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“More than 400 years ago, the horse was an integral part of Native American’s daily lives and aided in a tribe’s survival,” explains Nancy Harrison of the Professional Indian Horse Racing Association (PIHRA). “The animals were imperative for successful hunts and were crucial for victories in battle.”

As time passed, the importance of the horse-rider relationship has continued, passed down from generation to generation, through oral history and competition events.

  “Today, Horse Nations intensely compete with each other throughout the summer in the sport of Indian Relay Racing,” Harrison continues.

Sporting events

“Indian Relay Racing has a very long history,” Harrison says. “Since there were no iPhones or video games 400 years ago, they had horse games.”

“The Horse Nations did a lot of competitions,” she continues, noting that they competed in events ranging from suicide races, which involved running down the highest hill as fast as they could, to relay races.

“Indian Relay appears to have developed independently in different tribes, leading to competitive relays between the nations and America’s first extreme sport,” Harrison notes. “Today, Horse Nations compete against each other, not in the spirit of warfare, but for the native pride and ‘bragging rights’ of individual Nations.”

“Indian Relay Racing provides intense excitement for both fans and competitors,” Harrison says. “It provides a feeling spectators can’t get from any other sport.”

Racing today

Indian Relay Races pit members of the Horse Nations against each other in a display of both courage and horsemanship, and the event connects teams to historical and spiritual elements of their culture.

In each race, at least five teams compete at a time. Each team includes four people – three who are positioned at the edge of the track and one who rides.

“Wearing traditional regalia, six Native American warriors ride bareback around the track at breathtaking speeds,” Harrison explains. “After each lap, riders leap from one galloping horse to another.”

“We have three horses – a starter, a middle horse and an anchor,” says Dustin Kruger, a member of the Silver Mountain relay team. “The anchor horse has to have speed to win, but the first horse has to be really fast, too, to get the lead.”

The “mugger” waits to catch an incoming horse while the rider dismounts and leaps to the next horse.

“A good exchange is really important,” Kruger says. “Exchanges win or lose the race.”

Training to race

Kruger started relay racing when he we 11 years old on the Crow Indian Reservation.

“My buddy talked me into riding relay for him, and I loved it,” he says. “After that, I kept going. I couldn’t get enough of the fast horses. It’s such an adrenaline rush.”

In 2012, Kruger’s team won the world event, and his friend won in 2013. Hard work throughout the year helped them reach the top.

“We don’t train at a track. I train in the hills,” Kruger explains. “I want to build the horses’ leg muscles and increase their strength, but if we practice on a track, the horses can get a little too excited.”

By practicing off-track, he says the horses remain calmer during the event, making exchanges easier.

“Relay racing is exciting, and it’s really intense,” he says. “There’s a lot to think about. We have to worry about if someone’s coming up behind us, if we’re going to get run over and other things. It’s wicked.”

Kruger has been involved in Indian Relay Racing for 11 years and rides in 20 to 30 relays a year.

Fun and for the future

Kruger notes that Indian Relay Racing is exciting, but it’s also important for youth and their culture.

“It’s intense and really fun,” he says, “but I’m also trying to teach our youth about Indian Relay Racing.”

“If they’re involved in something, kids stay out of trouble,” Kruger explains. “Indian Relay Racing keeps our young people busy and keeps them sober. They’re not doing crazy stuff. When we stay busy doing Indian Relay Racing, we don’t have time for other stuff.”

PIHRA says, “We dream of Indian Relay Racing developing as an industry to provide economic opportunity on the reservations of the Plains and elsewhere. We dream of these young Native American athletes becoming role models for their brothers and sisters – and for all Americans.”

Learn more about PIHRA and Indian Relays Racing at letsrelay.com.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

