Saddling up in the Sandhills

A true cowboy vacation.
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A true cowboy vacation.
There's no nose-to-tail riding here.

There's no nose-to-tail riding here.

I’ve only just introduced myself when ranch owner Jerry Rowse skips the formalities and gets right to business outlining tomorrow’s plans: “We’re going to haul out, move the herd across the road and into another pasture, get some of the calves doctored, and then check the status of another herd. Be prepared to ride all day.”

This hot, sweaty work isn’t exactly what most folks have in mind when they think of relaxing on vacation. There’s no spa massage, yoga class, or cocktails by the pool. But for the guests at Rowse’s 1+1 Ranch, a working ranch in the heart of Nebraska’s beautiful Sandhill country, the day sounds absolutely perfect. 

The stunning Sandhills.

The stunning Sandhills.

Don’t expect wranglers, an army of staff, or nose-to-tail trail rides here. Rowse’s 1+1, which only takes in 10 adult guests at a time, is a true family-run ranch, manned only by the Rowses, fifth-generation husband-and-wife ranchers Jerry and Tammy, and their son and daughter-in-law, Kyle and Traci. 

“Guests here ride for a purpose,” Tammy explains. “We ride to get chores done, and the guests are involved with that. There’s nothing made up here, we don’t have time for that!”

And on the 10,000-acre ranch with nearly 500 cows, there are always chores to get done. Depending on the season, guests can expect to participate in moving cattle, branding, vaccinating, checking herd status, and pasture maintenence.

 “A lot of our guests say they didn’t realize how much work it took to put steak on the table!” says Tammy.

In the morning, after a hearty breakfast, we saddle up, trailer out, mount up, get our orders from Jerry, and fan out across the pasture. I’m ordered to man a stretch of broken fence to discourage rouge cows from breaking through. 

Trail boss Jerry Rowse.

Trail boss Jerry Rowse.

For the next couple hours, we’re flanking the herd, encouraging wayward animals to return to the group, and flushing cows and calves out of dense shrubs. 

We get the herd across the road, cut out a few of the neighbor’s Herefords, push the Rowse’s cattle into the appropriate pasture, and pasture rope and doctor the few that need it. A well-deserved lunch is eaten in the shade of the trailer. We haul to another pasture and do it all again.

Whether pushing, holding, roping, or sorting, the job at hand leaves little time to worry about the minor dramas in my everyday life. I’m focused on completing a task, not on my next mortgage payment, upcoming work deadlines, or the check-engine light that’s been flashing in my truck. It’s the best type of tuning-out.

The truck ride home is permeated with the satisfied silence of tired bodies and a job well done. My muscles are sore from a day in the saddle, my shirt has sweatily adhered to my back, and a patina of dust has settled on every bit of exposed skin. 

And I am perfectly relaxed. 

Learn more about Rowse’s 1+1 Ranch at 1plus1ranch.com

Swing rider, keeping the herd tight.

Swing rider, keeping the herd tight.