Cable Ranch Family, Pukwana, South Dakota
By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union
Dawn (Gilman) Cable was shorter than the barrels she raced around when she began competing at area playday rodeos.
Her daughters, Jimmi and Kari, could say the same for the sport that also captured their hearts.
After chores were done on the family's cow/calf and club calf ranch north of Pukwana, the Cable women practiced together on a barrel patch Dawn's husband, Harley, disks up each spring for them.
On the weekends, the family raced to wrap up chores so they could head off to rodeos together. In their teens, through college and into adulthood, Dawn and her daughters continued to barrel race together.
"It's one thing the three of us did together since they were teeny, tiny girls," Dawn says.
"It gave us something we all enjoyed and got to spend time outside of the ranch together and we made so many friends," adds daughter, Kari, 27, who today is the lead MRI technician at Rapid City Regional Hospital.
Because of all the good memories the family created barrel racing together, when a tragic car accident took Jimmi's life four years ago, Harley, Dawn and Kari decided a memorial barrel race would be a fitting way to remember Jimmi; her love of horses and passion for barrel racing, livestock and their Pukwana ranch. And, most of all, her love for her family and friends.
As the state director of the South Dakota Barrel Horse Association, Dawn knew how to organize the event. Friends and family members also chipped in and July 2015 the family hosted the first Jimmi Rose Memorial Barrel Race.
"I was hoping for 50 entries and 200 showed up," Dawn says of the event that has become an annual tradition, held each year during the last Sunday in July in Huron on the Beadle County 4-H Rodeo Grounds.
All funds raised go to support organizations and events Jimmi and her family hold dear: a belt buckle for the winner of round robin at the 4-H round robin at the Brule County Achievement Days; jackets for grand champion Sim-Angus heifer at the Spotlight Livestock Show; prizes for all the peewee barrel racers at the memorial barrel race and many other events.
"It's a good feeling knowing you still support what she loved. Another part of the memorial barrel race is, it's a way to bring all my family and all of her friends together to remember her," Kari says. "It's a bittersweet day. We all enjoy getting to see each other and to honor her memory. The support from each other keeps you going." Kari says.
Her mom agrees.
"It's the comradery. I tell you, when we lost Jimmi, I found out who my real friends are - and my barrel racing friends are definitely in that category. They have stuck beside me through it all," Dawn explains.
The ranch, with its wide open spaces, cattle who need caring for and a few good horses always ready for a ride, also helps. "If I have a bad day, I get on my horse and ride the creek," says Dawn, of Crow Creek which runs through the property.
Harley grew up on the ranch, and says he never wanted to do anything else. "I like cattle and I like breeding superior livestock."
In addition to raising commercial cattle, since his teens, Harley has been raising sought after livestock, selling Sim-Angus bulls and club calves to commercial cattle producers and show youth who exhibit the calves in livestock shows across the nation.
Only 15 when his dad died, Harley made ranching his full-time career, building on the 2,500 acres and 25-head of cattle his dad left to him.
Their overall breeding program has a strong focus on maternal traits - sound udders, good feet and legs and, "of course, good rate of gain," Harley explains.
"Makes a guy feel pretty proud to see the calves we raise, do well in the show ring. There are a lot of people breeding club calves who buy high-dollar donors, and most of the time we can do it through cows we raise and AI-ing them," Harley explains.
Also raised on a ranch, Dawn has worked beside Harley since they married 32 years ago.
"I've always preferred to be outdoors working. The first time I brought Harley home to meet my parents, he was having coffee with my dad and I was out feeding cows," Dawn says.
She then asks Harley. "What did you think of when you were having coffee with my dad while I was feeding cows?"
With a twinkle in his eye, Harley answers, "She was trying to impress me."
Although the couple has been through unimaginable grief together, there is a lot of jesting and laughter when they discuss working together as a family on the ranch. Before they were school-age, the girls spent their days outdoors with their parents.
Harley recalled a time when Jimmi was a baby and he needed help, so Dawn brought her out to the barn in her car seat. Dawn set the car seat on some square bales and got to work helping Harley.
"We look over and a baby goat had jumped up and was nursing on Jimmi's bottle," Harley explains.
By the time they were school-age, the girls were helping with all the ranch chores.
"We wanted to raise capable girls," Harley says. "They know how to work hard and they can do just about anything."
Harley recalls another time, when the ranch still had sheep, and Kari pulled her first lamb.
"We were lambing like crazy and the lambs were all mixed up. Kari came out to help me, and a lamb needed pulled. She wasn't very old at the time, but she put on the gloves and goes in and pulls it. After that, if you walked in the barn and there was a water bag out, she'd call out, 'I'm pulling it! And would put on the gloves.'"
Dawn adds. "I'm really glad we raised them to be independent. They knew they were always welcome here, but we wanted them to grow up to be their own person. And, I'm really proud we trained all our own barrel horses. We send our roping horses to be finished, but we always trained our own barrel horses and never paid more than $5,000 for a horse."
She shares a story about a barrel horse, Calvert, that she and Kari trained together. Kari competed on Calvert through high school and college rodeo.
After college, she sold Calvert to a high school rodeo athlete from Oklahoma who ended up riding him when she won the World Title in barrel racing at the National Little Britches Rodeo.
In addition to the ranch and rodeo, both girls were also active in 4-H and FFA.
"I attribute 4-H and FFA to a lot of good things. Our girls showed cattle, sheep and goats and they learned how to give prepared talks," Dawn says.
These agriculture youth organizations introduced Jimmi to livestock judging. A competition which she excelled at. As a junior in high school her team won state 4-H livestock judging, advancing to compete at the North American International Livestock Show and placing seventh individual giving her All American Status. She attended Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming, on a livestock judging scholarship.
To participate in the Jimmi Rose Memorial Barrel Race, contact Dawn at HDCable@midstatesd.net or call 605-680-4224. To view more photos of the Cable ranch family and hear a radio interview with the family, visit www.sdfu.org.