Saturday, January 19, was the 23rd annual Sandhills Cattle Association Ranch Tour. This year the tour was in Logan County and included some of the ranches deemed the oldest and newest in the county.
The day began with registration, coffee and rolls at the Paxton Ranch Headquarters between Stapleton and Thedford. The tour was organized by SCA office manager, Ronna Morse and her assistant, Missy Rosfeld with help by a committee of SCA members and tour hosts. SCA President Jodie Dexter welcomed tour participants. Shane Kime, SCA director, was the emcee for the day.
Owners John and Jessica (Paxton) Warren are the second generation on the ranch that began when Jessica’s parents, Chet and Ida, purchased the original home place in 1933, which is 14 miles west. There, employees Jake Licking and Chance Greeley live and work and will calve out the first and second calf heifers beginning in March. The ranch expanded in 1978 when the “old Bud McGooden place” was purchased. That ground today is where the Warrens live and where the tour began. Last year the Ayres place, closer to Thedford was added. Their son Joel lives there. The Warrens refer to that ground by the brand Joel will use. John and Jessica also have a daughter, Sarah who is married and lives in North Platte. They adopted their grandson, Brandon who “keeps them going.” For over 60 years, the ranch does a cattle drive every spring taking the majority of their older cow-calf pairs to their forest permit land, some 11 miles away with a return drive in the fall. The drive requires a multitude of riders, drivers and cook staff to get it done. The purchase of the new ranch will allow them to drive fewer cows from home.
The ranch is home to a commercial Red Angus cow-calf-yearling operation. “This year’s drought changed some of our grazing practices, as only cows, heifers and bulls are on the ranch today. The yearlings are in background lots, in feed yards or have been sold on video,” John explained. They also sell bred heifers each fall. “Our cows are fed range and cake, with a little hay during calving or extreme snow cover. They are expected to wean a 600 pound calf every fall or their stay here is short.”
The Warren’s were featured in a July, 2012 the Fence Post issue on ‘Cutting for Cancer’ benefit.
The next tour stop traveled west five miles to the Santo Land and Cattle Company ranch, owners Faith Hanzal and her late husband, Joe managed the ranch from her parents, Frank and Cecyle Santo, which Frank started through the Kinkaid Act in 1904. In 2009, Faith (now 83) leased the ranch to cousins Lamoine and Helen Hall and their daughter and her husband, Paula and Brad Pokorny. Brad and Paula live on the ranch with their three sons, Cade, Cuay and Dane. The Halls live on the ranch at Bartlett which they began in 1976. The family raises registered Red Angus seedstock and has an annual production sale. This year’s sale will be in North Platte on March 14. Some bulls from Halls do not go far from home as they are purchased by the Paxton Ranch. “Our cows, like John’s, are fed range and cake. Today was the first they have had all winter,” Brad stated. The cows did not seem to mind the vehicles nor the humans wandering close by, so contentedly were they munching on the hay. “The heifers begin calving in February, the cows in March.” Running the ranch and going to the myriad of activities of their three sons, makes for a very busy but rewarding lifestyle for the Pokorny’s.
The next stop on the tour was adjacent to the town of Stapleton at the Diamond Bar Ranch Company, home to Robert and Susanne Jones and their four children, Natalie, Shaylee, Grant and Lance. Robert’s great-grandfather, Wallace Baskin purchased the Jensen brothers’ homesteads in 1901 which was some of the first land purchased in the territory. The Diamond Bar was one of the first brands used in Nebraska, although the present day appearance was changed in 1910 from the open faced diamond with a bar in the center by Mr. Baskin. “The present day township of Stapleton was a part of the ranch and the city park was a windbreak for his cattle in the early days. The cattle were fed around the park and what is now the north end of mainstreet” (excerpt from “Logan County Through the Years- 1885-1985”) Some of the land was donated and the rest sold for $1 per acre to begin the town, which celebrated its centennial in 2012.
