Sheep gave this cowboy a start in raising cattle

This interview posted above is from SDPB’s daily public affairs show, In that momentmoderated by Lori Walsh.

In 1895, Joe Painter’s great-grandfather rode to Harding County as the chief breeder of horses for the CY Cattle Company. According to the story, great-grandfather Painter loved the country so much that he lived out of a tent in the country for two years. Eventually, in 1910, he acquired the necessary papers to take legal possession of the land.

One hundred and twenty-seven years later, the Painter family still farms in Harding County. Joe Painter tells how he started raising cattle. And the role sheep played in helping him keep his family’s legacy as a rancher strong.

“I’m Joe Painter and we ranch northwest of Buffalo, South Dakota, right in the northwest corner of South Dakota, not too far from Montana and North Dakota. I am a fourth generation rancher and today we have our daughter and son in law who are with us on the ranch and they are fifth generation ranchers and three of our grandchildren are sixth generation.

Well, I must have known that I was destined to be a rancher when I was about 10 years old. We walked in and Dad wanted us kids to buy a flock of sheep. We went in and he let me go to the banker and talk to the banker about a loan for 200 head of sheep.

He’s a tall old mean looking man sitting across from me at the desk and I was scared to death. I went in and got this loan for 200 head of sheep. Which we had to pay for the sheep at $10 a piece back then. It was so hard to get money.

And basically that’s how I started. Those 200 sheep, four of us kids, had basically paid for the trail for our rodeo horses, school, and clothing. 200 sheep at that time. That’s how I started, was with sheep.

Almost everyone in this country started with sheep. We all want to be a cowboy and a cowman, but sheep have paid all the bills, paid the taxes in this country.

What I kind of like about it, it comes down to the deal, you never do the same job for very long. We start haying, then we start hauling hay, then we work cattle, then wean calves pretty quickly. It’s all different aspects – it’s not like sitting in an office every day doing the same job. You kind of get used to the freedom. And the older you get, the more you can enjoy the fruits of labor and take a little more time.

The best part for me now is watching my grandchildren grow up on the ranch. That’s why we did it. And luckily we have three grandchildren who we hope will stay close by and hopefully more who will retire here. That’s the most rewarding part of it all.”