I took over my dad's ranch when I was 21. Eight years later in 1953, I married Betty Benson. We've raised five kids on this same property. My mother, Barbara Smokov, also lived with us, helping out with the house and kids until she passed away in 1974.
The original farm house was an old two-story built sometime between 1926-1927 that was heated by a single coal stove. We didn't have any hot running water nor indoor plumbing. The old outhouse (pictured above) still stands farther back on the property from where the new house was built in 1966 (top left). Talk about a simple lifestyle. Despite what many kids today would consider unthinkable, our kids often reminisce about that old house and have some interesting memories.
"If you're not careful, retirement can kill you."
Aerial view of buildings - 2003
Click photo to enlarge
Originally, it was more of a farm than a ranch. We always had a huge garden with lots of potatoes, cucumbers, beets, beans, peas, tomatoes, and turnips. We also had fields of barley, sorghum, oats, alfalfa, wheat, flax, corn, and a little millet for chicken feed.
Over the years we raised pigs, sheep, chickens, Horned Hereford cattle, and had a few horses for the kids. Well, actually, they were Welsh ponies and a couple of Shetlands. Since our kids were quite small, we didn't want them riding larger horses.
Several years we milked cows, first by hand twice a day, and then later on bought automatic milking machines. Our kids certainly got an education that most kids had no idea about. Life on a farm may not always have been fun, but I know looking back, we all appreciate the life it has given us.
Our five kids are all grown with kids of their own. We have 10 grandkids. In 2008, we also became great-grandparents for the first time. Thanks to technology, we're able to see pictures from them more frequently through Internet.
Today, we still raise Horned Hereford crossed with Black Angus cattle for commercial sale and despite some cold winter days, we are still very active in running the ranch ourselves. I owe much of our success to Betty because she's always been here to help me outside as well as keep things going in the house and with the kids.
Retirement isn't anywhere in the near future. On the ranch, there are always cattle to check, fences to fix, or buildings to paint if you want things to run smoothly. The secret to staying young is to just keep going.