A Truly American Experience

My name is Alexandra Galber, Alexi or Lexi for short. I am a combat veteran of the Israel Defense Force (SSgt). I have a LL.B (law degree) from Ramat Gan, Israel, and on May 14th I graduated from Chicago Kent School of law with a LL.M (master law degree) in US, International, and Transnational law. I lived in London, England before I moved to Israel at the age of 16.

After graduation I wanted to spend my remaining time here in America doing something truly American. Something that I couldn’t do in either Israel or England. And that is how I fell into South Dakota and landed here at Rock Hills Ranch with the Perman’s.

Growing up, my family (Mum, Dad, and two younger sisters) would spend the holidays camping in the southern English country side rather than in a hotel. Once or twice we even stayed on a farm. But that is the closest that I had ever came to something like the life that I have been living over the past three weeks here on the ranch. With no disrespect to Chicago, I have never been into living right in the city, and I found that in comparison, the fact that the closest town from here has maybe 10 people living in it, is definitely more to my liking.

Over the past three weeks I have experienced things that I could never have even thought of before. Among the many things that I have learnt through experience here at the ranch is that there is so much more to grass that it just being green! And that it is considered to be traffic when there is more than just you and one other car on the road!

The day after I arrived at the ranch a group from the World Wildlife Foundation came to visit. It was a great way for me to be introduced to the ranch as we went on a tour of the pastures and received explanations of how the ranch functions. It was especially interesting as the ranch is based along the 100th Meridian, and also has Native American tee-pee sites. The visit was also the perfect example of how different people with different opinions can work together to find a way to protect, what I have come to learn as being one of the most important things that needs to be protected, the grass.

My first real ranch life experience, and therefore, out of my world experience, was moving cattle. As someone who has never been in the middle of a field completely surrounded by extremely large cows, this experience may have definitely caused me some blood pressure problems.  Even after being around cattle a several more times, I still maintain that I would rather deal with the animals that I had to deal with during my time in the service, rather than deal with an unruly cow. My inexperience with cattle was shown once again when I had to wrangle an escaped bottle fed calf back to the barn where it was kept. Thankfully there are no cameras in that barn. The whole situation would have been a whole lot less amusing had I not been wearing a sweatshirt with the name of my military unit, and the words “counter-terrorism” written on the back!

My second real life experience was the first time that we worked the cattle. Let’s just say that if anyone ever has the need to castrate a bull calf, they can call me.

This past weekend Tucker, the other intern here at Rock Hills Ranch, and I drove down to Mount Rushmore. It is incredible to think that it was carved in a time before the advancement of technology. During our trip we toured a bison ranch with the Grassland Coalitions, of which we are now members, and spent the first night at the Perman’s cousins in Rapid City.  We also visited the Crazy Horse monument, the town of Wall, the ghost town of Scenic, and drove through the Badlands, where we camped on Saturday night, something that was only possible thanks to Tuckers skills at engineering with duct tape.

There has been so much more to these past three weeks that what I have begun to write down and hopefully the next ten days before I fly back, will be just as amazing, and just as American.


Introducing Melanie

Being at Rock Hills Ranch has put many other things on my mind besides my now-distant life and self from California, but I’ve been told that these are just the things that you, gentle readers, would like to hear about. I reluctantly comply, but add that I would much rather be learning about you, so feel free to contact me or recommend things that I experience. I’ll be interning at RHR until the end of August.


My furry traveling companion and I arrived in Lowry on August 1, having driven over 1,500 miles from San Diego. Ovid, who is named after a Roman poet on account of his scholarly whiskers, behaved mostly poetically on the journey (save for one incident involving a taco); but with hindsight I now see that he was conserving his occult powers for deployment on the ranch. While I was moved by the grandeur of the prairie and fantasies of what it would have been like to see it peopled with the diverse cultures that existed prior to the arrival of Europeans, Ovid was pumped to see Sturgis brewing before the big event. And so it is that progeny stray.













My own interest in the indigenous cultures of the Americas is probably related to my profession as an anthropologist. An anthropologist is a social scientist who studies humans: sometimes living, sometimes dead, sometimes aspects of their culture, behavior, or biology.