UW recognizes rancher Don Meike
Kaycee – The baby boy who spent his first summer in a sheep wagon on the Wyoming Range later drew a straight course back to the ranch after serving as a navigator in the U.S. Air Force.
    “Nearly five years as a navigator convinced me the sooner I got back to the ranch the better,” quips Don Meike, who manages Meike Ranch Inc. with his brother, Pete, in Johnson County near Sussex.
    A 1951 graduate of the University of Wyoming with honors, manager of the ranch for more than 50 years, and with a list of ag industry and community involvement items that could cause envy, Meike is a College of Agriculture Outstanding Alumnus Award recipient
    “Don and his brother have operated a successful sheep and cattle ranching enterprise through some of the most difficult times faced by our industries,” says Jim Magagna, a producer and also executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. He says Meike has been a mentor, a colleague and friend nearly 40 years. “Don was always able to seamlessly move from the lambing barn to the highest of political circles,” Magagna says. “He firmly believed that service to his university, his industry, and his state were a responsibility and a privilege.”
    The nomination letters for Meike are filled with references to selflessness in sharing expertise, time, and involvement in commodity associations and politics.
    Gerald Fink of Buffalo has worked with Meike in various ways for more than 40 years. “I have found Don to be an exceptional leader in his community, county, state and industry,” he says.
The Meike Ranch is one of the most progressive commercial ranching operations in the state and possibly region, he adds. “Don’s leadership and management style is to thoroughly evaluate new agricultural practices and quickly implement those that have positive application to the ranch. The positive and cooperative attitude demonstrated by Don has served as an inspiration to others in the sheep and cattle industries both locally and regionally.”
    Meike’s grandfather, Emil, was born in Germany and emigrated to the United States as a baby. He came to Sussex in 1901 looking for a new start in the cattle business. Meike’s father, Peter, was born in 1901 in Colorado. “Granddad, along with H.W. Davis and others, saw the future of irrigation in the Powder River valley and started the Sussex Irrigation Company,” says Meike. “Meikes have been the major stockholder and prime mover ever since. Granddad did as many ranchers of that era and expanded his holdings whenever possible.”
    Meike was born to Peter and Naomi, whom he calls his mentors. His dad was the sheep person in the family, so Meike spent his first summer in the sheep wagon. He attended Sussex grade school, often being the only student in his grade. He attended Johnson County High School in Buffalo, where he lived with an aunt. He received his bachelor’s degree in general agriculture in 1951 and was a member of the livestock judging team and the Sigma Nu fraternity.
    He was selected as an International Farm Youth Exchange delegate to Denmark for six months his senior year, was drafted shortly after his UW graduation, and enlisted in the Air Force Cadet program. He flew combat missions, including Korea, served five years, and returned home.
    “After graduating with honors from the University of Wyoming’s College of Agriculture in 1951, Don has exhibited outstanding leadership throughout the entire ag industry as well as being a pillar in his community,” writes J.W. Nuckolls of Hulett.
    Meike says during his first meeting with the Johnson County Wool Growers he was put on the board as treasurer, common for any new prospect, he says.
    “From there on, I just kept getting involved and worked my way to the top as national president,” he says. “I had always been interested in politics, but actually working on the state and national level was very rewarding. I first met Dick Cheney when he was President Ford’s executive director and worked with him a lot after that. I also had a meeting with President Reagan, along with six other national ag officers.”
    His selflessness in helping has made him a mover on the local stage, too. “This has been the standard for the Meike Ranch – always there to help whenever they could,” writes Ginger Curuchet of Kaycee. “If Don knew of anyone or any organization in need, he would make it a point to get involved, and everyone knew they could count on him. Young people in agriculture seek Don out for advice, and he always has time for them.”
    She adds, “Don is a pillar in this community, giving advice, but never pushing his knowledge and experiences unless asked.”
    Frank Moore of the Spearhead Ranch near Douglas says Meike has distinguished himself as a rancher, sheep man, and Wyoming businessman. “His positive attitude, willingness to help, and mentoring abilities have served our state well,” he states. “There are many leaders within the ag community Don has mentored, prodded, and supported. I have looked for Don for guidance on a number of occasions and credit him with pushing me to step outside my comfort zone and follow his footsteps through the state and national sheep associations.”
    Meike is always knowledgeable about new practices, “and his willingness to try new ideas is amazing especially when knowing the potential risks,” says rancher Bob Innes of Gillette. “There are so many who reach this stage in their operation who would stay within their comfort zone and not participate in new challenges and opportunities, but Don is at the forefront of progress.”His leadership style has influenced countless others in positive ways, he adds. “I, along with so many others, am truly a better person and a better agriculture operator because of Don Meike, and I thank him for those gifts to all of us.”
    Meike and his brother are currently involved in a project to establish a senior housing facility in Kaycee to be dedicated to their grandparents and parents.
    As for the future of agriculture, Meike says, “Agriculture will survive and will probably still be a tough life, but if you like it, what more could you want?”
    Steven L. Miller is Senior Editor for the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture.