The original ranch included property in McPherson County which was known as the Diamond Bar Lake ranch and which was sold when the sons went off to WWI. More land in Logan County was purchased after WWI by Wallace and his son, Robert ‘R.P’, and in 1992, Dave and Virginia (Baskin) Jones purchased the present day acres from the heirs on that side of the family. The ranch continues to use traditional ranching practices, such as being one of the few ranches that continue to stack the majority of their hay versus baling. It is a cow-calf business with black and Red Angus commercial herds; both spring and fall calving. The weaned calves are backgrounded until year-end and replacement heifers sorted and kept. A.I.ing is done on 50 percent of the cows.
Robert and Susanne had on display historical photographs of the early day goings on of the Diamond Bar for tour participants to enjoy. The ranch celebrated its centennial in 2001.
Some 175 tour participants then enjoyed a delicious meal catered by Dale and Peg Arsendorf and family from Tryon in the new Community Center in Stapleton (the old bowling alley). Next the convoy of some 50 vehicles, traveled west to the Hansen Angus Ranch.
This ranch was part of the Wayne Sallisbury’s ranch and prior to that was where past SCA president, LeMoyne Dailey lived for the first 18 months of his life. It was purchased in 2002 by Lawrence and Jeannie Hansen. The couple lives in North Platte, while their son Travis and wife, Melody and their daughters Trinity and Tessa reside on the ranch. The Hansens began their ranching operation in Alliance prior to re-locating to Logan County. They operate a cow-calf herd of 400 registered Angus cows and a commercial herd of 350. By utilizing embryo transfer and A.I. technology, they have improved their genetics for themselves and for the buyers at their annual bull sale, which will be held March 12, 2013 in North Platte. All improvements on the ranch, outside of their home and shop, have been built by Travis and his employees.
Melody has a business in Stapleton. Sublime Artistry is a graphic design studio as well as the headquarters for her professional photography services. She serves as a troop leader to the girl scout troop of her daughters and assists them in their 4-H projects. Trinity is looking forward to showing some of her family’s cattle this summer in 4-H.
It was fitting the last stop of the day was at the oldest, and one of the most recognized names in ranching history in Nebraska, that of the Milldale Ranch. Sixth generation family manager, Shaun Loughery from North Platte, welcomed the tour to the headquarters of the 38,000 acre ranch. The Milldale brand, known as Seven H L, was the first registered brand in Nebraska, so recorded on July 1, 1899. The ranch is commonly referred to as the 7HL. The original ranch is on the north fork of the South Loup River by Gandy, Neb. Its first owner, Charles Stewart, never lived there but made trips from his home in Iowa to oversee the ranch and to continue to purchase more ground in Arthur and McPherson Counties. Charles’ daughter took over the ranch management in 1952 aided by her daughters and sons-in-law, E.H. ‘Shoey’ and Marie Shoemaker, and Dave and Jane Allen. At that time there were four ranches comprising 60,000 acres in three counties. In 1982 the families divided the ranch. E.H. and Marie maintained ownership of the original ranch in Logan County while the Allens have the ranch in Arthur and McPherson Conty.
The breeds of cattle have changed from the original Longhorn and roan to Herefords from 1893 to 2005 when Angus became the primary breed. Black whiteface cows make up the majority of the 1400 head cowherd. Twnty percent of the cows remain Herefords and are bred to Charlois bulls for a terminal cross. 2012 changed their grazing practices also as the weaned calves have left the ranch early. Brandings on the Milldale takes five to six days. The ranch employs eight full time help. Seasonal employees are added when needed. It is one of the few ranches left that has a full time cook, who cares for and keeps up the appearance of hers and the other three homes on the ranch. Shaun invited participants to view the horse and calving barns, again due to the drought conditions, less cattle were seen.
Besides Ronna, the only other person to attend all 23 SCA tours was 89-year-young, Bob Moreland of Merriman. He was on the board of directors in 1980 when he proposed a ranch tour traversing different areas every year. Bob will be 90 on February 21 and he encourages all to attend the 24th SCA Ranch tour, in 2014. “Lord willing I’ll be there!” ❖