National Geographic : 2012 Jan
' - had adjoining farms," Iversen said. "And to the day she died, it was his farm and her farm." She never ceased being head of a household. I had le Wolf Point at 5:45 that morning, driving through the remnants of a blizzard at 18 below zero to be prompt for my 7:30 a.m. appointment. Ranchers rise early, and Dick Iversen had already nished spreading hay for the cows. His wife, Connie, had baked cinnamon cake, steaming and aromatic, which we ate as he talked about Grandma Marie. "She was kind of a matriarch-type per- son," he said. Marie's son eventually bought the father's farm, but she clung to hers. She and the son then shared a yard, and there was tension. " at's part of family farms that makes it di cult. e old farts don't quit." He was speaking wryly, aware that he'll soon be an old fart himself, but Iversen had touched on a key issue, one that arose o en during my talks with people up there: succession. How do you transfer your place to the next generation? How do you retire? It's not as easy as it sounds. Given that scale is crucial to economic viability, ranches and farms that have been patched to- gether by tenacious parents and grandparents can't be broken into pieces for all the grown children. Nor can every son and daughter come home, with spouses and kids of their own, and rejoin the operation. There just isn't enough income to support multiple generations of an extended family. One reason the old farts don't quit is that they can't a ord to. " ," Buster Brown told me. "I had horses." Buster and his wife, Helen, run a cattle ranch and quarter horse operation in the Sweet Grass Hills, just short of the Canadian border northeast of Shelby, in a wrinkle of landscape too rippled, steep, and gully-cut for planting grain. Black Angus beef is their main product; well-bred and well-broken quarter horses are a sideline, with Anna Scherlie, from North Dakota, led a claim on a homestead near Turner in 1913. She lived alone in this one-room shack, without plumbing or electricity, until 1967. What was the secret ingredient of character that allowed some folk to prosper---or anyway, to continue---while others gave up?