A Picture Worth 789 Words

Earlier this month marked 3 months that I’ve been at Rock Hills Ranch. I’ve learned a lot and I can’t wait to see what else I will learn.


I was going through my photos the other day and realized that I have lots of photos of grass now. Luke made the comment that we take care of the grass; and this is true, but it has also taken care of the breed of humans who are called cowboys. We are just about done cutting hay here at RHR and normally I listen to a country music stations as the Twins game have an extremely annoying squeal. I was cutting hay down on the flats and I heard a couple songs that inspired this journal.

Jason Aldean’s song “Fly Over States” has always been a favorite of mine, but especially the line that says “Feel that freedom on your face, breathe in all that open space.” Jamey Johnson sings “In Color” which is the story of a Grandfather explaining all of his black and white photos to a grandson and he states “They say a pictures worth a thousand words, but you can’t see what those shades of gray keep covered, you should have seen it in color.”   Lately I’ve been trying to get a lot of work done during the day light hours so I can take the dusk time to go check cattle when it is cooler and there is more activity. I sat there on Elmer (one of the horses here) and I saw a pretty nice sunset- if you like cows and hills and grass like I do. I’ll see if I can paint the picture for you.

The golden sun was almost done with its descent down the western half of the sky, about 45 minutes from dropping behind the top of the ridge covered in grasses and forbs and sedges and other plants. There were wispy clouds piercing through the baby blue sky and at times covering the sun and negating the warmth for a few seconds.

The air was still for a few minutes and the sound of the mature cows munching grass and calling to their calves, who were about 100 feet away running and jumping and fighting their herd mates, filled the air. Across the valley you could hear the bulls bellowing to establishing their rank on the totem pole for the remainder of the breeding season. The air was still enough and my perch atop Elmer was just right that you could feel the vibrations from the low sound waves coming from the bellies of the bulls.

The grass is more tan than green this time of year; it’s dry here. – We are very grateful of every drop of water that we get. – The Kentucky bluegrass has headed out and is maturing to a tan color and the brome grass is hanging onto every ounce of green pigmentation that it has. A light, light green appears every now and then in a patch of wormwood. The only really green patches are the buck brush leaves and just up stream from dugouts.

I sit atop of a sorrel (kind of a reddish color) gelding with a white blaze on his face and 3 white socks on his legs. My striped brown saddle pad and my big Hereford saddle cover his back. The sun is just right to blind me by the glare that comes off my spurs and I think “man, that’s bright”. I look up at the western horizon and determine that it’s time to head back into the yard. I signal for Elmer to move and cue him to start long trotting most of the 3-mile journey home. I had things a little backwards from the typical cowboy and sunset picture, as I was riding southeast and the sunsets in the west southwest. There I am, long trotting a sorrel gelding through grass that almost reached his belly and my cinch, my spurs jingling and the leather squeaking. It was like I had rode right out of a John Wayne Movie.

I am very fortunate to be spending this time here. There’s just something about the wide-open spaces that help a young man sort through all the things on his mind. The rolling hills, the rocks bigger than my car, the ocean of grass. Rock Hills Ranch has numerous places that you can look out from the top of a hill and see what freedom looks like. I wanted all of you readers to try to paint that picture in your mind before you got to a picture I snapped while on my way back in to the yard earlier this summer.

So I Described my ride on a reddish horse at sunset, but I like this picture better.
So I Described my ride on a reddish horse at sunset, but I like this picture better.

Keep your cinches pulled tight everyone.

Meet the New Guy

And in the Intern Corner, standing 6’6″ with boots and hat on…. BIG Rob Foiles!

Ok, so reading that to myself I imagined the voice of the guy who always announces boxing matches, so I hope you did too!

Hi everyone, I’m Rob. I’m the 2016 intern here at Rock Hills Ranch. I hail from a family farm outside the Metropolis of Raymond, South Dakota-I believe the population has now dropped under 50 residents. I just graduated from South Dakota State University(GO JACKS!) with a degree in Agricultural Sciences and I put special emphasis on beef production and rangelands, so I think my schooling will help me here this summer!

