana, then they could make it to Brighton, Minnesota, before they stopped to feed the cattle."

Either way, it was a three day trip, culminating with a stop at the Chicago Stockyards, which covered over a section of land, Wilford remembers.

Wilford said he "absolutely did not" haggle with the buyers. "We had already consigned them to a firm that leased space in the Stockyards. The firm would represent the cattle to buyers," he said. "They told me what price we had gotten and handed me the check and I headed for home."

He thinks they may have gotten 3.5 or 4 cents per pound for their steers that year. He wasn't sure if was true but the rumor was that a lot of the cattle traveled to Boston, where they were slaughtered.

The Seims last trailed cattle to the railroad in 1944.

They sent their two-year-old steers and spayed heifers to Lake Preston, South Dakota, a few times to be fed. Wilford said one year his dad decided he would start selling calves off the cow. That year, he sold his three-year-old steers, two-year old steers and his yearlings.

From those early days of caring for his dad's cattle, Wilford, who brands a 4W on the right rib, developed a passion for Hereford cattle. "Prince Domino is my favorite bloodline," he said.

He likes the same kind of cattle his dad did – deep bodied, easy fleshing Herefords with a mild temperament.

He also likes them to have a "good head" on them. "Some people say it doesn't matter what the head looks like because you don't eat the head, but the head is the first thing you see."

He often bought bulls via private treaty from neighbors. Although he jokingly said he raised Herefords all of his life because "he couldn't afford to quit," a quick glance around his living room reveals his love for the breed. Photos of favorite bulls, calves at weaning time and Wilford standing with his cattle fill the shelves of his and Delores's home.

One framed photo shows Wilford with a favorite bull who he bought as an eight-year-old from friends. Wilford went on to use the bull until he was 15 years old.

Tim's nephew Jed (son of Tim's brother Scott) now ranches on the old Shelby and Bonnie (Foster) Seim ranch where Tim was raised, on Thunder Butte Creek near Meadow, South Dakota. The blood of those first Herefords runs through the veins of Jed's cattle, too. Tim's father Shelby was a brother to Wilford and Horace. Shelby made a home on his wife's family ranch, where they raised five sons – Rod, Scott, Tim, Todd and Gregg. The family has lost both Todd and Gregg.

Tim joined his uncles in the family business in 1975. "I've never been afraid to drive a used pickup or a used staple," he said.

"We don't take real good care of our cows. They take care of us," said Tim, who brands a JT connected. The cows graze mostly native pasture. The cows are not eartagged and maintain their horns because "if you take the horns off, you take the brains out," says Tim.

Today, all of the calves are sold off the cow except replacement heifers that are grown on a light ration of oats.

Tim said he looks at EPDs, but is more interested in the look of a bull, he said – something he learned from his uncles.

Up until a couple of years ago, Wilford and Delores (who wed when Wilford was 75) lived on the east end of the ranch. Horace still lives on the ranch, two miles via a trail from Tim and his wife JoAnne.

Tim and JoAnne's son Justin, his wife Joanna and their young boys Jacob and Tristan now live and work on the ranch. Daughter Kelly, her husband Danny, and their sons Owen and Ketchum live in Utah but travel home to enjoy ranch life as much as they can.

As is custom for the Seims at any kind of gathering, they celebrated Wilford's recent birthday with music. Horace and another brother, Norman, played acoustic and steel guitar at the birthday party. Tim and Justin also got the musical gene and often join their relatives in entertaining family and friends and more.

This story originally appeared in Hereford America.

Reeves horses leave a legacy

The Reeves Quarter Horse breeding program began in 1935 when 60 Thoroughbred mares were given to Arthur Reeves. Eighty-three years later, the original bloodlines are being carried on by Arthur's grandchildren as both Arthur and one of his sons, Dean Reeves, posthumously received the 50 Year Legacy Breeder award from the South Dakota Quarter Horse Association in January.

Dean began his own horse breeding program with a stallion and mares that his father raised and never strayed far from Roan Bar and Tom Baker bloodlines.

"Dad's first mare was a mare called Prissy Anne and she was by Harmon King. She was registered in the National Quarter Horse Association before the AQHA," said Jim Reeves, Dean's son.

As time went on, Dean tried different crosses of Two Eyed Jack, Leo and Jackie B, all of which produced the athletic type of horses he was looking for.

