Gully Washers and Goals


                “Man, oh man!” my teen age cousin exclaimed as he slipped out of the bed in our basement bedroom and stepped into ankle deep water.  Outdoors the wind blew and  an inch of rain poured from the heavens.  Water spurted from the cracks in the foundation and leaked in the east windows. We spent the next hour cleaning up the mess. 

 Mopping up our old house’s basement after a heavy rain happened on a fairly regular basis in the early years of our life on the ranch.  The house sat about halfway down a slope that empties into a creek that runs through our corrals.  Every time Mother Nature unleashed a gully washer water ran in the basement.

Mostly what we remember about the late 1970’s and all of the 1980’s is the dry years, but even in the midst of the dry, there were significant rain events.  May 9, 1986 was memorable.  Everyplace else in the area might have had the wettest May on record this year, but the Lowry area got 12 inches of rain that day.  Bridges and culverts along Swan Creek washed out.  The Jim Gregory family evacuated their house in Lowry, and Donna gave birth to JT later that day.   Everybody had water in their basement that night.  That was to be expected, but Rock Hills Ranch had water issues whenever it rained enough to make the creek run.  If the creek ran, our driveway usually flooded accompanied by heavy water erosion in the waterways.

Last Sunday (6-14-15) morning we had a gully washer like we haven’t experienced for a while.  With 1.35 inches in a little over an hour, the rain was a heavy gray curtain that obscured our view of the far corrals.  The house stayed dry –only a rain of Noah like proportions will flood the basement of this house. The creek ran wide.  A few years ago we wouldn’t have gotten to church because the creek would have run over the driveway.  It wasn’t on Sunday. The culvert by the mailbox should have been gushing onto the neighbor’s pasture.  It wasn’t.  By evening, there wasn’t a puddle anyplace.  The water all soaked in.  So what changed between our nephew’s night time wading experience and now? 

When we first started running cattle, bare spots could be seen between clumps of grass in our pastures.  Thirty years ago we switched to a rotational grazing system.  The healing process takes time but now the ground is completely covered.  The grass residue slows the water down and allows it to quickly infiltrate.  My rancher’s stated goal is to not let a drop of water leave the ranch.  Last Sunday was a goal realized.  

541 Busy


I haven’t updated the 100th Meridian for quite a while.

I’ve been kind of busy.  I know, we’re all busy…  Let me define busy in my world.

From the end of April last year until January 3rd of this year over 500 people passed through our yard and ate at least one meal with us.  This is what happens when you receive nominations for two major conservation awards and end up getting both. We were very honored to receive both the 2014 Aldo Leopold Conservation Award for South Dakota and the NCBA Region 7 Environmental Stewardship Award.  Getting that kind of recognition means people want to come look, take pictures, write articles and make videos. 2015 winners, consider yourselves warned!   

The yearly parade of friends and relatives was even bigger this year because we celebrated Grandma Vivian’s 80 over the 4th of July.   Let me break it down the numbers for you:

Four tour groups: 369 people

Friends and family, who stayed anywhere from one night to 5 weeks: a minimum of 45 (I come up with more everytime I count.)

An engagement supper for Lyle’s sister Valerie and fiancé, Steve Scott:  around 90 people

Garth Gatson, this year’s summer intern, was with us from mid-May-mid-August. Some days he was the only one doing any actual ranch work!

Michael Cotter, our adopted itinerant hired hand and Renaissance man, always shows up when we need him most.  He helped hold things together from the end of September until mid-November.

Hunters:  35

Grand total: a minimum of 541 people that all ate at least one meal at Rock Hills Ranch.

 I planned, shopped, and/ or cooked for every one of those meals, plus many more.   Add to that two film crews, several journalists, one high-risk pregnancy and the consequential birth of twin grandsons, Micah and Noah to Luke and Naomi on October 3.  That’s the Rock Hills Ranchwife definition of busy.

2014 was a wild ride, but I wouldn’t trade our time with any of those people.  When you live where the population density is .2 people per square mile, new faces are a treat, and  conservation minded people are really quality folks!   I will, however, admit to asking the Good Lord for the strength to endure my blessings on several occasions.  

Last week Lyle and Luke went to the Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio as the Region 7 ESAP representatives.  We were all really shocked when Rock Hills Ranch was announced as the National ESAP winner.  The other 6 regional ESAP winners are doing really great things on the land and promoting beef in interesting and unique ways. I strongly urge you to check out their videos and stories at

 January is an R&R month for us.  Imagine, no one wants to come see us in the dead of a South Dakota winter! Now, vacation time is over.  The phone’s been ringing and that means people will be showing up.  I’m not expecting 541 people busy, but I’d better get all my projects done and work on garden and menu plans so I can enjoy this year’s ride.