Family

When Your Parents Are Ranchers

Featuring Cade Loomis, age 16.

Rancher Cade Loomis.
Cade Loomis.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Naomi and Cody Loomis.

In this series, kids (and not-exactly-kids-anymore) review how well their parents balance life and work. To nominate a potential subject, ideally between the ages of 5 and 17, email humaninterest@slate.com.

Cade Loomis is 16 years old and a sophomore in high school. His parents are Naomi and Cody Loomis, who own and work on the Circle L Ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Naomi is also a rodeo producer for the Western States Ranch Rodeo Association.

This post has been edited for length and clarity.

Rachelle Hampton: What do your parents do for work?

Cade Loomis: They both work on the ranch, and my mom is the manager at a feed store.

What’s involved in running a ranch?

Chores, like dealing with sick animals and feeding all the animals. If it’s snowy out, then we have to go take feed around to all the cows. But if not, then usually we just feed grain to a small group of yearlings and steers that we have. The horses in the corrals get hay, too, especially if it’s snowy. They need a little bit of support so that they can stay alive because it’s hard for them to eat the grass whenever there’s snow on the ground.

How big is the ranch?

It’s around 5,000 acres, I think.

How do you guys get around?

It depends on the job that we’re doing, but we use horses, we have four-wheelers, and we have motorcycles.

What does a typical day look like for your dad?

In the summer, a typical day for my dad would probably start with chores. And then it depends on if we have to move cattle that day. We rotate the cattle from pasture to pasture; we have to move them so that the grass doesn’t die. And then it’s probably dealing with sick cattle. And he might work with horses a little bit. Some of the colts that we have, the horses that we can’t ride, he might go and just train them a little bit, and maybe ride them around just a little bit, just to help gather experience with them so that they’re more trustworthy. We also bale the hay for the animals. That’s pretty much an all-summer deal because we need around 1,000 hay bales.

In the winter, the chores list is quite a bit longer. We usually have a few baby bottle calves that need some support. And we usually have to move the hay off the meadows in the winter. Most of the time the water runs through the meadows, and then the hay bales get frozen down into the ice and you can’t pick them up.

What does your mom’s typical day look like?

Well, so now it’s winter, so she might have to stay home and help feed the cows. But otherwise, she usually wakes up and takes the kids to school, other than me because I can drive myself, but she takes everyone else in. And then, she works at the feed store and also does stuff for the Western States Ranch Rodeo Association and manages the bills.

So your mom and dad take care of different things around the ranch?

No, it’s pretty much a common load, but usually, my mom does more of the housework. It’s pretty even, other than my mom usually does the bills while my dad is taking care of whatever chores.

My mom usually does most of the laundry, but we share the load around the house cleaningwise and cookingwise. I cook sometimes. The cooking part is pretty much shared. We eat meat a lot, so we’ll get the smoker out and it’s usually pretty much an all-family pitch-in.

What’s your involvement on the ranch look like?

I’m pretty much totally involved all the time. I never have, really, time to play video games or whatever like most kids. If I’m home and not at school or at extracurricular activities like basketball or track or football or whatever it may be, I usually share the workload for chores. We usually just split up the work so that it’s kind of even, and it gets done way faster that way, also. And I might also work with my steer. I have my own herd of cows, and I have a steer. And I have a horse or two.

Everyone usually gets up around 6–7 am. [During the school year], I go to weights usually early in the morning before school starts. Then I have school. And then I go off to practice. And then I come home. I sometimes have to bring feed home and then usually I’m stuck with doing some kind of chores when I get home. After that we usually eat dinner and go to bed.

In the summer, a typical day is I usually have weights in the morning again and then I have a job at a feedlot, also, that I take part in. Then it’s either at the feedlot or in the hayfield to make hay bales or help move cattle. I would also say, in the summer a big-time deal is my Future Farmers of America steer. That also takes a lot of time. He’s getting washed, every day. And then he’s shown at the county fair.

Did you get more responsibilities as you got older or have you always been involved?

Well, I’ve always kind of had a herd. My baby shower present was my first cow, I think. Then, I got a brand also for my baby shower, so I jumped right in pretty much.

Is this what you want to do when you get older?

I think I want to go into agricultural mechanics or agricultural engineering more than ranch work, but I might do it as a side thing.

Do you think your mom and dad’s jobs are interesting?

Yeah, definitely. You never know what’s going to happen around the ranch, [whereas] in the business world, you know it’s the same thing every day. But out here, you never know what’s going to happen.

What do you think stresses your parents out the most about their work?

Definitely bills because you never know if ends are going to meet. The cattle prices are always fluctuating, so you never know if you are going to be able to pay what you have in expenses. As I’ve been getting older, I’ve definitely been getting more involved with money and money spending.

Since you live on the ranch, it feels like you’re surrounded by what you do. When do you say, “This is time for us as a family, and this is time we’re not going to do work”?

We usually don’t get days off. It’s always feeding the cows. And it doesn’t really feel like work. It just feels kind of natural because it’s always happening. But sometimes if it’s snowy out or if we have a day off, sometimes we just go do things as a family. You know, watch movies. We also go to my basketball games together and football games and track meets.

Do you ever take vacations? And who takes care of the ranch if you do?

We don’t have many vacations. We don’t do it very often, but sometimes we go to other states and do cool things like go to Yellowstone or something fun, like water parks.

To take care of the animals, neighbors are pretty friendly around. They’re pretty good friends, and they usually help us out a little bit and take care of what needs taking care of.

And I’m guessing you work on the weekends?

Yes. Definitely. I don’t have weekends, really. It’s always the same thing.

Do you ever do anything to help take care of your younger siblings?

Yeah, definitely. Whenever my mom is away, then I usually have to take them into school or help get them ready for school. And I help feed them whenever Mom’s gone or Dad’s gone.

You said that you don’t really get to play video games like other kids. But do your parents have rules for you around screen time?

No, they never really had a ban for us because we’ve never really been into that. We are always busy and never have time to even think about opening our screens, so no, that’s not a big deal. And we’re a pretty tightknit family, so we’re never on our phones at, say, dinnertime or whatever. Whenever we’re talking to each other, respect is a pretty big deal.

Do you think that makes you different from kids your age?

Yeah, definitely. My mindset is a lot different than a lot of kids my age. I’m just different.

Do you think your parents have a good work-life balance?

Yeah. They even it out pretty good to where they’re not just away working all the time outside. They include us quite a bit; we’re always with them.