Rex Adamson keeps a ranching tradition going |

Rex Adamson keeps a ranching tradition going

Story & Photos by Kyleen hafferkamp

When I asked Rex Adamson where the future of ranching was headed he stated, “There’ll be ranchers here (in the Sandhills) as long as they’ll be any place.” Ranching thrives in this area with an abundant water supply and good grass. “(The) Good Lord made it (the Sandhills) to run cattle on” stated Rex, which his family has been doing for three generations.

Rex’s grandfather, Dan Adamson, homesteaded 480 acres in 1890, 40 miles South of Cody, Neb. He would work hard on the homestead in the winter months, while working other ranches in the summer to make a reasonable income to live off of. He married Ada Ainslie in 1905 and they had five children, including Rex’s father, Emmet Adamson born on November 24, 1912.

Though ranching was in his blood, Emmet attended grade school and high school in Cody, and later took classes in San Diego, Calif., in the winter of 1929. After one year, he followed his heart home to Nebraska to start his ranching career. Emmet worked for his brother, Irwin, on his ranch from 1931 to 1934. After that time, he went into a partnership with his father on the Nelson Place located 29 miles southwest of Cody. Dan purchased this ranch in 1927 from George Stetter and C.M. Walcott. After Dan passed away, Emmet continued his partnership with his mother, Ada.

In 1935 Emmet married Helen Newberg. Their first winter on the ranch was a rough one. It was one of the coldest on record. Helen learned the hard way to stock pile groceries before winter. They had two sons, Jerry, born in 1939, and Rex, born in 1941. Each boy rode horses two miles to District 88, a one room country school.

Emmet was born with the gift of knowing good livestock and had outstanding herds of both Hereford and Angus cattle. He enjoyed spending his time outdoors and was a member of various cattle organizations.

In 1963, due to health problems, Emmet and Helen moved to Valentine, Neb. He still managed the ranch from town and helped his sons when he could during calving and hay season. The working operations, however, were turned over to Jerry and Rex. Emmett passed away in 1969. By this time his sons had taken over the ranch. Jerry bought the home place and Rex bought the “Goodfellow,” three miles to the north of the home place.

Rex Adamson always knew he wanted to be a rancher. “Couldn’t get out of high school quick enough to start ranching” Rex stated. It was in his blood and he knew what he wanted to do with his life. The only extra schooling he received was a preg-checking school in Kansas for one week.

In 1961 Rex moved to the “Goodfellow” ranch and lived with Ralph and Betty Mefferd. He met his beautiful bride, Evalyn Barnes, at the White Elephant dance in Cody the same year. They married in 1962 and Evalyn joined him on the ranch.

Now, Evalyn was no stranger to ranch life. She grew up northwest of Crookston, Neb., on her parent’s ranch. The only difference was the distance from town – she grew up only 12 miles from Valentine. Out on the Goodfellow they were a good 60 miles, and driving was no easy feat on country roads.

Evalyn remembers moving to the ranch fondly. Though she grew up “closer to civilization,” it “never bothered her living out here.” There was a little country road that was only “seven miles over to our ranch, but took you a good 25 to 30 minutes to get there” she recalls. Those seven miles were paved in 1966, “it was nice, it was like you were up-town” she laughs.

Rex and Evalyn have worked hard on their ranch, known today as the Broken Box Ranch. They have changed and grown the operation as financially needed. In the 50 years they have been here, they have purchased five neighboring lands nearly tripling the size of the original ranch to the current 44,000 acres. Cattle breeds have come and gone including Herefords, Limousin and Chianina crosses. Ten years ago Rex went to Black Angus. The Broken Box Ranch is a 1,800 head working cow/calf operation with 900-950 pound yearlings as well.

In 1974 Rex got his pilot’s license and uses a two-seated plane to check water, fences and cattle in the summer months. “I’ve logged around 2,000 hours” Rex says, just flying around the ranch. Most cattle work is done horseback, however, and “as long as there is someone willing to ride” he states, “it will stay that way.”

Broken Box puts up approximately 5,000 ton of hay a year. During Emmit’s run as owner, they used tractors and horses to stack loose hay. “When I got old enough, the horses were sort of phased out I guess,” Rex remembers. He was around 8 or 9-years-old when he started working in the hay field. At least 15 years ago they started baling big round bales. Consisting mostly of grass hay, they do have four irrigation circles that rotate oats or alfalfa.

Rex and Evalyn have raised four children, Brad, Bret, Bart and Angel. The family tradition lives on with Brad, his wife, Kim and their children working on the home place. Angel, her husband Greg and their three boys live on the recently purchased “Irwin” ranch both south of Cody. Evalyn’s home ranch the “Barnes” place, north of Kilgore, is run by Bret along with his wife, Velda and their daughters. Bart works as a coal miner and currently lives in Douglas, Wyo., with his wife, Kelly and their children. It pleases Rex to see some of his children following in his footsteps. They are the fourth generation of Adamsons to ranch in the Sandhills of Cherry County.

When I asked Rex what he would be doing if he wasn’t a rancher he said, “When I was younger I thought I wanted to drive a truck … probably be something to do with machinery … in agriculture somehow.” We sure are glad he stuck to ranching.

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