Standing the test of time: Diversification is central to the Pearson family’s 128-year history
Aladdin – “Established in 1889,” says the sign hanging over the ranch yard gate at the Pearson Ranch. It’s a story that pre-dates Wyoming’s statehood by a single year and is intertwined with northeast Wyoming history for 128 years running.
“We had more irons in the fire than just one,” says Charles “Chuck” Pearson of their long-term presence in the ranching community.
Charles “Chuck” Pearson has often said that his family has more than one iron in the fire, a statement that is true of his family in a broader sense since they first arrived in northeast Wyoming in the 1880s.
Among his holdings was the ranch where Charles Pearson lives today.
“When I was two years old,” wrote Chuck’s father Frank Pearson in Pioneers of Crook County, “We moved to a ranch that my dad had bought from his dad. It was made up of several homesteads.”
“Dad cleared several acres of land by hand with a shovel and axe for farm and hay land. The folks milked several cows and sold cream to make a living along with a few beef cows,” he continued.
“I attended school at the schoolhouse that was on the ranch,” wrote Frank. “It was about 100 yards from our house. When I finished grade school, I went four years to high school at Sundance, which was 30 miles away. I graduated in 1930 and came back to the ranch and helped my dad. We farmed and ranched in partnership until 1960 when I acquired the place. My father passed away on April 1, 1961.”
Growing up on the ranch
Chuck attended the same school as his father through the eighth grade, his mom serving as his school teacher for six and a half of those years. Both Chuck and his two sisters attended high school in Belle Fourche, S.D., living in the community during the school year.
Chuck raised his own family in the house that was his childhood home and continues to live in that home today.
“I got out of high school in 1959,” says Chuck. “1959 was kind of dry, ’60 was really dry, and ’61 there was nothing. 1962 was one of the best years I’ve ever seen.”
Chuck worked off of the ranch during the dry years, but he always returned home at night and worked on the ranch full time as soon as he was able.
It was a few sows that helped him establish his own presence on the ranch.
“I started with a few sows and ended up running about 25, and we were pigging twice a year and selling twice a year,” he says. “I was making a lot of money while the cowboys were going broke.”
Early on, the pigs were sold at nearby livestock barns, but in later years, he combined them with other producers, and they shipped them out on trucks.
Over time, it no longer became economical to raise and ship the pigs at that scale.
Today, the ranch maintains around 10 sows and sells the pigs directly to consumers.
“Clint is on the place with me, and he does most of the hog stuff,” says Chuck of his youngest son. “I told him I didn’t really need any more experience.”
Clint worked for a while in the timber industry with his brother Wade but prefers the ranch work.
Cattle and more
“Cattle are our main deal today,” says Chuck, “but I’ve logged and thinned on this place, ran hogs and taken in hunters. I’d hate to try and live off of just one deal.”
Hunters still frequent the ranch, most pursuing the whitetail deer for which the area is known. Most today pay a trespass fee and are long-time hunters who know their way around the ranch.
“We do a little farming and try and get enough grain for the hogs and to background our heifer calves,” he adds, noting that winter wheat raised on the ranch is often baled when its green and fed as hay.
“We run all Hereford cows here,” says Chuck. “We breed mature cows to straight Herefords. We breed two-year-olds and some three-year-olds to black bulls. We keep replacements out of the Herefords.”
Chuck likes the disposition of the Herefords, and they’ve had a presence on the ranch for multiple generations.
Calving starts mid-February so that the calves can be branded in April and sent out to summer pasture, some on leases in the area. For several years now, the ranch’s calves have sold on Superior Livestock’s sale in Sheridan, held each August, with an October delivery date.
Reflecting on the past
If he had it to do over again, Chuck says he would have bought more land. Looking back, he says they were busy and living well.
During his tenure on the ranch, he’s seen real estate prices go from $60 an acre to $1,500 to $2,000 an acre.
“We can’t justify it for ag land,” he says.
Both of Chuck’s sons, Clint and Wade, live on the ranch. Clint works on the ranch with his father. Wade and his family live on the ranch and he works in the timber industry.
Chuck’s daughter Carey and her family live in New Jersey where she does fundraising for a college foundation.
Jennifer Womack is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org