Laramie – On Feb. 12, the University of Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) gathered its researchers and supporters to celebrate the achievements of the past year at the 2013 AES Research Awards and Appreciation Banquet. 

This year, the only award presented was the Early Career Achievement Award, which went to Molecular Biology Assistant Professor Jay Gatlin.

“Jay Gatlin’s research accomplishments are absolutely amazing for a scientist at this stage of his career,” said Bret Hess, associate dean of research in the college and AES director. “Having received a perfect score on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant and publishing results of his research from UW in Science are testaments to the quality of his work. The college is blessed to have a scientist of Jay’s caliber.”

Gatlin’s work is focused in the area of biomechanics of cell division and the cell biology of cancer. 

Gatlin joined UW in 2010. 

In 2012, he received two NIH grants totaling more than $1.6 million. 

In 2013, he received a research award from the Marine Biological Laboratory. The grant paid for Gatlin and doctoral student James Hazel to conduct research at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute laboratories in Massachusetts. 

Last November, Gatlin and his laboratory published a paper in Science – the most prestigious scientific journal in the United States.

“Although these remarkable accomplishments should command the utmost respect, Jay doesn’t let them influence his attitude and demeanor,” said Hess. “He is the same kind, likable person everyone has come to know.”

Other award nominees were Anowar Islam and Urszula Norton, who are assistant professors in the Department of Plant Sciences.

During the evening, UW President Dick McGinity also spoke to the audience, acknowledging the importance of the land-grant university’s mission to boost the state’s economy and general well-being of its citizens.

Hess further noted that recognizing researchers from the college is important because it helps the university community understand the scope of their work.

Prior to the introduction of the AES Research Awards and Appreciation Banquet, individual scientific societies were assumed to reward and recognize the college’s researchers for their accomplishments. 

“I think it is important for the college to recognize its researchers and describe their accomplishments,” Hess said. “It is also important for others in the university community to gain an understanding of the tremendous work being accomplished.”

Though the award wasn’t given this year, AES also recognize the college’s Outstanding Researcher, who is someone with an outstanding record of research throughout their long-term career.

In addition to the awards ceremony, Hess commented, “The banquet is an important appreciation event in which we recognize the contributions of all those in attendance to AES activities and programs throughout the year.”

This article was compiled by Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, from press releases by UW Extension. Photos are courtesy of the University of Wyoming.

Worland – Each year in conjunction with WESTI Ag Days, the Big Horn Basin Ag Ambassadors honor one member of the agriculture industry at their evening banquet. 

The Big Horn Basin Ag Ambassadors hold a yearly appreciation banquet to recognize producers in the area for their hard work and contributions to the community. 

The banquet is catered by the Washakie County Cowbelles and provides the opportunity for producers to gather and enjoy a night of camaraderie and entertainment.

Ambassador Jim Gill says, “The event is free to producers, so we can honor them for their hard work over the past year. We also select and honor an Ag Citizen of the Year during the dinner.”

Ag citizen

This year, Richard “Dick” McKamey was honored for his involvement in the sugarbeet industry and his work with Wyoming Sugar Company.

“Richard’s successful negotiations in the purchase of the sugar factory in 2002 and his ongoing efforts as chairman and CEO of Wyoming Sugar Growers to keep improving and moving the company forward in these challenging times makes Richard McKamey a standout for this year’s award,” said Ambassadors Chairman Jim Miller while presenting the award on Feb. 4. 

McKamey’s family has a rich history in Worland, Miller noted during the event.

“Richard’s father Foxy came to Worland from Arkansas to work in the sugarbeet factory in 1927,” Miller noted. “His mom Ferne, originally from Missouri, said it was ‘love at first sight’ when she met Foxy.”

After adopting two children, Ferne and Foxy also had two boys, including Richard.

Moving away

“After graduating from Worland High School, Richard spent a year at UW before transferring to Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore.,” continued Miller. “He graduated with a degree in finance and international business.”

McKamey was a financial analyst with Pacific Power in Portland, Ore. before moving to Los Angeles, Calif. with Hyster Co. 

“After several years in southern California, he and his wife Lisa, whom he met in college, made the move to Worland where he joined his brother David in the farming operation known as McKamey Farms,” Miller said.

Coming home

McKamey also became very involved in the community in a short time after moving back. 

