Nestled near the United States border with Canada and well off the beaten path is the Olsen Ranch—a fourth generation operation that has been run by the same family since the early 1920s. Twice a year every year since the ranch was founded the Olsen family moves cattle to and from grazing land near the Canadian border under the watchful eye of the U.S. Border Patrol. Through rugged terrain, long distances, and frequently inclement weather, the time-honored tradition of cattle drives is not something seen much anymore since they went out of favor when ranchers moved millions of cattle from Texas to railheads in Kansas and grazing grounds in Montana in the late 1800s.
Carli Olsen-Simanton, the great-granddaughter of Alvin and Ella Olsen who first settled here in 1924, attended school in nearby Whitewater, Montana. Her class had five students…total.” And that was a large class,” she said.
Not afraid of the hard work of ranch life, Carli and her husband Guy perform many of the same time-honored traditions they learned from generations before. Including the art of the round up and the cattle drive.
Before the sun rises five cowboys, one cowgirl, and five cow dogs prepare to move their herd closer to home so they can be readied for market. And though there few places in America more remote, the unmistakable beauty and majesty of the wide-open plains becomes clear. A herd of antelope and a nest of prairie chickens dance in the distance as the herd crawls over an ocean of grass, which moves in rhythm to the gusts of the stiff Montana winds. The Olsen Ranch is far removed from the trappings of city life, but they wouldn’t have it any other way. And these ranchers are a reminder to that the western American spirit still lives on ranches just like this one.