In "This" Lies an Opportunity


Written 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.

Barret and Lincoln sitting in an ATV

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.

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.

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.


  • Posted on by Sue McCoy

    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

  • Posted on by Astrid

    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 !

  • Posted on by Deanna Green

    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!

  • Posted on by sharon Schwartz

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

  • Posted on by Lisa Musgrave

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

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