Semroska Ranch in Harrison, Neb., passed through generations | TheFencePost.com

Semroska Ranch in Harrison, Neb., passed through generations

Robyn Scherer, M.Agr. Staff Reporter

Photo courtesy of Jonie Kleensang.Ray and Doreen Semroska.

Ray Semroska knows what hardship is, and what it means to work hard. He also knows how rewarding the agricultural lifestyle is, and that is why he decided to make it his career.

Semroska grew up where he currently lives, 30 miles North of Harrison, Neb. The land that he now owns has been in his family since 1884, when his great-grandmother homesteaded three quarter sections.

Born in 1931, Semroska lost his father when he was just 15-years-old, in 1946. At that time Semroska and his mother took over the ranch. In 1949, the ranch faced a terrible blizzard that kept temperatures under 20 degrees below zero for several days, and severe winds.

“We had enough hay, but to get to it and feed, and we were using a creek for water. The snow dammed the creek off. That was all the water we had. You can’t feed cows hay if you don’t have any water. We got them through OK, and a lot of the neighbors lost a number of their cows. We were lucky they were close by, and we had a team of horses that we could hook up to a high wheel wagon to get feed to them. We had to go up the creek and chop the beaver dams to let the water out.”

When his younger siblings were old enough to go to high school, everyone moved to Chadron, Neb., except for Ray. During that time he was actively rodeoing, and in 1951 he married his first wife. They had two daughters and a son. In 1952, he quit rodeoing. “I couldn’t take the kids with me, so I stopped,” he said.

He then focused on his family and the ranch, were he ran Hereford cows and had three horses. In 1953 he bought his first registered quarter horse mare, and his horse business took off from there.

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“At one time I got up to where I had about 40 horses. They were worth a little money at that point,” he said.

His wife then got sick, and no one seemed to know what was wrong with her. Only after a trip to doctors in California was it discovered that she had multiple sclerosis, and it eventually claimed her life.

“My first wife was a good woman, and we had a great marriage. It was a pretty tough,” he said.

Ray then remarried another woman, and adopted her four boys, and raised them as his own. In 1962, he took over his mother’s loan on the property, which included a $20,000 operating loan. He paid that off as a down payment on the property, and then paid her $4,000 per year until he had the place paid off.

“When I drew up the contract, I had nine brothers and sisters, and offered them the ranch, but none of them wanted it. It was pretty tough, and it took a long time to pay for it, but we got it paid for,” Semroska said.

In 1982, tragedy struck the family. The youngest boy was attending the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo. He was staying in an apartment above a garage, and one night the tenants below pulled their car in, and forgot to shut it off. The fumes from the car took the lives of four of the five boys who lived in the apartment, including their son.

Due to the accident, Ray and his second wife then divorced. In 1989, he married Doreen Smith, who he has been with every since. He now ranches with his son Todd, and his youngest daughter’s son Kirk.

“My youngest daughter’s boy graduated from high school 12 years ago. He was quite a baseball player, and after graduation I wanted to know what he wanted to do, and he wanted to play baseball. A month later he called and wanted to know if I wanted help, and has worked for me since,” said Semroska.

That decision seemed a natural choice for Kirk. “Between ranching and baseball, I thought I would have a better future out here than playing baseball. I have always liked to do it,” said Kirk.

Ray runs 250 pairs with his grandson. He sold 150 of the cows directly to Kirk, and leases the other 100 to him. Kirk received loans for the beginning farmer program, which is through the Farm Service Agency.

“It’s been working out real good for him. Cattle prices have been really good. I furnished the grass and the bulls for the first season. When he comes home with his cows, he has the ranch here to run them on now. He will have to buy supplements and fuel that he needs to operate, though,” Semroska said.

Semroska no longer has Hereford cattle. “Now I am running Angus cows and they are commercial cows. They are awful good. I believe that a bad one eats just as much hay as a good one, so I raise the best I can,” Semroska said.

He also continues to run quarter horses, and his grandson works with him on the horses. “We have registered quarter horses from some of the leading sires,” Ray said.

Kirk now trains horses with his grandfather. “My grandson, when he came out here, he couldn’t hardly ride a horse. Now he’s my trainer. I broke the horses when I was young, and now he does it. He watches trainers on TV, and he does a real good job,” he said.

Kirk said, “I’d rather be around the horses than the people. I just like working with animals.”

Although Semroska no longer has 40 horses, he still produces quality horses to sell. “We try to raise between two to six colts a year. They are worth pretty good money if you can get them broke good. People don’t seem to want to take the time to break them anymore,” he said.

His philosophy in working with horses has led to his reputation with others in the horse industry. He believes in producing quality animals, no matter the species.

“You go to some places, and you go, ‘Those are really nice horses.’ You go to Ray’s, and you like them all. There was excitement in my heart when I saw them, and then to sit down in his living room and start going through horse papers and old time breeding, it is exciting for me. We have to have that interest to breed horses with good minds and good confirmation, and he does that,” said Jonie Kleensang of Scottsbluff, Neb.

She continued, “He has a very good relationship with his neighbors and other horse breeders. He is just a very good, honest person.”

Kleensang purchased a 10-year-old black mare from Semroska named Smooth Cat Chris, in June of this year. “Initially we went up there to see the horses, and we spent a whole afternoon. We looked at yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds and older mares. He was awesome. He was very well organized, and all the horses were in one binder. I started going through and looking at the papers. I found one that I liked, and he sold her to me, even though he hadn’t originally listed her for sale.

“You know those people that you meet, and you just know that you will be good friends? That’s how I feel about Ray,” she said.

She also had a chance to meet Kirk, and feels that he is a younger version of Ray. “Kirk has a lot of the same mannerisms as Ray. It’s just how you would picture Ray 50 years ago. He’s so down to earth, and they have a phenomenal relationship,” she said.

The relationship that is shared between grandfather and grandson is one that is not seen very often, according to Kleensang.

“It’s been interesting to get to know him. He knows more than I think I will ever know. He has been here his whole life. He doesn’t talk a lot, but I enjoy just watching him. I’ve really enjoyed being around him,” Kirk said.

Ray Semroska knows what hardship is, and what it means to work hard. He also knows how rewarding the agricultural lifestyle is, and that is why he decided to make it his career.

Semroska grew up where he currently lives, 30 miles North of Harrison, Neb. The land that he now owns has been in his family since 1884, when his great-grandmother homesteaded three quarter sections.

Born in 1931, Semroska lost his father when he was just 15-years-old, in 1946. At that time Semroska and his mother took over the ranch. In 1949, the ranch faced a terrible blizzard that kept temperatures under 20 degrees below zero for several days, and severe winds.

“We had enough hay, but to get to it and feed, and we were using a creek for water. The snow dammed the creek off. That was all the water we had. You can’t feed cows hay if you don’t have any water. We got them through OK, and a lot of the neighbors lost a number of their cows. We were lucky they were close by, and we had a team of horses that we could hook up to a high wheel wagon to get feed to them. We had to go up the creek and chop the beaver dams to let the water out.”

When his younger siblings were old enough to go to high school, everyone moved to Chadron, Neb., except for Ray. During that time he was actively rodeoing, and in 1951 he married his first wife. They had two daughters and a son. In 1952, he quit rodeoing. “I couldn’t take the kids with me, so I stopped,” he said.

He then focused on his family and the ranch, were he ran Hereford cows and had three horses. In 1953 he bought his first registered quarter horse mare, and his horse business took off from there.

“At one time I got up to where I had about 40 horses. They were worth a little money at that point,” he said.

His wife then got sick, and no one seemed to know what was wrong with her. Only after a trip to doctors in California was it discovered that she had multiple sclerosis, and it eventually claimed her life.

“My first wife was a good woman, and we had a great marriage. It was a pretty tough,” he said.

Ray then remarried another woman, and adopted her four boys, and raised them as his own. In 1962, he took over his mother’s loan on the property, which included a $20,000 operating loan. He paid that off as a down payment on the property, and then paid her $4,000 per year until he had the place paid off.

“When I drew up the contract, I had nine brothers and sisters, and offered them the ranch, but none of them wanted it. It was pretty tough, and it took a long time to pay for it, but we got it paid for,” Semroska said.

In 1982, tragedy struck the family. The youngest boy was attending the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo. He was staying in an apartment above a garage, and one night the tenants below pulled their car in, and forgot to shut it off. The fumes from the car took the lives of four of the five boys who lived in the apartment, including their son.

Due to the accident, Ray and his second wife then divorced. In 1989, he married Doreen Smith, who he has been with every since. He now ranches with his son Todd, and his youngest daughter’s son Kirk.

“My youngest daughter’s boy graduated from high school 12 years ago. He was quite a baseball player, and after graduation I wanted to know what he wanted to do, and he wanted to play baseball. A month later he called and wanted to know if I wanted help, and has worked for me since,” said Semroska.

That decision seemed a natural choice for Kirk. “Between ranching and baseball, I thought I would have a better future out here than playing baseball. I have always liked to do it,” said Kirk.

Ray runs 250 pairs with his grandson. He sold 150 of the cows directly to Kirk, and leases the other 100 to him. Kirk received loans for the beginning farmer program, which is through the Farm Service Agency.

“It’s been working out real good for him. Cattle prices have been really good. I furnished the grass and the bulls for the first season. When he comes home with his cows, he has the ranch here to run them on now. He will have to buy supplements and fuel that he needs to operate, though,” Semroska said.

Semroska no longer has Hereford cattle. “Now I am running Angus cows and they are commercial cows. They are awful good. I believe that a bad one eats just as much hay as a good one, so I raise the best I can,” Semroska said.

He also continues to run quarter horses, and his grandson works with him on the horses. “We have registered quarter horses from some of the leading sires,” Ray said.

Kirk now trains horses with his grandfather. “My grandson, when he came out here, he couldn’t hardly ride a horse. Now he’s my trainer. I broke the horses when I was young, and now he does it. He watches trainers on TV, and he does a real good job,” he said.

Kirk said, “I’d rather be around the horses than the people. I just like working with animals.”

Although Semroska no longer has 40 horses, he still produces quality horses to sell. “We try to raise between two to six colts a year. They are worth pretty good money if you can get them broke good. People don’t seem to want to take the time to break them anymore,” he said.

His philosophy in working with horses has led to his reputation with others in the horse industry. He believes in producing quality animals, no matter the species.

“You go to some places, and you go, ‘Those are really nice horses.’ You go to Ray’s, and you like them all. There was excitement in my heart when I saw them, and then to sit down in his living room and start going through horse papers and old time breeding, it is exciting for me. We have to have that interest to breed horses with good minds and good confirmation, and he does that,” said Jonie Kleensang of Scottsbluff, Neb.

She continued, “He has a very good relationship with his neighbors and other horse breeders. He is just a very good, honest person.”

Kleensang purchased a 10-year-old black mare from Semroska named Smooth Cat Chris, in June of this year. “Initially we went up there to see the horses, and we spent a whole afternoon. We looked at yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds and older mares. He was awesome. He was very well organized, and all the horses were in one binder. I started going through and looking at the papers. I found one that I liked, and he sold her to me, even though he hadn’t originally listed her for sale.

“You know those people that you meet, and you just know that you will be good friends? That’s how I feel about Ray,” she said.

She also had a chance to meet Kirk, and feels that he is a younger version of Ray. “Kirk has a lot of the same mannerisms as Ray. It’s just how you would picture Ray 50 years ago. He’s so down to earth, and they have a phenomenal relationship,” she said.

The relationship that is shared between grandfather and grandson is one that is not seen very often, according to Kleensang.

“It’s been interesting to get to know him. He knows more than I think I will ever know. He has been here his whole life. He doesn’t talk a lot, but I enjoy just watching him. I’ve really enjoyed being around him,” Kirk said.

Ray Semroska knows what hardship is, and what it means to work hard. He also knows how rewarding the agricultural lifestyle is, and that is why he decided to make it his career.

Semroska grew up where he currently lives, 30 miles North of Harrison, Neb. The land that he now owns has been in his family since 1884, when his great-grandmother homesteaded three quarter sections.

Born in 1931, Semroska lost his father when he was just 15-years-old, in 1946. At that time Semroska and his mother took over the ranch. In 1949, the ranch faced a terrible blizzard that kept temperatures under 20 degrees below zero for several days, and severe winds.

“We had enough hay, but to get to it and feed, and we were using a creek for water. The snow dammed the creek off. That was all the water we had. You can’t feed cows hay if you don’t have any water. We got them through OK, and a lot of the neighbors lost a number of their cows. We were lucky they were close by, and we had a team of horses that we could hook up to a high wheel wagon to get feed to them. We had to go up the creek and chop the beaver dams to let the water out.”

When his younger siblings were old enough to go to high school, everyone moved to Chadron, Neb., except for Ray. During that time he was actively rodeoing, and in 1951 he married his first wife. They had two daughters and a son. In 1952, he quit rodeoing. “I couldn’t take the kids with me, so I stopped,” he said.

He then focused on his family and the ranch, were he ran Hereford cows and had three horses. In 1953 he bought his first registered quarter horse mare, and his horse business took off from there.

“At one time I got up to where I had about 40 horses. They were worth a little money at that point,” he said.

His wife then got sick, and no one seemed to know what was wrong with her. Only after a trip to doctors in California was it discovered that she had multiple sclerosis, and it eventually claimed her life.

“My first wife was a good woman, and we had a great marriage. It was a pretty tough,” he said.

Ray then remarried another woman, and adopted her four boys, and raised them as his own. In 1962, he took over his mother’s loan on the property, which included a $20,000 operating loan. He paid that off as a down payment on the property, and then paid her $4,000 per year until he had the place paid off.

“When I drew up the contract, I had nine brothers and sisters, and offered them the ranch, but none of them wanted it. It was pretty tough, and it took a long time to pay for it, but we got it paid for,” Semroska said.

In 1982, tragedy struck the family. The youngest boy was attending the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo. He was staying in an apartment above a garage, and one night the tenants below pulled their car in, and forgot to shut it off. The fumes from the car took the lives of four of the five boys who lived in the apartment, including their son.

Due to the accident, Ray and his second wife then divorced. In 1989, he married Doreen Smith, who he has been with every since. He now ranches with his son Todd, and his youngest daughter’s son Kirk.

“My youngest daughter’s boy graduated from high school 12 years ago. He was quite a baseball player, and after graduation I wanted to know what he wanted to do, and he wanted to play baseball. A month later he called and wanted to know if I wanted help, and has worked for me since,” said Semroska.

That decision seemed a natural choice for Kirk. “Between ranching and baseball, I thought I would have a better future out here than playing baseball. I have always liked to do it,” said Kirk.

Ray runs 250 pairs with his grandson. He sold 150 of the cows directly to Kirk, and leases the other 100 to him. Kirk received loans for the beginning farmer program, which is through the Farm Service Agency.

“It’s been working out real good for him. Cattle prices have been really good. I furnished the grass and the bulls for the first season. When he comes home with his cows, he has the ranch here to run them on now. He will have to buy supplements and fuel that he needs to operate, though,” Semroska said.

Semroska no longer has Hereford cattle. “Now I am running Angus cows and they are commercial cows. They are awful good. I believe that a bad one eats just as much hay as a good one, so I raise the best I can,” Semroska said.

He also continues to run quarter horses, and his grandson works with him on the horses. “We have registered quarter horses from some of the leading sires,” Ray said.

Kirk now trains horses with his grandfather. “My grandson, when he came out here, he couldn’t hardly ride a horse. Now he’s my trainer. I broke the horses when I was young, and now he does it. He watches trainers on TV, and he does a real good job,” he said.

Kirk said, “I’d rather be around the horses than the people. I just like working with animals.”

Although Semroska no longer has 40 horses, he still produces quality horses to sell. “We try to raise between two to six colts a year. They are worth pretty good money if you can get them broke good. People don’t seem to want to take the time to break them anymore,” he said.

His philosophy in working with horses has led to his reputation with others in the horse industry. He believes in producing quality animals, no matter the species.

“You go to some places, and you go, ‘Those are really nice horses.’ You go to Ray’s, and you like them all. There was excitement in my heart when I saw them, and then to sit down in his living room and start going through horse papers and old time breeding, it is exciting for me. We have to have that interest to breed horses with good minds and good confirmation, and he does that,” said Jonie Kleensang of Scottsbluff, Neb.

She continued, “He has a very good relationship with his neighbors and other horse breeders. He is just a very good, honest person.”

Kleensang purchased a 10-year-old black mare from Semroska named Smooth Cat Chris, in June of this year. “Initially we went up there to see the horses, and we spent a whole afternoon. We looked at yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds and older mares. He was awesome. He was very well organized, and all the horses were in one binder. I started going through and looking at the papers. I found one that I liked, and he sold her to me, even though he hadn’t originally listed her for sale.

“You know those people that you meet, and you just know that you will be good friends? That’s how I feel about Ray,” she said.

She also had a chance to meet Kirk, and feels that he is a younger version of Ray. “Kirk has a lot of the same mannerisms as Ray. It’s just how you would picture Ray 50 years ago. He’s so down to earth, and they have a phenomenal relationship,” she said.

The relationship that is shared between grandfather and grandson is one that is not seen very often, according to Kleensang.

“It’s been interesting to get to know him. He knows more than I think I will ever know. He has been here his whole life. He doesn’t talk a lot, but I enjoy just watching him. I’ve really enjoyed being around him,” Kirk said.