"Every time you bred a Roan Bar mare to one of these crosses it would bloom. Dad wanted a good headed horse with a lot of muscle and a good hip," Jim said. "That's what Dad and Grandpa and Bud wanted. Every one of them was fast and they were athletic, had good feet and good bones."

Jim was the oldest of four children on the South Dakota ranch, 30 miles south of Eagle Butte where the family worked together with no running water, electricity or even a four-wheel-drive pickup truck until 1974. They used horses for everything.

"We hauled water with the team, we fed cows with the team," said Bobbie Palczewski, Dean's daughter. "We did everything horseback. That was our mode of transportation, we didn't have 4 wheelers, bicycles or anything. We were just horseback."

The four, Jim, Mary, Bobbie and Tom, never rode broke horses either. They would help their father start all the colts on the ranch and from a young age learned what horsemanship was from their father.

"All of us kids became horsemen," Jim said. "Dad taught us anything and everything about horses. He taught us to work with the colts, he even taught us to ride broncs."

The family would start between 15 and 20 colts per year. All the colts and fillies would get handled and fillies that made the cut would get turned out to become broodmares. All the geldings would get started and rode on the ranch until they were three years old. They would knot-rope on the colts to help them learn to track cattle, roping calves with knots tied before their hondos so that when loops got small, it would turn the calf without choking it, then fall of the calves heads.

"Pretty soon your little green horse is tracking and following calves and when you throw your rope, he stops, so you'd be training them to rope calves almost immediately," Jim said.

After moving to the ranch near Eagle Butte in 1963, there wasn't much fence up and the pastures were thousands of acres. When they fed with the team, they would tie their colts alongside the wagon and, once in the pasture, they would use their young horses to gather cattle to feed or water. Jim recalls having to wrangle saddle horses when he was young and his father telling him that whatever direction the wind was blowing, that was likely where he would find the herd of horses in the 7,000 acre pasture.

The horse program for the Reeves wasn't for a flamboyant lifestyle, it was out of necessity on the ranch, but it helped that the colts brought in a nice paycheck.

"When the colts were ready, we would take them to sales in about a four-state region," Jim says. "Anywhere they had horse sales we would take from two to five head at a time. We did that for almost 25 years."

Reeves horses with both Dean's, his father's and his brother's brands, were scattered all over South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. In fact, Jim recalls seeing around ten horses with Reeves brands at the National High School Finals rodeo one year.

In the early 1990s, the family decided it was time to hold their own sale at the ranch and to build a reputation, they chose not to "no sale" any horse for the first few years. As the size of the sale grew, along with the Reeves mare band, 70 to 90 head of started horses were too many for Dean, the four children and their long-time hired hand, Spoke Yellowhead, to get ready for the September sale. For the remainder of sale's years, they hired on anywhere from five to 10 men to help ride the colts from the first of May until the first of September.

Among those who helped put on the sale were horseman such as Louis Brunson, Bart Edmondson, Beau Franzen, Romey Gunville, Josey Hauser, Archie Hulm, Bill Knight, Rocky Longbrake, DJ Martin, Wade Mitzel, Brett Price, Chris Reeves, Scott Saults, Mike Smith, Cody Taton, Ralph Taton, Walt Taton, Danny Walters and Tater Ward.

"We couldn't put this size of horse sale on by ourselves," Jim said. "It takes an army."

It also took a strong woman to feed the army all summer long, three meals a day, and Emma Lu Reeves did it.

"Nobody could do it as good as mom," Bobbie said. "She cooked for 20 people all summer long and she also fed about 50 bum calves at a time that we could rope."

When the economy changed in the early 2000s, the Reeves knew it was time to end the 15-year run. By then, Jim, Mary, Bobbie and Tom each had their own ranch or business to run and the horse program wasn't quite the necessity that it used to be.

When Dean passed away in 2008, he still ran around 60 mares with 5 studs. Today, Jim's son runs the family ranch near Eagle Butte and both the bloodlines from Dean's horse program and his ways of horsemanship are continuing to be passed to the next generations.

"Dad was always there, he was always showing us how to do things," Jim said. "He was real quiet, he never spoke out of turn and that was probably one of the reasons he was such a good horseman, because he was quiet, he could get a horse to do anything he wanted." F

Dr. R.M. Christensen: Stage Bird Tom sets stage for a half century of breeding horses in South Dakota

Dr. Robert M. (R.M.) Christensen has dedicated his life to the progression of the Quarter Horse in South Dakota, and was honored in January as a 50 Year Breeder in the state. His love for horses stems from his childhood.

