Advice from Amy: A Rancher Has Family Drama

By Amy Dickinson | September 13th, 2021

Sometimes a cowboy has to protect his herd first


A rancher overlooks his herd Image

Dear Amy: I’m an old cowboy. My wife is from the country, but not from a ranching background.

She and her children are well educated but they lack any kind of practical ranching common sense (their advanced degrees are more of a hindrance on the ranch).

They seem to think that their business, law and medical degrees make them superior. Yet every time they visit, their ignorance is proven, over and over again. Even though I have asked them multiple times not to bring their own dogs to the ranch, they still do. They have killed chickens and injured other livestock.

They don’t close gates. In fact, they even bring their dogs in the house.

They take the grandkids out to the corrals and let them give “treats” to the horses.

After 10 years, I’m at the end of my rope. My wife doesn’t like conflict, especially with her kids and grandkids. She makes really good money and thinks she can just pay the vet bills or repair bills or replace an animal.

She doesn’t understand that I’ve spent a lifetime building my herds and I’m not going to introduce any old animal into my herds as a replacement — I’m going to have to breed a replacement.

I’m at my wits end. I don’t want to ban people from the ranch.

Short of divorce, any advice would be appreciated.

— An Old Cowboy


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Dear Cowboy: I grew up on a dairy farm and while not a ranch (far from it), I do know that any farmer’s primary responsibility is to protect his livestock from predators — human or otherwise.

So, cowpoke, I’m suggesting that you pull on your chaps, one leg at a time, and take charge of your animals. You owe it to them.

Stop reacting to infractions. Start preventing them.

The next time these city slickers visit, you should post some rules to the ranch. Write them down and tack them near the front door of the house and also on the barn:

“No dogs near the livestock unless they are on a leash.”

“No humans visiting the livestock without me present.”

Hang dog leashes near the front door, and make sure the leashes are used.

Show these grandchildren how to be ranchers. Take them with you to inspect your herd. Roust them out of bed for early morning rides. When the vet visits, take the kids with you while the animals are receiving treatment.

The reason I suggest that you focus on the children is that kids are (usually) great at respecting rules, as long as you explain why the rules are in place and are consistent in enforcing them.


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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