Rineharts still use horses to serve dinner to their Limousin heifers on Pompadour Hills Ranch
December 14, 2016
On a quiet patch of rolling prairie hills, Brady Rinehart drives his team of horses through his group of replacement heifers. The loyal cattle dog hops on for a ride, and Rinehart moves levers on his homemade hydraulic bale wagon to spread out hay for the stock.
With a view as pretty as a Christmas card, Brady, and his wife Wendi, enjoy the peaceful country life found on the ranch located 30 miles northwest of Highmore. They wouldn't have it any other way.
"We live along some beautiful hills here," said Wendi. "It's pretty country. We like to say if you end up on our dead end road, you're either lost or you're coming here."
The view the Rineharts enjoy today is much the same as it was on Nov. 11, 1889 when Hugh McNamara homesteaded the ranch.
"McNamara tried to farm this land and just about went broke," said Brady. "He ended up running horses for the U.S. Army Cavalry. He maintained the Cavalry mares here, and the Army would bring studs out to breed the horses to."
Only the second family to live on this 127-year old ranch, Iowa farm boy Herald Rinehart and and his wife Marilyn moved to the Highmore location in 1950 where they raised four children — Brady, Dave, Barbara and Deborah.
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"My mom, Marilyn, was a country school teacher, and my dad, Herald, started the cow-calf operation," said Brady. "They started with Angus and Hereford cows and had plenty of black baldies long before they got really popular. In 1969, he started breeding everything to Limousin and soon had one of the largest purebred Limousin herds in the nation."
A free trip the a cattlemen's convention in Las Vegas in 1969 led Herald to the Limousin breed. New to the U.S. at that time, the French bull, Prince Pompadour, was on display at the casino, and ranchers flocked to view the horned, cherry red and heavily muscled bull in Sin City.
Brady recalled Herald's time in Las Vegas, "Dad always told the story that Prince Pompadour was playfully rubbing his horns against his caretaker in the casino, and the security guards thought he was getting maimed! Ranchers had to stop the guards from shooting Prince Pompadour!"
With the breeding season quickly approaching, Herald encouraged Brady to attend artificial insemination (AI) school, so he could use some Pompadour genetics in his cow herd.
"He asked me if I wanted to AI cows all summer, and I asked him if it would get me out of haying and it did, so I went to school and we used Prince Pompadour semen on the cows that year," said Brady.
Herald became one of the founding members of the North American Limousin Foundation, and inspired by that first Canadian bull he saw in Vegas, he named his seedstock business, Pompadour Hills Ranch.
"Dad was active in the Limousin breed on the state and national levels," said Brady. "He hosted three bulls sales each year through the late 1980s, marketing 150-200 bulls annually."
Herald passed on his passion for the cattle business to his children. Barbara runs her own Limousin herd in Nebraska, while Dave and Brady took over the ranch in 1991, transitioning the operation to a commercial outfit, using Red Angus and Angus bulls on their Limousin cows. They managed the business together until 2003 when they decided to work independently in their own ranching pursuits. Brady stayed at the home place, and has since introduced Limousin bulls back into the commercial herd.
"There's just something about the Limousin breed that gets in your blood," he said. "They just work for us out here."
Today, Pompadour Hills Ranch markets its steer calves each fall while retaining a group of replacements each year. The operation relies on the low-stress method of fence-line weaning and uses the team of horses and the hydraulic bale wagon to introduce hay to the calves for the first time.
"The boys converted a hydro bed from a pickup truck into the bale wagon," said Wendi. "They modified it by putting axels underneath it and added a yoke that could be pulled by horses."
"The team allows us to quietly work through the replacements heifers following weaning, and it's nice to use in a pinch to feed the cow herd if the bale processor breaks down," added Brady.
"It takes all day, but the cows get fed," laughed Wendi.
The pair married in 1981, following a three-month whirlwind romance that started with a chance meeting at the Black Hills Stock Show Rodeo. They went on to raise three children, Ryan, Jacob and Kylee, and the family has expanded to include three grandchildren, as well — Jaycee, Rylee and Ayan.
"We met at a rodeo, and Brady passed on his love of competing to his children, too," said Wendi.
All three kids competed in 4-H and high school rodeos. Later on, Jacob, known better by rodeo fans as Jake Rinehart, went on to compete in college rodeos representing Eastern Wyoming College, Torrington. Kylee followed in his footsteps and was on the college rodeo team in Casper before heading to Omaha on a basketball scholarship.
"We've had a lot of fun over the years watching the kids compete in rodeos and sports," said Wendi. "Ryan was the State Class B 189 wrestling champ in 1994. Kylee made SDRA finals during her rodeo career, and Jacob has competed at national finals and Calgary three times each. In 2009 and 2011, he was ranked third in the world in bulldogging, and he ended up 16th this year, just missing a trip to Las Vegas."
Proud of their children, but humble about their accomplishments, too, the Rineharts say raising children on the ranch was a blessing to them.
"It's quiet here, and the kids learned a lot working on the ranch," said Wendi. "When they got off the school bus, they were home to stay, and we liked it that way."
Family, friends and fellowship are all big parts of quiet life in rural America, and for the Rineharts, branding season is when they get to celebrate doing what they love with the people they love the most.
"Branding day is like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter all rolled into one," said Brady. "We have a lot of fun, and we've had some great crews over the years. Everybody tells me that if Wendi quits cooking though, they'll stop coming."
An ace in the kitchen, Wendi's branding menu includes smoked brisket, slow roasted for 14-16 hours until tender, a variety of salads, potatoes, vegetables, homemade bread, sour cream raisin pie, rhubarb custard and cookies.
Held at the end of May each year, Jacob and Kylee have taken over the reins organizing the crew and plans for branding day. The two are also stepping into leadership roles at the ranch as Brady and Wendi are ready to slowly transition out.
"We're working on transitioning the ranch to the kids," said Brady. "They are committed to making things work, and they work well together. My hope is that the ranching tradition will continue in our family, and that it will get easier, too."
As the Rineharts settle in for a family Christmas at Pompadour Hills Ranch, the Tri-State Live-stock News would like to wish a very merry Christmas to our readers across the country.