"When I was a youngster, I lived at Wessington Springs, South Dakota. There was a lot of horses around there. I knew people that started bringing in Quarter Horses. Pretty much, we just had some saddle mares, and we bred them to remount stallions. We had a lot of Belgian work horses. So I grew into a family that liked their horses," said Christensen.

The local shows at Wessington Springs soon included AQHA cutting, and he was even more excited to begin raising horses of his own. He said, "I was further enticed by the ability of the horses. I went to the horse sale in Aberdeen and had one of the national directors, Lawrence DeHaan help me pick out a horse. I bought one in 1955, and started raising some colts."

As his young breeding program was taking off, Christensen was also in college and the military. He says, "I went to training in Fort Carson, then they shipped 100 of us down to Texas at San Antonio. Then I had medical training, and then I came home for leave, and then got the orders to go to Walter Reed Army Medical Center at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. I had a year of veterinary school and dropped out and so I was there for two years, where they did pathology on pilots that would have a problem. They had experimental animals there, and I helped with that. I got out of college, I went back to veterinary school and finished in 1964."

As his program grew, he purchased what would become his signature stallion. He said, "A friend of mine, Art Reeves, was quite a horseman. We went to Texas and I purchased a stallion named Stage Bird Tom." Stage Bird Tom was a 1966 stallion, and a grandson of King. Art Reeves had a half brother to Stage Bird Tom, named Tom Baker. The two friends would go on to collaborate in their Quarter Horse productions, as Christensen bought mares from Reeves by Tom Baker and Roan Bar, another stallion he had, says Christensen. He also bred his mares to Reeves's stallions, with great success. ""I had a son by Roan Bar, his name was Roan Bar 2, and I made him an AQHA champion."

Raising horses was not his only occupation. "I had a full time veterinary practice and raised horses on the side. At one point I had 65 mares," he said. "I had a mostly small animal practice and did horse work for a while, but it got to be a problem when there was a of couple ladies sitting in the waiting room and I had to go take care of a horse that got in trouble. So, I dropped the horse practice and just did my own. I put in 39 years there, but I got a little muscle problem, so I had to quit," he said. That was in 2003.

On top of raising Quarter Horses and having a full-time veterinary practice, Christensen also managed horse shows in Sioux Falls for 39 years, starting in 1968. It began when he offered a helping hand the first year. He said, "The next year, I was the manager of the show, and it just boomeranged from there. We did it with the Farm Winter Show, and then the Summer Fair. I finally outgrew the facility. They had built a new building to show in." The new building contained wings for stalls, but no stalls. He said, "The professional people and I got together and bought some stalls, so we had the 400 stalls there for the shows, so you could have more than one at a time. We went from one to having three. Then we'd go out of town for the fourth one and have three more, so I'd have seven shows in a row. I had the 7th and 8th largest show in the nation. The next year I had the 8th, 9th and 10th largest show." He says the years when his shows were monstrous were the 1970s and 1980s. "It kept me out of mischief," he grinned.

He enjoyed meeting participants at his shows, such as Carol and Matlock Rose, people from Washington, Texas and even Australia. Just as the people were the most enjoyable part of managing horse shows, it was also the most rewarding experience in raising Quarter Horses. He said, "I liked horses, I guess. It was fun to raise some nice babies, and I didn't always get very much for them, but sometimes they ended up with people that would call me and would visit about them and how much they liked them. I had one guy call me about one of my first colts and had it for 28 years, and wrote me a three page letter to tell me how much he had enjoyment with him. That was the best thing, to find people that had bought the horse that were satisfied with them."

Christensens' horses had many achievements at the local, regional and national level. Stage Bird Roanie, by Stage Bird Tom and out of a Roan Bar mare, was the second highest team roping horse in the nation. In addition to Roan Bar 2 being an AQHA champion, Stage Bird Tom, and a blue roan mare, named Stage Birds Image, were AQHA champions, Christensen says. "You have to have so many halter points and so many performance points in different categories to do that," he explains. Christensen would generally enter his horses in the halter classes, roping events and reining or western riding.

The perfect all-around using horse was Christensen's goal as he raised Quarter Horses. "One the kids could ride, or the grownups could ride, and take the right person along with them to win," he said. The trainers working with his horses were a huge part of their success. "I had a gentleman by the name of Pat Trebaush and he showed my horses for a long time. Bob Johnson, he's down in Tennessee now, showed a lot of my horses. He'd send some horses that needed extra roping training down there to Nebraska," he said.

