My good friend and longtime colleague, Monica Hannan, called to say she had agreed to speak to members of the North Dakota Cattlewomen, and she wondered if I could offer any input. I told Monica if I were going to speak to the cattlewomen, I would talk about what makes their lifestyle special.

I thought of the ranch wife who wrote eloquently about spring branding, about families and neighbors coming together, about horses and ropers (some of them ranch wives), about kids wrestling calves – traditions that are over a century old. It’s much more than watching a steam thresher’s demonstration to learn how farming used to be done. These ranch wives and their families are extending a legacy. That’s special.


I thought, too, of ranch wives as business partners. Our neighbor married a small-town girl from Minnesota. I’ll always remember her enthusiasm for the ranch life she married into. As she saw it, this was going to be our ranch, our cows (she named many of them), our great adventure, our place to raise children. And it was. She died of cancer at a young age, 48, and at her funeral, the minister commented about the partnership she had and loved so much.

I asked another friend, widowed many years ago, about her early years on the ranch. She didn’t talk about what her husband did. She said “John and I” did this or “John and I” built that. She, too, remembered and treasured that partnership.
All husbands and wives are partners – partners in marriage, in making a home and raising a family. But many ranch wives are special partners. They are partners in the work. That’s not the case, at least not to the same degree, if you’re the wife of an accountant, a car salesman or the bank president.

And so, cattlewomen, that’s my message to you. Yours is a special lifestyle. It’s not all sunsets and cows on green grass. There’s hard work, sacrifice and heartache. But the legacy and the partnership sustain you. It’s a lifestyle experienced by relatively few.

Al Gustin is a retired farm broadcaster, active rancher and a member of Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative.