S.D. Road Trip Serves as Introduction to Sheep Industry

KYLE PARTAIN
Sheep Industry News Editor

I had exactly four days off before starting as editor of Sheep Industry News on May 27, which could mean only one thing: road trip.

During my time in the western/rodeo industry the past 18 years, I spent a lot of time driving on back roads that might not appear on a cheap GPS. Road trips are ingrained in me as much as the need to eat and sleep, so I loaded up my wife and 9-year-old son and we made the relatively easy 10-hour drive to De Smet, S.D.
The three of us boosted the area’s population to just slightly over the 1,000 mark when we drove into town on Highway 14.

Two things brought us here:

1. The chance to experience the land Laura Ingalls Wilder made famous in her series of books, and later on television.
2. The opportunity to camp in a sheepherder’s wagon. It seemed like the perfect way to spend a few days before joining the ASI staff.
We encountered a rainy weekend that was inconvenient at times, but certainly made us appreciate how much more difficult winter must have been in the then open prairie of eastern South Dakota. Today, trees are just as prevalent there as they are anywhere else, but in the late 1800s that wasn’t the case.
I also came away with at least some inkling as to how sheepherders all across this country live on a daily basis. I embraced the simple life of the farm, that is until my iPhone buzzed with new emails and Facebook updates. It’s difficult to walk away from the modern conveniences of this life sometimes, especially when you’ve become as accustomed to them as I have.
My son didn’t have that problem, however. A city kid all his life, he was in heaven on the farm, where he made four-legged friends at every turn and didn’t once ask to spend time staring at a glowing screen. Had the Ingalls’ crew agreed, he’d have signed on to spend all summer there.
Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of De Smet.
Hopefully, that introduction gives you some good thoughts about me as I take over the Sheep Industry News.
There’s a saying in Colorado, “I wasn’t born here, but I got here as quick as I could.” That’s true for me, as well, but I could apply the same rationale to this agricultural lifestyle that so many of you lead on a daily basis. I wasn’t born into an agriculture family, but I got here as soon as I could.
During my time in rodeo, I developed long-lasting friendships with people who spend every day working land that might have been in their family for multiple generations. I liked the work ethic I saw, the friendly smiles and the strong handshakes. And I knew that these were the type of people I wanted to continue to work with no matter which direction my professional career headed. From what I’ve seen three weeks into the job, ASI’s membership is made of the same stock.
I bring zero sheep knowledge into this position, but you’ll find that I’m willing and anxious to learn. Eighteen years ago, I took a job at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association having covered just two rodeos in my life. I asked some stupid questions in the months that followed, but I never had to ask them twice. I can guarantee I’ll ask some stupid questions this time around, as well. But, I’ll pay attention, work hard and devote my time to learning this industry.
I look forward to meeting many of you in the months to come, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be here.
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