The horseman also helped establish and later served on the South Dakota Quarter Horse Council.

Christensen is now based out of Harrisburg, and does not have as many mares as he once did. He works with his trainer to help with breeding decisions. "John Kabeiseman out of Yankton has my horses right now," he said. "I'm not looking too much anymore. He helps me choose mares now. I like an all around horse, and I guess my horses went back to the King breeding, and a lot of the foundation horses. Lately we've gotten into halter horses that are out of Impressive, and I had an Impressive stallion, as well. Had some beautiful colts out of him, but the cowboys around here, they're a little shy of that. I kind of come back down to earth and went back to breeding horses that could go out and do anything and be a good horse just to ride."

Christensen gives advice to young breeders saying, "If they're not a good judge of horses, find a good trainer or breeder and get some knowledge from him, or ask for their thoughts, anyway, if you're unsure of things. I had a couple of sales myself at my place, and took some of them up to Minnesota and some to Des Moines, Iowa, and different places. They used to have a Quarter Horse sale in Sioux Falls that was put on by another gentleman, and I consigned some horses there, and sold some private treaty. That's the way you disposed of them, if you couldn't feed them. You had to sell some, whether the prices were good or bad."

Still going strong: Lee Lopez raises horses for more than a half century

Lee Lopez, of Keldron, South Dakota, grew up in a time where the horse and rancher were still mutually exclusive—there were no four-wheeler, ATVs, or tractors—and he still has a deep appreciation for a fine ranch horse. Lee, an AQHA 50-year-legacy breeder, continued the foundation of quality Quarter Horses established by his dad Alberto Francisco Lopez.

Albert, as he was known by his family, moved from the Colorado/New Mexico border in 1923 to South Dakota to work as a wagon boss for the Diamond A. From there, Albert met his wife Lavisa, and had three children, including their only son Lee.

"Grandpa Albert began gathering wild horses and breaking them and training them, putting together a broodmare band," said Jim Hunt, Lee's nephew. "He hired the young man who lived across the river from the Diamond A, Casey Tibbs. He was 11- or 12-years-old, and he took him in as a partner. They kept the good ones and started a special horse sale in 1943."

The Meyer, Lopez, and Lauing sale is still in existence each fall, and Lee has had one to two horses in the sales the last few years.

"Every fall, we still have a horse sale, Lopez, Meyer, and Lauing. We sell in Faith," Lee said. "I told Karen Meyer, I ain't got many horses if you guys want to drop me. She said, 'We need you.' I'll hopefully have two colts in there this fall."

Lee has two mares and a stallion on his acreage in Isabel, South Dakota. His stallion, Frenchmans Joker, has Sunfrost on both the top and bottom and is out of a son of Frenchmans Guy.

While he appreciates Frances Loiseau's Caseys Ladylove prodigy, his favorite lineage within his own herd was Top Not by Bar Nothing Springer.

"They're the best line of horses we ever had. Them horses are nice-minded; anyone can get along with them," Lee said. "A few speed horses come out of them, bulldogging horses and roping horses; they won stuff for many years. They're not too hot or too nervous, easy to get along with."

A fine ranch horse, according to Lee, must first and foremost have a good mind, as he indicated with Top Not. From there, good feet are a necessity. "It's kind of nice to have a little withers, and I like horses that aren't looking for a place to booger. I like when they kind of watch a cow and have a good, easy-going disposition," he said. "We kind of hit the jackpot and never really realized it until it was a little too late. One stallion named Lopez Red 1, Milton Trask down in Wall owned him. When Milton was 80, he told me his county was mounted better than it's ever been because of that stud."

Albert established Lopez Quarter Horses when AQHA was just getting its start.

"When AQHA came into existence, the way you got horses registered was an inspector from the AQHA headquarters in Ft. Worth, Texas, came to look at your horses, and if they fit the bill, they let them be registered," Jim said.

When Lee was a teen, he partnered with his dad Albert until his father became too elderly to raise horses. Lee then partnered with his brother-in-law Gene Hunt.

"Me and my brother-in-law 'Geno' Hunt traded horses back and forth so much, AQHA thought they had a couple crooks," Lee said. "They came to mouth 60 horses. On one gelding, AQHA wrote me letting me know his mom had 19 colts in a row, and they thought his age didn't match. I wrote them back and let them know his age is right. I was there when he was born, but I didn't realize his mom had that many colts in a row, but she did."

