I sit across a dining room table with a man who bakes bread on a heavy vintage stove nestled in the heart of his young home. He removes his hat to shake your hand and looks you in the eye to speak. He talks of his children, his loving wife, and their heritage that led them to this spot. He grazes cattle on an expansive view from his front porch overlooking the landscape of the encroaching South Dakota Badlands. The remainder of his herd grazes on public land, managed by government issued permits, 60 miles north, where hikers, tourists, and anyone driving by are welcome to pass through. He employs a man whose sole job it is to watch over this land to care for the herd to roam over these hills and valleys closing gates, gauging and managing the pastures and choosing how to best provide for each of them. They will be watched, tended, and cared for, as they are are allowed to roam these landscapes, enjoying their choice of grasses, even in a state whos had a massive drought.
There isnt much time to hear more, as Frank Bloom patiently waits out a fly with a swatter in hand, and I quickly absorb his history in the kitchen.
His wife answers a call to the house line, storms have broken into lightning on the horizon and smoke has been spotted. He graciously offers to let me take his photo, a task I find hard to manage if there is fire to be controlled, but I snap quickly as the herd sits just on the adjacent cresting hill behind him, placement I couldnt have planned. He tells me to come back, that we'll tour his property on horseback next time. I shake his hand and tell him I intend to do just that.
I may not be from this way of life. Ranching and farming is something I'm choosing to learn. But, the overwhelming welcome, kindness and generosity remind me that there are a few universals, from all walks of life, all operations. An honest handshake and the opportunity to be listened to without judgement is something everyone should be given, and Ill do my best to share these stories as best I can. From the people I'm meeting along the way, I can't fathom a better job for myself or a better way to introduce you to these amazing people and their stories from this land.