Heading For the Hills…

My favorite blondes did not have school last Monday so I had company as I headed north to get feeder cattle near Halsey, Nebraska.  My girls spent many years traversing across Nebraska visiting ranches and getting cattle before they were old enough to be in school.  With my “baby” being a 5th grader, I have made many treks alone since those days.


The drive from Cozad up to Halsey is a beautiful one full of wildlife and picturesque scenery.  I know that wherever their lives take them, my girls will take those memories of quiet beauty with them.  This vast land where cattle and wildlife greatly outnumber people brings a sense of peace that refills my cup.

As I drive around my farm and then head north to the Sandhills, I always wonder why our urban countrymen worry so much about sustainability.  The healthy ecosystem balance found in out-state Nebraska is readily visible to any passerby, and the farmers and ranchers that tend to the land do so with a blend of natural passion and stubborn pride.


I think that perhaps many urban folks would feel better about where their beef comes from if they spent a day driving around rural Nebraska.  It might be hard to find the farmer/rancher in all the vastness of the countryside, but his/her hard work and dedication is apparent from the car window view.  If you happen to come across the human caregiver, his/her quiet manner and aloofness will give testimony to the fact that caring for the land is a solitary job.

The trip from Cozad to Halsey takes about 2 hours, and is full of deer, turkey, grouse, ducks, hawks and an occasional eagle in addition to the bovine population.  They all live in harmony with a bit of human help under the influence of Mother Nature.  Just as cattle are known as the great recyclers turning inedible plant products into vitamin rich (and tasty) edible protein, the people that inhabit my beloved adopted countryside share the same dedication to stewardship — wasting little and carefully managing the natural resources found on the land.

A ranch sign just north of Halsey, NE.

A ranch sign just north of Halsey, NE.

Those of us that make rural America home are a small and unique group. Our pride in country is evident.  Our dedication to community shines brightly.  Our responsibility to stewardship drives a life filled with both challenge and fullfillment.

With each day that passes, I am coming to realize that now (more than ever) we need our urban counterparts to take the time to learn about our lives prior to judging the validity and sustainability of both our daily work and our legacy. Beef production is much more than the steak that creates a great tasting eating experience.  It takes care of the land and fuels rural economies, while its farmers bring a steadfast patriotism and a dedicated work ethic that provides a necessary pillar for our country.


Perhaps it is time to head for the hills to learn about “Where your beef comes from”!  You might be surprised at what you find 🙂




Filed under General, Rural Communities, Sustainable Spring

10 responses to “Heading For the Hills…

  1. wellsfarm

    I too am a farmer, however I don’t think this was one of your better blogs. The entire thing was basically full of generic phrases without much “meat on it’s bones” to help challenge non-farmer’s idea of sustainability. The fact that the area is beautiful and the farmers are patriotic doesn’t really make much of an argument. Sorry, I am not trying to be harsh – I guess I am just a little disappointed. Not being a writer myself, I rely on others to make well reasoned arguments that I can use to refute the criticism that all livestock farmers receive.

    • I am sorry that you did not care for it — writing it was a pleasure for me. It was not meant to be a “scientific” article. I was simply articulating my feelings about the land and the people that inhabit it. It made me smile to have my girls with me to make more memories last week, and it made me smile to write the post over the weekend.

      I have actually written about my trek’s into the Sandhills before and those posts seem to usually reflect my emotions rather than science. My dad was an avid hunter, and I always think of him as I make the trek north into the hills. I lost him to cancer a couple of years ago, but the peace found in the hills was always something that we shared. The times that he traveled this route with me after I moved to Nebraska, we talked about sustainability and ecosystem balance. Writing about it is part of the healing process, and I think that is important for my personal grief journey.

      As a blogger/writer, I need to find balance. Writing the posts that make me smile are an important part of finding the energy to write the posts that make me struggle. I am human — so as a result, you will find posts based on emotion like this one. The trip with my girls “heading to the hills” was the highlight of my week.

      If you are looking for a more scientific look at sustainability, I did a series of posts on it last winter/spring. My studies on the topic ultimately led me to looking closely at food waste as this is perhaps the single largest “footprint” relative to food production and sustainability. I invite you to read that series if that is more to your tastes.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      • My husband and I went to Fort Collins to meet some of my sisters friends and they asked, “WHAT is in western Nebraska?” My husband had the best comeback, “If you like concrete and cute little shops, nothing. If you like wide open spaces, fresh air and freedom, well then there’s something for you.” I enjoyed this, the vastness and beauty do say a lot for our sustainability. A lot more than a Walgreens in any 3 mile direction you may drive in a sprawling urban landscape. If we weren’t sustainable, our countryside wouldn’t be near as beautiful and the ranchers you find sipping coffee in the local cafe every morning wouldn’t be there because their 5th generation is home feeding the hay. I think when you can boast multiple generations working the same land and it’s just as beautiful now as it was 100 years ago says tons for sustainability.

      • Yes, we share much common ground on this issue. I so much appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts 🙂


  2. Jeff

    I think the answer to the question was within the question itself. People fear what they do not know. When people do not know, they tend to come up with solutions…which is novel, because I’m not sure how they solve anything without knowing, but it is easier to solve without learning, or knowledge. Remember the “pink slime” saga that should not have been? Combine that with societies march to urbanization, disinterest and apathy, 30 second sound bite intellectual exercise, and the ever increasing power that is gained from centralizing folks, well surely those folks who don’t live in the ecosystem, or understand how it works or where their food comes from are in a better position to ‘solve’ the perceived ‘problems’. I mean we rural folks may know how to work hard, but they certainly don’t know what is best for them, or the ecosystem they live in…at least according to the ‘urbanites’. No need to take the time to gain the knowledge and experience in order to be partners, easier to decide for themselves, and thereby others.

    On a tangent, it’s symbolic of the vitriol that was produced by the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia, but that’s an entirely different rant of mine…

    • Always good to hear from you, Jeff. I am afraid that much of what you say is correct, although I think that there are some urban folks that do care and want to take the time to learn. The problem is that there is so much “noise” out there, it is hard to make the right connection for a meaningful experience. This is perhaps as big a challenge as the one that you point out.

      There is something about experiencing first hand that instills a basic understanding and broadens perspective — it would likely do every one a positive service to do this (urbanites touring rural America and rural Americans taking some time to see what a big city is like). Empathy springs from understanding — understanding from experiencing.

      I agree that it is a disservice to everyone when a small segment of the population believes that they have the “answer” for everything. That “answer” is rarely the correct one and the omniscient attitude of those folks breeds distrust and ultimately a disjointed country.

      We have many challenges ahead.
      Take care,

  3. Kevin Lindly

    I enjoyed this very much. I spend 24 years in the Dunning/Halsey area, working on a ranch, selling gas, diesel and running my own repair shop, then working for the Sandhills Schools hauling our most precious cargo — the kids of the district. I even married a gal from Halsey. We moved away about 8 years ago but look forward to every trip back to the area, sort of like going home again.

    • Thank you, Kevin! I loved your comment — our school bus drivers are my unsung heroes and most definitely “haul our most precious cargo”. Thank you for your service in addition to your kind words 🙂


  4. theranchwifechronicles

    When I come home I love to drive through the Sandhills! We can get off the interstate and head south to Valentine, Thedford, Halsey, Broken Bow and continue on Highway 2 until we reach Hazard.

    I’m sure you know Highway 2 is one of the most scenic in America.

    Thank You for sharing your thoughts of rural America, I concur.

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