I enjoy anything associated with cowboys-maybe because I am one- including horses, beef cows, wide open prairies, George Strait, Chris LeDoux, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, cowboy novels fill my bookshelves and I can often be found singing old-time cowboy songs.  I also am an outdoorsman; Sunday afternoons in the summer I can often be found with a fishing pole by the stock ponds, lakes and rivers or in my lazy boy snoring; and in the fall, I enjoy hunting for ducks and South Dakota’s famous ringneck pheasant.

Being from South Dakota, I don’t have any exciting 1,000 mile road trip story, but I’m always down for a good road trip when given the opportunity. My first day here at the ranch was a little over a week ago, and I remember that it was a cold, dreary day, with the clouds sputtering a raindrop here or there. After the shortest, cutest, and craziest welcoming committee I’ve ever had helped me unload my car, Luke and I grabbed a quick bite to eat before heading off on my first afternoon of work. We checked the first calf heifers, put ear tags in a few new baby calves, moved the heifers that will be bred for the first time this summer and headed to check on the yearling steers and the bulls in the sunshine-don’t like the weather in SD? Wait 5 minutes.  Luke and I then saw a black rain cloud banking up to the west and decided to finish moving the bulls to a spot where there was some older grass that needed to be eaten(more on this in future journals) and about the time that we finished herding the boys over there, CRACK! The storm had moved in faster than we predicted. Luke waived for me to follow him, and through 4 different pastures we went in what felt like someone one with a power washer at point-blank range. We got to the yard and got the 4 wheelers inside the shop and Luke said “You’re never going to let me live this down… Drag the intern through a rainstorm on his first day…I guess my prediction of when the storm would hit was a little off… Dry off and come over for supper.” Luke is right, I don’t think I can let you live that one down.

I’m excited for the months that lie ahead of me with the Perman crew; for learning about cattle, rangelands, how to manipulate the two together to get a goal achieved and a few life lessons along the way, and for all the great people I’m going to meet.  To those of you reading this that I will meet this summer, I look forward to it. And those of you that I won’t, the pictures from my smart phone doesn’t do any justice to how the Permans have taken care of this piece of land, and the squeal of the 4 kids saying “Mommy and Daddy! Mr. Rob is here!” is pretty doggone welcoming.

I’ll come up with a catchy phrase to end my journals in the next week or two, but I don’t know what it is yet.. So until next time, stay dry!

Toothpick Sam

"It's not dying I'm talking about, it's living." – Gus McCrae

Hi readers my name is Sam Newell I come from a little town in Utah named Nephi. I go to school at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. I met my beautiful girlfriend Lauren Wellman in a livestock and carcass evaluation class.  I will be graduating with my Bachelor's in animal science in less than two years. After I graduate, I will be attending vet school and starting my own practice if all goes as planned. First Upload Of Phone 5-10-15 688I will then start my own ranch and get that going so I can retire as an old man, with his dog and his eyes on the skyline. I also plan to have a family, probably should have throw that in there. Who knows where life will take me though! I enjoy anything outdoors. I hunt whatever is in season at the time. I like to fish when ammunition gets too expensive.  I like having bonfires and good times around the campfire. I thoroughly enjoy country music by artists such as Chris Ledoux, Garth Brooks, "The King" George Straight, Brenn Hill, Ian Tyson and the list goes on.  I would choose a night in a bedroll under the stars over a nice hotel any day.                                                                                        

After a thousand mile journey in my little car " White Lightning" I made it to Rock Hills Ranch. I was recieved the nickel tour and then went to check cows with Luke. There are two internships here on the Rock Hills Ranch; the ranch living internship and the ranch and range management internship.  I fulfill the ranch and range management internship and Miranda fulfills the ranch living internship. My duties include checking cows and calves twice a day as well as tagging, checking and fixing fence, range monitoring , bee counting later in the summer and any other jobs Luke or Lyle need accomplished.  I have been here on the ranch for just about three weeks now and have enjoyed every minute. I am learning so many new things and am  soaking up as much information out of Luke and Lyle as I can.What I really enjoy about this internship is that it is not just learning how to milk a cow or catch a calf it is how to think in a management fashion, how to problem solve and think of things through a hollistic management process (the main way of thinking here on the ranch).  They are great teachers and know what they are doing. It is an honor to have this internship.       

Till next post “Watch Your Topknot” Readers, 

Sam Newell