The need for ranch horses was born of necessity; Lee didn't encounter a four-wheel-drive tractor until his son acquired one after Lee's retirement.

"Dad grew up basically moving around from one cow camp to the next cow camp, which is basically a bachelor pad out in the middle of nowhere where the cows are. You've got a couple horses and a little cabin out there just taking care of cows," Lee's son John said. "He didn't grow up around a lot of machinery. He'd been riding horseback; the art of basically working your cattle and all that was done horseback for years. I think it was always important to my dad to raise the kind of horse he'd like to ride, with good legs and good feet. At the height of his career, he had about 30 mares and 25 colts a year or something. They needed to make it out on open prairie with breaks, creeks and bogs; if they could make it through all that, they could come to town and be in the sale."

Lee married a woman with six young children and went on to have three children of his own with her: John, Ann, and Joe.

Lee shaped all of his adopted kids and his own kids into handy young horsemen and women. A favorite story of Lee's exhibits the quick thinking of kids and good manner of horses.

"The ranch I worked for when the kids were small was the Cottonwood Ranch, and we had land on the Grand River and also down at Geno Hunt's. My boss had sold Geno some land down there, and Geno ran some of his cattle. So anyway, we got done branding at the Grand River, and then we moved on to the Cheyenne," Lee said. "We took some saddle horses with us, a trailer load or two. We told the kids, you take the horses and go on home with them—which was about 15 miles to the north—and we'll gather up these portable corrals and camping gear, and we'll be along with the pickup to trail them home north horseback."

What Lee hadn't realized was the river that his two sons Ted and Luke Lopez and the neighbor Jerry Peterson, ranging in ages 8 to 10, needed to cross had swelled over the banks due to recent rainfall. He discovered that the kids had swapped their mounts for other horses that had been in the hay trap by the river.

"They penned them horses in this hay yard on the river and changed horses to get on their better swimming horses since some they were on wouldn't cross. So they penned them in this big hay yard, and then they went on toward home," Lee said. "I was just frantic because in the dark, them kids just disappeared. I had to run clear to Little Eagle to get home; I had to get across on the bridge. When I got home I opened the entry-way door, and there was three little pairs of boots by the door."

Another of the six whom Lee adopted, Matt Lopez went on in the equine industry, further adding to the Lopez name. He is currently a cutting horse trainer and lives on the homeplace where he grew up, raising cattle, horses, and kids of his own.

"When I adopted those kids, the oldest was 8 and the youngest, Matt, was 3," Lee said. "When Matt was older, I worried about him getting into beer, and I wanted to get Matt a good job. He got in trouble the first couple weekends he lived in town, so I sent him to Sunshine Bible Academy in Miller. He throwed in with a Christian man; it was the best thing that ever happened."

From there, a friend of a friend, Lee Simpson, in eastern South Dakota took Matt in riding 30 horses that were slated to go to Howard Pitzer's sale in Nebraska.

"Well, he and Lee went riding one day, and Lee never came back. Matt got the neighbors and Lee's wife out looking for him, but he didn't turn up," Lee said. "There was a dam in the middle of the pasture and the fire department combed the bottom and found old Lee Simpson. There was a trail that led underneath a bank. He and the horse got into a fight; they hadn't been getting along. The wife said she wanted that horse to go to kill. Matt told me, 'I just shod that horse last week, do you think she'd mind if I took my shoes back?' I said I didn't think she'd mind if he took the whole foot!"

Lee had promised Matt a good job, and when his job with Simpson expired when his life did, Lee pressed on finding another opportunity for Matt. He wrote a letter to King Ranch, since his call wouldn't be sent through. One thing led to another and Buster Welch called Lee saying that if Matt was as good of a hand as Lee said he was, he'd take him. Matt worked for Welch directly for several years, before interviewing in Las Vegas with Wes Adams. He has since created a shining career for himself built on the faith of his adopted dad Lee.

Matt was at his dad's AQHA 50-year Legacy Breeder celebration, along with John, Joe, Ann, and Ann's husband Bryce Roghair, Jan. 5 and 6, at the South Dakota Quarter Horse Association Celebrating Legacies Banquet. Lee plans to continue breeding as long as he's able to halter break his colts. Lee lives with his son John, a well-known South Dakotan artist and sculptor whose work often features home-raised horses.