Life on a Cattle Ranch in Western South Dakota [PHOTOS]
Life is different out in the country. One look at the photo from Robin Bickel and you quickly realize that a workday is quite different as well, after all, she lives out west in South Dakota Cattle Country.
Sunday afternoon, Robin Bickel took time to tell me a little bit about her life out west and life as a woman, working outdoors with animals and nature in God's Country. Bickel lives and works on a cattle ranch operated by herself, her father, Jack, and his brother Keith. How far out in the country is she? How does 50 miles west of Mobridge, South Dakota sound? Yep, mountain time out there.
Life is so different here in Sioux Falls, South Dakota compared to what our friends on the farm and ranches deal with. It's a half-mile to the grocery store for our family. For Robin, it's 17 miles. However, it's a quick step out her door and she's right in the middle of where a lot of the groceries come from.
As I talked with Robin on the phone, her love of the country was obvious. She said,
There are times I would love to sit outside a nice little bar and listen to a local band, but here I can sit in my Ranger along one of my favorite bluffs overlooking Firesteel Creek.
Believe it or not, I look forward to taking the Ranger out and chopping ice along the creek. There is a deep connection with the land and its history. Also, there is nothing in the world like watching 'my girls' come down the hill to grab a drink of water. I often look around and think of the others before me who have also loved this land and working on it.
Calving on the Bickel Ranch will begin in earnest around the first of March. The heifers will be first and the more experienced cows starting a little later. Red Angus is the breed of choice for the Bickel's and it doesn't take much of a cattlemen's eye to see that they raise some good ones.
Bickel told me she went to school at Timber Lake, then went on to college at SDSU. She went for marketing-advertising and planned to spend at least a few years away from the ranch. Unfortunately, her mother took ill so she went back home to help out. Her mom lost her battle with cancer and she's been back on the ranch since 2013. Oh, and you can tell from the photos she takes an ACTIVE role in ranch life!
It's not often you find yourself talking to a woman who is comfortable with helping a heifer give birth, tagging a calf, or chopping ice in the creek for cattle to drink. She spoke with ease about it. I asked if it was horse country or 4-wheeler country. She said, my horse has 4 wheels. She also mentioned a Ranger 4 wheeler with a cab is her ride of choice and mentioned, there are times, as a woman I have to get creative to get things done, but give me a short piece of rope and I can open just about any gate!
The land Bickel talked about struck my fancy. You could hear the pride in her voice as she spoke of open pasture ground for the cattle. The range has the Firesteel Creek running through it so water for the livestock isn't an issue. The operation is a combination of pasture, hay ground as well as some other land leased out for other crops. Most of her time though revolves around taking care of her girls as she liked to say.
It's all how you look at it. A check of the photos may have some city folks saying, no way, where others may look at the photos and wish they could be as fortunate.
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