Hall of Fame momentsTOWNER, N.D. — There’s a hall of fame somewhere for most everything from baseball to rock ‘n’ roll music. In North Dakota we have a hall for cowboys and the horse culture of the plains. As of last week, our family ranch is in that hall.
By: Ryan Taylor,
TOWNER, N.D. — There’s a hall of fame somewhere for most everything from baseball to rock ‘n’ roll music. In North Dakota we have a hall for cowboys and the horse culture of the plains. As of last week, our family ranch is in that hall.
It turned out to be a bigger deal than I ever imagined. It was an honor that would have made my homesteading great-grandfather proud. It was a point of satisfaction for my dad to know the ranch was to be inducted in the hall just before he died. It made me reflect on the value of this relatively small patch of earth to my children and someday their children.
The hall is in Medora, N.D., a little cow town in the Badlands-turned-tourist destination. Tourists are those folks who take vacations from their jobs and walk around in shorts and flip-flops in the middle of summer.
But they spend a little of their hard earned money to walk into that North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame and hear stories about men and women, horses and cattle, ranches and rodeo. Everyone who ranches ought to feel honored that our way of life still intrigues these people.
My wife and I took in the whole two-day affair for the Hall of Fame induction. Relatives were kind enough to watch the kids the first night so we could enjoy a steak and a couple cold drinks with other inductees and supporters of the hall. A cowboy and a guitar provided music for my bride and me to dance to.
We visited with old friends and made a few new ones. Rainfall, pastures, hay and cattle prices were topics of discussion. Old stories of the funny things that happen in ranching and life, perfected with age and retelling, brought laughter from deep within.
It was a perfect night.
The next day brought rain for the induction ceremony. Ranchers don’t complain about rain; it’s a lot easier to grow grass and raise cattle with it than without it.
My sister and her family came down. They brought our 6-year-old son along to represent the fifth generation being raised on our old homestead ranch.
The clouds cleared off and the sun came out.
A few words
I thought hard about what to say when we received the award for the ranch. The ranch is really just sand and dirt that grows grass and hay for the cattle and the horses that work the cattle. The award was really for the people grown on the ranch, their character and their stories.
How does a ranch stay in the same family for 110 years? I guess it just doesn’t get sold. Not selling the ranch was surely a sacrifice for my great-grandmother left widowed and childless by a series of tragedies, left with her widowed daughter-in-law and three grandkids under the age of 4 in the 1920s. My family enjoys life on the ranch today because she didn’t sell it then.
Cowboy ranches stay cowboy ranches when someone teaches the cowboy ways to the next generation. My father, whose own dad died before he was 2 years old, learned those ways from his father’s cousin, a real old-time cowboy. Dad taught me. I need to teach my kids.
So ranches don’t grow old by accident. It takes the sacrifice of a Mary Taylor, the mentoring of a Gordon Taylor. There’s a sense of responsibility.
One of the last things I said to my father before he died was, “we’ll take good care of the ranch, Dad.” He gave my hand a squeeze.
We all have to take a turn at caring for this old ranch. And one other thing: It ain’t for sale.