By Lura Roti
Meadow rancher Brian Flatmoe says fall is his favorite time of year.
“It’s hay hauling and harvesting and working calves and selling calves – you can see the fruits of a year’s work in the fall,” explained the third-generation Perkins County cattle rancher.
Fall is also when the community hosts the Coal Springs Threshing Bee. Held each year the fourth weekend in September, during the Threshing Bee, the Flatmoe family and neighboring ranch families put antique equipment to work, demonstrating how farm work was done when the land was first settled by homesteaders like Flatmoe’s grandparents who emigrated from Germany and Norway.
“I think it’s good for kids to understand how agriculture started and where it’s come from and to get a feel for how food used to be produced,” Brian said.
Brian, his brother, Bruce, and dad, Harold, are among the group of ranchers who founded the Coal Springs Antique Club and started the threshing bee 25 years ago. “My dad and brother and I, our pastime is fixing up early antique tractors,” Brian said.
The first tractor they restored together was a 1926 Hart Parr. “Dad bought it at an auction sale, it had been completely taken apart to salvage the bolts. Bruce and I helped haul it home. When we were loading it, we found all the bolts in buckets in the old shop building.”
At another auction, Harold was able to buy back his dad’s grain binder. This is the binder that is put to work binding wheat during the Coal Springs Threshing Bee.
“When I’m restoring old equipment, or I see it working, I just think how easy it is now compared to what people used to go through. Now, I harvest wheat in an air-conditioned combine. My grandpa’s generation had to bind the wheat, shock it, load it onto the wagon and pitch it into the threshing machine and shovel it off once it was threshed.”
In addition to the threshing bee, Brian serves as a volunteer on the Meadow Fire Department. And he and his wife, Gloria, are actively involved in their community church.
“I think it is something God calls us to do – to give back. We have been on the receiving end a lot. It is always good to give back where you can and when you can,” Brian said.
Gloria added, “When you help others, it is really helping yourself.”
Faith is the foundation upon which the Flatmoe family is built. Brian and Gloria met in church. At the time, Gloria lived in Tennessee and worked for a company that took photos for church directories. Having grown up in South Dakota, Gloria graduated from Ft. Pierre High School, so she knew the pastor of the Coal Springs Community Church. “They invited me to take photos for their church. I met Brian and as they say, the rest is history,” Gloria shared.
Although she grew up in South Dakota, ranch life was a new adventure for Gloria. “I never thought I would say it, but I love the peace and solitude out here. It is hard work, but it is rewarding, and it was the best place to raise our family.”
Brian and Gloria have five daughters: Carrie (deceased), Sadie (Trevor) Conrad; Meagan (Cody) Johnson; Abby (Braydon) Peterson and Macyn.
Reflecting on raising their girls on the ranch brings back many wonderful memories, and the tragedy which showed them the power of faith, family and community. In 2012, their daughter, Carrie, was killed in a one-vehicle accident the summer before her senior year of high school.
“We know that God has a plan for every one of our lives. We have learned that we can have peace with pain. That is what got us through. And the community support was amazing,” Gloria said. “We miss her daily, but God has blessed us abundantly from that time.”
As she talks about blessings, Gloria shares that the couple has six grandchildren and expect number seven soon. In addition to their family, the couple said they are also blessed by their ranching community.
In good times and bad, the ranch families throughout the Meadow and Coal Springs area are there for each other. Good times, like branding or the threshing bee. “We have our own circle of neighbors and family that we exchange help with a lot,” Brian said.
Like their neighbors, the Flatmoes have a cow/calf herd, raise hay and some small grains. When Brian returned to the ranch after college, he began to expand the herd. Today, the herd is a bit larger than it was when he was growing up thanks to leasing some land from a neighbor which allowed the family to expand their grazing land and the addition of several miles of water pipeline.
Brian and Gloria began installing miles of water pipeline and tanks throughout their pastureland following droughts in the early 2000s. Access to water has improved grassland quality and weaning weights.
“Before, in dry years, they would walk off a lot of grass going to water,” Brian explained. “Now, having tanks in multiple locations in the pasture means cows do not have to walk so far to water. They can now graze different areas.”
Over the years, the Flatmoe family have focused the genetics of their largely Black Angus/Gelbvieh herd on maternal traits and disposition. “When the kids were small, I culled animals that were less desirable in that regard,” Brian said.
A docile herd remains important because Brian and Gloria enjoy it when their grandchildren visit the ranch.
“We enjoy having our grandchildren see and experience what I grew up with and our children grew up with. Working out here on the ranch gives them a taste for this way of life,” Brian said. “I don’t know if any of them will come back to the ranch or not, but at least they will know where food comes from and how it is produced.”