Brant Lyman is a fourth-generation rancher from Ten Sleep, WY. When his grandfather established their family ranch over 30 years ago, it was run down. Brant told us, “There were sheep living in it. One of the walls kind of swung freely so my dad had to haul a bunch of stuff out before he'd even let my mom come see it.” Brant’s parents moved in and they repaired their new home, from fixing dilapidated walls to sheet-rocking. They also put in a feed lot, a new barn, and updated the buildings and the facilities so they were safer and more efficient for their operation. Today, Brant helps run the Dale Lyman Ranch with the same do-it-yourself mentality. Not only that, but with a firm “If not me, then who?” mentality, he doubles as a working cowboy, a volunteer firefighter, EMT, and first responder. We connected with Brant to learn more about his story as a man doing big things in a small town within the heart of America.
What keeps you in this lifestyle and what makes you choose ranching over anything else?
I choose ranching because my family has put so much into it. My grandpa put his blood, sweat, and tears into establishing our ranch. Then my dad came in and put his life into it. It becomes something that your heroes did. And it gets into your blood. Suddenly you are in competition with yourself to be better each year, to improve your herd, have better horses, better cows, better dogs, to become more efficient and more effective at what you do. It drives you. And then you honor the tradition of those who came before you by putting in your best effort every day.
When you need maintenance on your property, do you call to the community for help?
Ranching doesn't make a ton of money so you don't really hire somebody out to do it because that dips into your profits. So we're a jack of all trades: welders, fence builders, mechanics, whatever we need to do. If there's something that we can't do or we need a little extra help on a big project, we might call some of our friends to come out and help. But 90% of it, we do ourselves and just figure it out as we go. Luckily now, today we have YouTube. So university YouTube teaches you a lot of things that before you probably have to go to school for, but we just take a crack at it.
What are some traditions your dad taught you that you hope to pass on to generations to come?
My dad always taught us to see the bigger picture. And he meant both on the ranch and in life. We related ranching back to life and expanded that throughout the way we live, the way we deal with people, and everything in between. All the facets that come in life is a ‘look around and see the bigger picture’ moment. And that's the key: find value in everything we do. We're pretty blessed as far as where we live and the things that go on around us that you just have to keep things in perspective. My dad would always teach me that you don't do it because it's easy; you do it because it's right. I remember one time as a kid driving down the road and seeing that someone's cows were out. We knew they weren't supposed to be on the highway. And my dad said, “Pull over and let's kick those cows back to that gate.” I said, “We're late. We got to go.” He said, “It doesn't matter. These people's cows are out and they're not here to get them in.” We put them back in because that's the right thing to do. And that's one of the teachings that has stuck with me my whole life. My dad was a man of service. And I hope to be able to be that as well and be able to show up when I'm needed. Acts of kindness every day make your life so much better. My dad didn’t preach it. He lived it.
Helping each other out, is that a mindset that Ten Sleep as a community embraces as well?
Helping each other out is something that a lot of small towns have. A small town is like a family. Everyone's got their beef. But at the same time, when something happens to you and your family, everybody's there to jump in and help you out. It's just what you do. You've grown up doing it. We know that standing on someone else's shoulders doesn't make you any taller. That's pretty much the mindset of Ten Sleep: when someone's in need, we're there to take care of them.
Are a lot of the original ranches still owned by the original families in Ten Sleep?
Yes, my family being one of them. We've been around for a long time. A lot of families have been in this area generation after generation. That's really important because as each generation has come up, there's been someone in that family that's maintained that connection to those who came before them. And they've paid respect to that by continuing to do what their ancestors have done and to keep that legacy going. Every year this land goes up in value, and it would be really easy to cut the head off that golden goose. Just sell out, get your 10 million and leave. But that just breaks my heart. Every year, through government regulations, family ranches are being forced out of business. And that's something that's been really tough to see. The land is worth a ton of money, but we're not making that same money off of it because we're ranching. We don't have that. So when my dad passes away and somebody’s ranch is worth $10 million, you have to pay so much of that inheritance tax. That's a lot of money to pay all at once. And so, year after year after year, we see these legacy ranches go out of business and sell out to a corporation or a tech company, millionaire, or billionaire. It just breaks your heart. Somebody plowed that land with their own hands behind a horse, and you're putting an airport in. We've seen ranches all around the country that have been around for hundreds of years go out of business because they just can't afford to stay in operation anymore. But we're out here, trying to make a living and do our best to survive and give something to the next generation.
What do you enjoy most about ranching?
It's a family effort. You have that relationship with your family, you get to spend that time with them every day. A lot of families have to go on vacation just to get family time. We went and moved cows, we went out and cleaned the corrals. When I was a little kid, my mom would take us and we walked down the sides of the highway with trash bags and we'd clean up. That was before there was highway cleanup programs or adopt a highway programs. We did it because this is our environment, this is our backyard, and you have to clean your house. The education that we get from ranching of thinking outside the box, looking at the whole big picture, is invaluable as far as teaching the next generation.
How did you become a firefighter?
As a kid, when there was a fire, you'd see everybody in the community jumping in and helping—because when there's a fire around here, that's a natural resource it's burning up, that's people's grazing for their cows. If your pasture burns up, you have nowhere to go with your cows. If your cows have no food to eat, then your whole livelihood is at risk. So everyone bands together, tries to take care of that as fast as possible. As I got older, I thought I should do my part in the community and help, save people's livelihoods when there's a fire, get that fire shut down. I went on a couple of runs with people with the fire department and it's all volunteer based. I jumped in and the comradery you have with the guys on the fire department is always cool, but just seeing that aspect of it and jumping in and doing it was enough; it's addicting, it's intense. You're out there, the fire's raging and you have to strategize your plan of attack. The other side is the fact that someone in the community has to do it. And then along with that, we get calls for not just wild land fires, but house fires or car wrecks or anything that we have to assist with the EMS services. And that spurred me on to want to volunteer as a member of the EMS community as well as an EMT and first responder. It goes back to, it takes a village to raise somebody, to take care of each other, so everybody jumps in wherever you can. We’re on call 24/7, and if you’re available, you go. I've always just had that concept of, if not me, then who's going to do it?
What is the importance of a small town?
Small town America is important to America as a whole. It is the heart of the United States. There's no ego. We're all in this together. We're all grinding. If you're willing to show that you want to work and put in the work, look we're equals, we're both trying to get the same thing done. It doesn't matter where you come from, race, creed, religion, anything, we're all working to the same thing. As long as you show that you're willing to pull your weight, you're my brother. It doesn't matter who you are. It’s great for America that we all have that small town community mindset of being aware of your neighbor, looking around. Back to what my dad taught me, look around and see what's going on around you, look at the bigger picture. People need to get back to that.