In my case, I’m a linguistic anthropologist, which means I study the communicative behavior of living people. I do my research in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, among a group of people who speak an indigenous language called Zapotec, as well as Spanish. Zapotec was spoken in Mexico long before the Spaniards arrived, and is not related to or similar to Spanish.


My research focuses on how bilinguals conceptualize and talk about space, and on how bilingual children acquire spatial concepts in two very different languages. I have spent a total of 30 months living with Zapotec speakers in Oaxaca, gathering video recordings of people communicating in both languages. Although my research topic is specialized, I also teach more general anthropology, linguistics, and writing classes to undergraduate students at the University of California, San Diego, where I am currently in the homestretch of my Ph.D. program. Perhaps in my next post I will say more about my research and how I ended up here in Lowry, but now on to more pressing matters.


Because I have spent time in the Oaxacan countryside, I know at least a couple of things about small towns, and thus would like to issue the following official statement: anyone whoso finds themselves inclined to matchmaking is hereby warned that in addition to being over 30, I can survive scarcely a year without international travel, and my cooking is intolerably spicy.


-Melanie McComsey

Coming Home–Kajsa Perman White

Coming Home

As I teenager I could not wait to get away from small town rural ranch life and experience what the world had to offer. I had a bad case of wanderlust and I count that a blessing.  In the last decade I’ve spent time in a handful of different cities, states and countries. I’ve traveled abroad, learned another language, met celebrities, worked in the corporate world, fell in love and married a man with an accent. To my teenage ears that would have sounded like a dream.  In many ways it has been my dream fulfilled.

I wrote my dad a letter once as a teenager and in it I said, “no matter where life takes me Rock Hills Ranch will always be my home.” At the time I didn’t realize what a rare thing it is for a person to always have a childhood home to go back to. My children get to walk the same dirt paths I walked to the chicken house to pick eggs, skin their knees on the gravel roads I played on, catch bugs and pick wildflowers on the same hillsides I did the same, and swing in the tree swing that was put up when I was a child. We don’t get to relive our childhood but I have the unique pleasure of seeing my childhood through adult eyes with my children.

This summer we had the fortunate opportunity to spend a month back at the ranch with our whole family. I noticed myself teaching my offspring many of the same life lessons in similar ways my parents taught me. Ranch life affords a unique setting for education. We had in-depth discussions on life cycles when we had to remove a dead chicken from the coop, an easy and natural conversation about gender identity when my eldest wanted to know the difference between the male and female donkeys, and a couple of conversations about how we care for and protect our family and those we love as we watched baby birds being pushed out of their nest, a doe protecting her fawn and a mother cat teaching her kittens to hunt.  They both squealed with delight as they dug for potatoes, my daughter gorged herself eating peas straight from the garden and they learned both biology and fine motor skills picking eggs every day. They understand where food comes from, and starting to value our connection as caretakers of both plants and animals.

Diversity is everywhere at Rock Hills Ranch. In nature, all living organisms have value and importance and must be present in order for the ecosystem to work. What a neat thing to watch my children grasp. A lot of the world’s most pressing problems could be solved if we as humans embraced that truth within our own race. Hard work, practical thinking, problem solving, manual labor, opportunities to practice patience and the need for teamwork are all principles available in abundance at RHR. There are so many more I could name but the bottom line is, I’m pretty confident in saying rural life provides hands on opportunities to learn all of life’s most important lessons.

The most overwhelming experience on the prairie is witnessing the fingerprints of our Creator. The beauty of the prairie grasses shimmering and moving like ocean waves in the wind, the delicate wildflowers staying intact despite the elements, the fiery oranges and soft pastels of the sunsets and the intricate bird songs all dug deep into our souls, deepening our appreciation for and recognition of an artistic and loving God. 

We had ample time at the ranch to talk about family values and what we want our children to remember and stick with them as they grow to be leaders, truth-seekers and caretakers of the next generation. We got bit by the country bug and are itching to keep living life off the fast track, more intentional and in touch with our natural world. We are back to our normal life in suburbia but we hope our new normal will include more dirt on our hands, sharper eyes and ears toward nature and a slower cadence to life.  My dreams for the future look a little different than those of my teen years. They have a striking resemblance to what I couldn’t wait to get away from 20 years ago — only with the addition of that handsome accented husband and some precious children in the picture. I may live 1200 miles from Rock Hills Ranch, but in my heart, it will always be home.

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