National Geographic : 2012 Jan
' - sheer stubbornness, government policies (the hated ones and the depended-upon ones), global markets, and the protein content of wheat. e second question---the why?---is a conundrum to which responses tend to be poetic and terse. Lloyd Kanning had mentioned tenacity. Bob Toner said, "It's an excellent way to raise kids." Craig French, from another old family, stood at the big windows of the house he has built on a rise 20 miles south of Malta, facing out over undulant prairie toward Beaver Creek. With his spotting scope on a tri- pod beside him, two pairs of binoculars nearby on end tables, he said: "I like get- ting up and looking at what I get to look at every morning." He meant the land, the elk, the mule deer, the pronghorn, and the golden eagles, not his own cows. Karen and Murray Taylor, 20 miles north of Devon, took my two questions deeply to heart. Murray, a lean man in a Glacier Motors cap, touched his wife amiably on the arm as she spoke. Her grandfather, from Norway, had homesteaded here in 1909. Now she and Murray would like to retire. But they have no pension, no "investments" except their sweat equity in the farm. ey call it the Circle 7, "because we have ve kids, and we were a circle of seven, and we all built this place." ey could struggle for the rest of their lives, she said, or sell out and retire in ease. She showed me the album of pho- tos from their harvest last year, a family event with 18 people, sons and daughters-in-law and grandchildren gathered and grinning amid the combines, the lunch wagon, the grain trucks full of golden wheat. "We want to see it succeed as a legacy," Karen said. Any family farmers must feel the same way, she guessed, "or they wouldn't still be here." It's not just something you do, with or without a good reason. It becomes "a part of who you are," she said, then added simply: "Your identity." I thought about that as I drove back to Shelby in the dark and the cold. j e 4-H Club program, developing youthful skills and con dence, is another thread of the social fabric. Jayleen McAlpine of Sunburst shows her steer at the county fair. Ranches patched together by tenacious parents and grandparents can't be broken into pieces. ere just isn't enough income.