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May 05, 2020


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In "This" Lies an Opportunity

Story by Colton Jones:

About ten years ago when I started helping Dan manage the ranch, one of the first things he taught me about buffalo, was that for every attempt failed, lies an opportunity. It’s a concept that I’ve embraced since that day.

The same concept can be applied to the current global crisis. Unfortunately, media outlets tend to spotlight the negative, which at times, makes it impossible to not have some kind of emotional response to an event that has changed so many lives in such a short period of time. But, at the same time, opportunity offers a remedy to do things better.

A month and a half ago, Jilian and I had a discussion with our good friend Tahnee, who cares for our two boys while we are working, as to how we should handle the current coronavirus situation. We decided it would be best to suspend her trips to the ranch in an effort to exercise social distancing. Following Tahnee’s absence and school closings, Jilian, Dan, Jill and I have been sharing the workload of watching the boys.

colton in pickup with lincoln on his lap

It’s not unusual for the two of them to jump in the pickup with me and do chores around the ranch. It takes a bit longer, but the company they provide is a good trade-off. They've also spent time at the harvest site on those days we're harvesting the buffalo at the Cheyenne River Ranch. Over the last eight weeks, they’ve gained full doses of those tasks, and then some.

lincoln on picnic table doing target practice

Watching them learn tangible skills such as, gun safety, to properly caring for and moving the harvested buffalo into the mobile truck, to driving a pickup or hooking up a trailer is gratifying. The thought of young and upcoming help on the ranch is any father’s dream. It’s the intangible knowledge that comes in the form of respect, patience and compassion that truly makes me appreciative of my recent time spent with the boys. This “knowledge” has become evident in our conversations during our now traditional ‘end of the workday’ fishing hole visits.

We discuss the day’s events, and also how and why our lives have changed the way they have. I try my best to address every question with the most honest answer possible; and I’ve learned that sugar coating things results in immediate and/or delayed confusion.

lincoln at fishing hole

I give explanations to sensitive questions rooting from their experiences that day. Birth, death, economy and a pandemic are a few notable and recent topics. Their reactions to my explanations are more practical than most adults in which I have had similar conversations with.

barett holding fish

I can’t help but admire the compassion they exhibit in their conversations with one another. I noticed this while my oldest son Lincoln, tried his hand at explaining to his younger brother as to why we were returning the fish back to the water instead of eating them. Lincoln’s explanation of, “We only take what we need” had me beaming.

lincoln holding small fish

Much like Dan did with me, I’ve tried to use the time with my boys to show them that although something negative may be staring them in the face, an opportunity to have a hand in making an improvement is somewhere in the distance. I hope anyone who is feeling down during these strange times can look beyond the bad and ask themselves, “How can I lend my hand in making this better”?

barett on tractor in his winter coat and hat

Although I admittedly have been going to bed earlier, Jilian reminds me that, “Even though you may be exhausted after running with two little cowboys all day, these times are limited. So, cherish them...”

So, cherish them I have.


Paul V Irving

May 06, 2020

Hi Colton, greetings from here in lock down UK. You are right, make the most of these times with your two young sons, it is always time well spent for both you and them. It not only helps them understand the philosophy that governs what you do on the ranch and at Wild Idea but gives them a sense of place. You are their role model, as are all the adults in the family and just spending time with kids you love keeps you young, grounded and its fun, hard work but really fun..


May 06, 2020

I LOVE the chronicles of the buffalo brothers! Those boys work harder than some adults.

A couple of characters that live an extraordinary life. Thanks for the optimistic perspective!

James E. Swab

May 06, 2020

Thank you Colton. You have a great mentor in Dan, and you are a great mentor for your boys. What goes around comes around.

Chuck Beatty

May 06, 2020

Well done, Colton and Jilian. You are raising boys who will respect our planet, and no doubt serve it well as they grow older.

Geoff Wheeler

May 06, 2020

Well said. You have inherited your fathers gift of writing well and on point. I do believe that as these trying times continue for awhile, we will all find, sometimes forgotten, sometimes discovered, , new and different ways of doing things, and the benefits that can accrue..thank you for that reminder! Best!

michel vincent

May 06, 2020

pas de meilleure vie que la vie dans un ranch en plein air ,, decouvrir chaque jour quelque chose de nouveau ,, cela fera de robustes américains ,,,,,,,

Rob Banner

May 06, 2020

Great story, Colton. You and Dan are raising more than bison. You’re raising a culture built on character. Now, more than ever, that will define us. Stay the course.

I’m still trying to figure out how to get you some carbon credits for the native grasses you are also raising. Very impressive carbon capture should be calculated and rewarded. Wish me luck. Calling Ducks Unlimited next.

Rob Etter

May 06, 2020

Loved the stories, the “atmosphere”, and the descriptions of the boys and their adventures on the ranch. It is a beautiful reminder of fond times of horses, open spaces, fishing, and family. Thank you for taking the time to journal these stories and for sharing them. Life is beautiful and as I keep trying to focus… if you have breath, you have a chance. Indeed, we all have a chance .. let’s not give up, and just look for the beauty. Eleanor Roosevelt was quoted and I paraphrase, head into the storm, it’s the shortest way through it. I remember that being said of the buffalo, but I defer to your opinion as you are much more familiar with their “thoughts” … May God bless you and your sweet family and wonderful animals.

William Spencer

May 06, 2020

Beautiful story and wonderful writing. I don’t think I’m gonna have the blues today after reading this!!!

Lynnda Ann Rakestraw

May 06, 2020

Hello Coltan, thank you for the lovely letter, and adorable photo’s. It was very refreshing to read how you are mentoring and parenting your boys. It is in the parenting to raise a child, to become a successful adult.

Chris and Kim

May 06, 2020

Well done Colton and Jilian! From parents of adult children, it’s great to see younger parents investing time and love in their own children. Cherish the time with your small ones, they are your legacy. As the saying goes, the world may be a better place because you chose to take part in the life of a child.

Vern Cross

May 06, 2020

Great how you’ve spelt it out. At this age in their lives you are God. Keep it real and they’ll see that some day you rate all the respect for all the right reasons.

Fee Jacobsen

May 06, 2020

Thank you, Colton. Inspiring for all of us who are looking for the positive amidst all the negatives! How fortunate to be living where you are in the wide open spaces.Lucky boys!!
And, as always, thank you to Dan, Jill, Jillian and all who work to make this world a better place – with or without a virus.


May 06, 2020

Thank You, Colton, for reminding me what I already knew from when my children were young.


May 06, 2020

Those are beautiful words and pictures, Colton. May fishing hole visits last forever………..
Thank you.

Jordan Winer

May 06, 2020

Only take what you need, words for the next 100 years..

Blake O'Quinn

May 06, 2020

Dan is correct, standing next to every problem is the answer. we will see it when we look with an open heart and mind.

faith is the willingness to rest in the arms that already hold us.

thank you your touching story, those bright boys liven the day as their giving father shares what remains so wholesome.

Jane Baile

May 07, 2020

So good to see that the family is fine and learning from this terrible situation we are all experiencing. I had intended to see you in September with another group from Grenoble France. I missed so much not being with my group last September due to my unexpected health problems. “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.” Which I did, and I put together another trip for September 2020…Well, pick myself up again…it will now be for September 2021. I WILL MEET YOU AGAIN!!! Sometimes when you have to wait longer for something, the waiting makes it even better. Looking forward now to September 2021!
Jane Baile (Université Inter-Ages du Dauphine -UIAD- Grenoble, France)

Joyce Cross

May 07, 2020

I love a good, positive story, especially now. This one really warmed my heart. You are harvesting wonderful memories…

Dave Buchanan

May 07, 2020

Nice crop of kids you and Jilian are raising there, Colton. You can see a thoughtful, caring future in their eyes. Few things are more inspiring than new growth in the spring.


May 08, 2020

We are keeping have a 5 yr old grandson we are keeping during the day. He started out coming ready to do school work. Now he has to feed the animals, gather the eggs and check the live trap before any school work gets done. He’s learned how to clean his 22, cast a reel, hammer nails and drill! There are a 100 questions a day , and we are exhausted but truly blessed. Loved you story.


May 08, 2020

Thanks for sharing, this was just great, especially the pics. This is great example of unschooling, living and learning in the real world. My family owns a farm and my son loves being involved in everything. We are unschooling him so he will grow up learning about real life instead of being disconnected from it.
You can learn more about unschooling here…

Lisa Musgrave

May 08, 2020

There’s always a silver lining if you look for it.

sharon Schwartz

May 08, 2020

Loved the pics. You are raising two boys who will know how to work. A couple of cute kids. Thanks for the pics.

Deanna Green

May 09, 2020

As a native South Dakota who life progressed elsewhere, I still consider the Black Hills my home. I love all animals, but but buffalo are at the top of my list as they bring back happy childhood memories of trips through the Black Hills and growing up close to nature. I love reading Dan’s books, and following the wonderful things you are accomplishing in promoting in God’s original plan for this earth. My great grandfather homesteaded in the Whitewood valley, so that makes it even more special to me. Keep up the good work, and God bless your whole family!


May 10, 2020

Hello Colton, what you wrote is lovely, sweet, sensible, full of humanity and love. Your boys have really lucky to have a father like you and to live the life they live ; they are growing to be great human beings BRAVO as we say in French !

Sue McCoy

May 13, 2020

Hello Colton and family

Thank you for sharing such beautiful pictures of your two boys. You and your wife must be

very happy to spend more time with the boys. It is important in life to do that because as your son’s

grow older they will have great memories of times together. You cannot buy time. Nor can you measure

the treasures of time together. Being a mentor to them they will carry that knowledge for life. As you have with Dan.

What is important is that your company respects the buffalo. You can tell the buffalo have little stress as they live and

eat natural food and grange under open blue skies. May your family be blessed with many years on the ranch.

And thank also all the workers that cut and prepare this delicious meat.

Thank you so much

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