“Richard was elected president of the county Farm Bureau, and he served on the National Sugar Advisory Committee of the American Farm Bureau,” Miller continued. “This started his involvement in and dedication to the sugarbeet industry, which continues on in the present day.”

McKamey continues to be involved on the local and national level.

“As a director and legislative chairman of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association for many years, he has represented grower interest and participated in the development of several farm bills and international trade agreements,” said Miller.

Today, McKamey continues his position as president and CEO of Wyoming Sugar, the smallest grower-owned sugar cooperative in the nation. 

Past winners

Since the award’s inception in 1998, 17 producers in the area have been recognized. 

Last year, Propp Farms received the coveted award, and LaVerne Lofink was honored as the 2011 Ag Citizen of the Year. 

Phil Huber, Terrill Gibbons, Bill Glanz, Gary Rice, Ray Lowe, Kathy Bush, Dave Asay, Jim Gill, Elmer Nelson, Sam and Phyllis Hampton, the Brewster family, the Harold Miller family and Sharon Kelly have all been honored through the years. 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“Mother of the Year” isn’t a title that can be won overnight, and Bette Lu Lerwick, mother of four from Albin, has earned her nomination time after time.
Lerwick is known throughout her community as a woman of many titles: farm wife, community cook, EMT volunteer, farm manager, friend to the elderly, house keeper, community activist, care giver, and she even delivers the post on Saturdays. If Bette Lu doesn’t have time management down, then nobody does.
It’s that time management and work ethic that earned her the title of Monsanto’s national Farmers Mom of the Year in late May, after she found out in mid-May that she was a regional finalist.
“There is no such thing as a daily routine. There is a routine, but it’s changing all the time. Around the farm I am responsible for the yards, the house, the upkeep around the buildings and those sorts of things. Of course, I also pitch in out in the field with the guys – I drive the tractor and run for parts,” says Lerwick of life on her family’s southeast Wyoming farm.
Lerwick takes pride in keeping everything going, and ensuring that not only the farm, but also her household, run smoothly.
“It is a full time job just keeping things functioning around the home, especially when we have extra help around. Keeping everyone fed, keeping clothes washed, things running smoothly and everything under control can be a chore. The house really is the main hub for everything – everyone meets here and all business is directed out of the home. I know I can’t function if the home isn’t in order and I think that it helps them, too,” notes Lerwick.
All of the work and pressures associated with being a devoted hard-working farm wife could be considered tiresome, but not to Lerwick.  
“But I enjoy it!” she says. “It is a lot of work, but I truly enjoy it.”
However experienced she is now, Lerwick did not grow up on a farm – it was when she got married that her life took a turn in a new direction.
“One of the things I remember most after we got married is adjusting to the flat land farms of the prairie. I grew up in the mountains, and moving to an area that was completely flat was a whole new experience,” she jokes.
Although it’s different from where she grew up, Lerwick has adapted well to her environment. She raised four children on the family farm in southeast Wyoming, keeping active with them and all of their own activities throughout school. Her children are grown now and are having children of their own, but they still remember and appreciate their mother for everything that she has done for them.
“I didn’t even know that my daughter had nominated me until I won the regional title! They contacted me on Friday the 13th and I said that was the luckiest Friday the 13th ever,” Lerwick says, smiling, of her entry into the contest by Kosha Olson of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
Lerwick says she appreciates the support provided by Wyoming, which pulled together to get her the votes needed to win the title of Monsanto’s Farmers Mom of the Year.
“People in Wyoming really pull together and want Wyoming to be promoted well,” Lerwick notes.
Monsanto representative Dan Marostica attended the Wyoming Cattle Industry 2011 Convention and Trade Show in early June to present Lerwick with her award and a $7,500 check.
“She is the backbone of her family, a valuable contributor to the community and a leader within the agriculture community,” said Marostica of Lerwick during the ceremony.
He said that Monsanto takes the time to recognize incredible moms such as Lerwick as a small way of thanking all women in agriculture.
“Women play a critical role in agriculture, and the Mom of the Year contest was created to recognize the numerous, diverse contributions they make daily to their families, farms, communities and the agricultural industry. No matter where they’re from or what they do, farm moms seem to share a passion for agriculture, a love for the family farm lifestyle and a dedication to preserving the land for the next generation,” said Marostica.
Tressa Lawrence is editorial intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..