For the long haul
January 15, 2016
"Ranching has been my life," said 90 year old John Earl "Jack" Carr, Jr. of White River, South Dakota, and indeed it has. Born on Christmas Eve, 1924, to an Ainsworth, Nebraska area ranch couple, John Earl and Pearl Carr, Jack was destined to follow his father's footsteps in the cattle industry. Incidentally, Jack's father was one of Dakota Territory's famed "Cowboys of 1902," who, like so many early-day cowboys, settled down to establish ranches on the northern great plains after the open range days were over.
Shortly after Jack's birth, the family moved to Todd County, South Dakota, near Hidden Timber, where Jack grew to manhood. At the age of four, Jack went on his first cattle drive. His father had the cattle shipped by railroad from the place near Ainsworth to Valentine where they were unloaded for the drive to the Hidden Timber ranch. Jack's mother said she relented to let him join the men on the drive rather than listen to him crying at the door pleading to go along. She bundled him up and soon he was aboard his good pony, Dick, and made the 35 mile drive. Jack has rarely turned down a chance to go on a cattle drive since and has been instrumental in forming several successful wagon trains.
Jack attended high school in Valentine where he was a football star and homecoming king. In 1942, at the age of 18 and shortly after graduation, Jack borrowed money from Charlie Grossenburg, a successful John Deere dealer from Winner, South Dakota, to buy calves for himself to run on the Hidden Timber ranch and thus began his own ranching career. On June 22, 1945 Jack married Betty Hewitt, a Todd County rancher's daughter, and shortly after their marriage, Jack and Betty purchased their Mellette County Ranch West of White River, and at the age of 21 was running his ranch operation at this new location.
In the beginning, the Carr Ranch ran Hereford steers, running them until they were 2 to 3 years old and selling them weighing approximately 1,400 pounds. As the years passed, the operation slowly changed into a cow/calf operation and black Angus cattle eventually replaced the Herefords. Along with the cattle, Jack always had a remuda of 25 mares and two stallions. From the colts, he would break some to use as ranch horses and sell many green broke and finished horses. There were always at least a dozen saddle horses and a number of teams of work horses for work on the ranch. At one time in 1947, Jack gathered and purchased 175 head of horses off the reservation, halter broke them and drove them to the train where they were sent to Greece.
Becoming the father of five daughters, Jack heard plenty of teasing about having this ranch and "no boys," but the girls never thought there was anything a boy could do that they couldn't and proved that on many occasions.
Although operating a successful ranch for most of his 90-plus years, Jack always had time for civic matters, being a former Mayor of White River; a fireman; member of the Lions Club, Masons, Order of Eastern Star, Band Parents, PTA and Jobs Daughters; a member of the United Methodist Church and served on church and school boards; ran the scoreboard clock at high school football and basketball games, and served the cattle industry in many ways. Jack has served as a South Dakota brand inspector, member of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, on the State Conservation Commission, worked horseback in the ring at the Presho Livestock Auction and subsequently the Ft. Pierre Livestock Auction, still working as a field man.
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Perhaps one of the finest positions Jack Carr held was in the rodeo arena where he worked tirelessly to promote high school rodeo and volunteered countless hours to provide an outstanding high school rodeo in White River, which was awarded as one of the regional sites. Jack served as a State Director and as High School Rodeo State President in 1982-83. Jack was also a chute boss at White River's Frontier Days Rodeo, and was barrier judge at the State 4-H Rodeo in Ft. Pierre for 8-10 years. Of course, none of this could have been accomplished without the help and support of his family, so it is no wonder that Jack Carr and his family were recipients of the Ranch Cowboy Family award in 2012 by the Casey Tibbs Foundation.
Jack is still active in ranching; however, he has leased the majority of his ranch out, retaining 700 acres to run his remaining 50 cows. The cows are bred to longhorn bulls for calving ease and he purchases his hay supply. Although today he uses modern machinery to feed his cattle, he would still prefer to harness up a team to do the job. Says Jack: "Ranching has been my life."