Sometimes it's the little things that really matter.
Cory Rickard grew up in a little town—Plains, Kan.—near the Oklahoma border. He wasn’t a ranch cowboy; his dad was the grain merchandiser at the local Co-op and his mom stayed home to raise him and his four brothers and sisters.
Rickard’s older cousin, Jim Applegate, made the little gesture of inviting him to work one summer on the Barbee Ranch’s division in Gate, Okla.
As a little guy—just 12 years old—Rickard started riding some of their colts. By the time he was a junior in high school, Rickard was riding eight Barbee colts a month for the summer. He had earned his cowboy credentials and was well on his way to making the lifestyle a career.
Rickard went to Clarendon College for their Ranch and Feedlot Operations curriculum. After graduation, he lived like any self-respecting cowboy should: at loose ends. He drifted from ranch to ranch and job to job for a few years. At 25, he quit riding the wide circle and came back to Kansas to day work and ride colts—and get married—to Chateece Clark.
“We got married and started having kids, so I thought I ought to get a job with some insurance,” Rickard says. “So I started working for Adams Cattle Company.”
The ranch—known as the XIT—is located just south of his hometown of Plains. With good insurance, Cory and Chateece had Sam in 2005 and Ace followed along four years later. Chateece’s pregnancy with Ace was rocky, but not too bad.
“She had some hypertension through the pregnancy,” he says. “Ace was born a little premature, about a week early. We made it through that just fine but the doctor said he didn’t think she’d be able to get pregnant again.”
In 2013, Chateece called Cory to inform him that the doctor was wrong and she, in fact, was pregnant. Not only that, they’d be having twins. They began the arduous task of keeping a close eye on the little guys. That included weekly three-and-a-half-hour one-way trips to Wichita for checkups. The costs were piling up.
“At a 30-week appointment, the doctors noticed something on the sonogram that concerned them, so they kept us up in Wichita through the night to monitor the babies and Chateece,” Cory remembers. “About midnight, her blood pressure spiked real high. The next day, the first thing in the morning, they took the twins by cesarean section.”
They were little—2 lbs., 10 oz. each—and Tre and Tag stayed in the neo-natal intensive care unit for six weeks.
“Being in the neo-natal unit, you get to know some of the other families in there,” Cory says. “I think there were two other sets of twins born about the same time and those parents either went home with only one of them or neither of them. We were pretty fortunate to make it through with both of the twins being healthy.”
Word got out in the cowboy community of the Rickards’ plight, and the Working Ranch Cowboys Foundation immediately sent a check.
“It was a big help at the time,” he says. “Being on ranch wages, the travel to Wichita, the insurance and all of that. Most of it was used on expenses while we were away from home. At that time, gas was high and there were a lot of trips.”
The Rickards had a steady job, good health insurance, understanding employers, and friends from around ranch country to help out. But it’s not always the big things that require attention. Sometimes, the little things matter just as much.
“I’ve never had a handout from anybody,” Rickard says. “It was pretty humbling. It was a huge blessing, too. That crisis fund is a really, really good deal. It’s pretty cool for people like us—we can stand behind and beside each other.
Editor’s Note: The WRCF seeks to help the ranching community in crisis and they rely heavily on donations to meet those needs. If you would like to help them support working cowboys in times of crisis, become a member today by visiting wrca.wildapricot.org/Donate.