Happy 70th Birthday, Uncle Tom!
I saved a few pictures from our day touring the operation for a birthday post. My Uncle Tom was only 21 when I was born, my Dad is 6 years older. He was just a kid. He inspired my travels and sense of adventure at a very young age (not my politics though, sorry Tom). He would come home from hunting in the Rockies with a beard, a case of Coors (because you couldn’t get it in South Dakota—he wasn’t even a beer drinker, but it was novel) and beef jerky (one of my favorite products) and all of this seemed exotic to me. I would make him show me the slides from his year at The University of the Seven Seas (a few slides he would breeze through quickly so my Grandmother wouldn’t ask too many questions). It was a shared joke between us.
When I listened to Uncle Tom tell me why he loves raising cattle and researching how to make systems more efficient on the farm I felt uniquely connected to him as an adult. He’s so proud of the team teaching him these new skills too and that was a reminder to me to thank the folks who have sparked my own growth and new interests. The Ponca Creek Cattle Company is clearly a place in the world where Uncle Tom’s contentment and gratitude is so evident.
As we climbed up into the deer stand to see the view below at sunset, Tom described what a Saturday up there felt like to him. He told me that it’s one of his favorite places in the whole world (and he’s seen a lot of it). He described watching all of the animals and how the valley changes when you’re up there for a while…the light and the way the wildlife moves down the creek. So, on Uncle Tom’s 70th birthday I wanted to thank him for the life lessons he’s taught me.
I also wanted to let folks know that to his great nieces and nephews he’s always joked about being called, “Uncle Tom, The Great“. Even though it’s his birthday, I can’t let him get too big of a head, but he is indeed pretty great.
Aunt Cindy knew that I would want to shoot things that most people wouldn’t be too interesting in. I love shooting metal and shadows. I could’ve used more time actually. I will be back, there’s a lot more to explore. Part three next week.
This last week I had the pleasure of touring the Ponca Creek Cattle Company. My Aunt Cindy and Uncle Tom own this operation. My Aunt Cindy grew up on this land and it has been in her family for 100 years.
My Uncle Tom just lit up talking about his cattle company. That was cool. He might be a banker by trade but he’s a rancher at heart. I guess I had to leave South Dakota to get more interested in some parts of the world I grew up in. I could’ve been a rancher, but I fell in love with a boy who grew up by the sea…and much to the chagrin of my family, a Massachusetts Democrat as well. They’ve grown to love him anyway. I digress…
There are terms I had never heard before like breeding “Pathfinders”. How wonderfully connected to the spirit of South Dakota to hear that certain calves are “Pathfinders”—it’s really quite interesting scientifically. Tom has found one of the best guys around to be learn best breeding practices from. A good lesson in “knowing your resources”. Thanks, Uncle Tom.
I have a lot more pictures, this is only the first installment. I hope you enjoy this little tour of a South Dakota cattle ranch, west of the Missouri River and not too far from the Nebraska border.
“The Pathfinder Angus program was started in 1978 in an effort to identify superior cows in the breed based on their records of performance from Angus Herd Improvement Records (AHIR). In identifying these superior cows, emphasis was placed on early puberty, breeding and early calving, followed by regularity of calving and above-average performance of the offspring.
…the Pathfinder Report requires a minimum of three calves from a cow to determine her regularity of calving and ability to produce superior calves for weaning weight year after year. In addition, an important part of the report is the list of bulls that have sired five or more qualifying females.”
(I felt compassionate for these parents. There’s too much pressure to create superior offspring. Right?)
Here is a link to the American Angus Association if you would like to learn more: