Petersen Ranch Family
by Lura Roti
Arden Petersen’s roots run deep in South Dakota. According to the Family Tree of Pictures his mom, June, created long ago, Arden is the grandson of Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal member Mollie Swift Cloud Laundreau. Mollie’s family lived off the land long before gold miners or homesteaders tried to make a go of it in South Dakota.
There are two black and white photos of Mollie in the family tree June created on the porch wall decades ago. She and her husband, Alex, are surrounded by photos of Arden’s other ancestors.
Today, Arden and his wife, Lori’s son, Cole, and their daughter-in-law, Carleyn, are the caretakers of the Family Tree of Pictures.
“I will never take this down or move it because I’m worried it would ruin it,” Carleyn explained.
Carleyn and Cole married in 2013. Since that time, the couple has built their life together and raised their young family in the home that was originally built by Grandpa Raymond, using just a handsaw, hammer and nails. (In case you are wondering, Grandpa Raymond is Grandma June’s husband.)
The home was moved from its original location near Goose Creek more than once. And over the years it has been added on to. It came to be on the family ranch six miles east of Parade in 1954, after Raymond returned to Dewey County, a Korean War veteran.
Carleyn loves making this house a home and like her husband’s Grandma June, she decorates her home with family photos – many featuring her and Cole’s children: Patricia, 9, Zachary, 7, and Lizzie, 3.
“It makes my heart tickle when family comes in and says it feels like it is lived in once again,” Carleyn said.
Cole always knew he would return to the family ranch to raise his own family and care for cattle and crops.
“It’s all I ever wanted to do,” Cole said. “I have been haying since I was 6 and driving tractor and doing everything since I was a kid. Dad taught us all how to drive a tractor by taking us out to the hay field, putting it in gear and jumping off. …We all eventually figured out how to stop it.”
Arden said working together on the ranch with Cole and Carleyn and their children is all he and Lori ever wanted.
“I like my cows and this land with nobody but me, and my boy, and my family on it,” Arden said.
Living across the yard from her grandkids is wonderful, Lori added. “I get to get Lizzie off the school bus most days – it is the best part of my day. When she sees me coming she jumps into my arms – I have to be there to catch her.”
“Daycare is scarce, I am thankful for my mother-in-law,” added Carleyn, who is the school secretary for Cheyenne Eagle Butte School. “Behind every rancher is a wife who works full time in town.”
Unlike Cole, Carleyn did not grow up on a ranch, but she quickly fell in love with the life – working beside Cole full time until the 2023 school year. Today, she squeezes in ranch work in the evenings and during the weekends.
“I enjoy ranching with my family and seeing my kids grow up and hopefully be here with their families is something that I look forward to,” Carleyn said.
Until recently, Lori also worked full time off the ranch as a medical coder. Today, she works at the local clinic one day a week.
“I think it is important to have someone here to help run for parts or help with grandkids,” Lori said.
The family raises Limousin cattle. Cole says his Grandpa Raymond got into the breed in the early ‘70s.
“We like their meat. We are used to seeing 16-inch ribeyes,” Cole said. “And they are good mothers.”
Ribeye size, milk production and ability to protect their young from predators are what the family selects for each generation.
“When you have 100 coyotes running around in the pasture, the cows need to be able to defend themselves and their calves,” Cole explained. “I have watched a docile cow let a coyote take her calf and eat it, whereas a protective cow, she will damn near stand on top of the calf and kick at the coyote.”
In addition to the cow/calf herd, the family raises feedstuffs: wheat, alfalfa, oats and millet. However, the last few years a drought has made crop production difficult.
“The drought started in 2020. That year we did not even start a tractor,” Cole said.
Throughout the last three growing seasons, the Petersens received just enough moisture to harvest some hay and feedstuffs. And even though this is not an easy life, Cole, like his dad and generations before him, says he loves what he does.
“I like to get to see my calves grow up and turn into breeding heifers and then cows,” Cole explained. “I couldn’t be more happy. I feel like this is a good life and it would be a good life for our kids to keep going at.”