“You better just let us come to you,” Anjie McConnell told me over the phone.
Honestly, I was surprised I even had cell reception on my way to their Wyoming ranch, so I pulled alongside the road and waited.
Her husband Mike’s cowboy hat gave them away.
“Little Siberia.” That’s what the truck drivers call the desolate route that runs along the family’s land 45 miles outside of their home base in Lander. The Oregon Trail runs through it.
A rodeo family and cattle people to boot, Anjie’s parents, Gary and Diane Frank, had to make a choice.
“There weren’t enough days in the week to make either successful,” Diane says, “so we had to decide: we’re either going to be rodeo stock contractors or we’re going to be cattle people, but we can’t be both.”
With a push from Gary’s father, Bill, who laid down money for additional ground, the family brought cows up here to summer grass that first year and decided they were done with the bucking horses after that.
That was 1969 and plenty has changed since then.
For starters, the Frank children grew up, got married and made lives of their own. The cattle went from “a rainbow herd” to Angus, and Gary passed away.
“He wasn’t old enough,” Angie says. Her husband died six months short of their 50th wedding anniversary.
Gary and Diane’s second child and oldest daughter, Anjie, had always been her father’s helper. After graduating college and marrying Mike, the local agriculture teacher, the couple committed to joining Frank Ranches Inc. – Anjie, full time.
“Sometimes I wish I had Mike’s job, when the weather’s crappy,” Anjie says with a smirk.
“She wants mine and I want hers someday,” Mike quips.
Together and through the years they’ve brought ideas and research, pushed her parents to try new things and experienced successes along the way – which can be hard to come by way out here.
“There was one snowstorm where we got 54 inches,” Mike tells me. It was time to AI and Gary and him were worried whether they’d show. It ended up being the easiest heat detection they’ve ever had because the ones that weren’t covered in snow were in heat.
“I remember standing out there in cowboy hats, just drooped down to our chins, laughing and having fun breeding cows.”
Bumping along the property in the back of their old Jeep, three generations have just as much fun, share just as many laughs as they ever have.
“We don’t go on vacation much, but our family’s together,” Anjie says.
“Every day’s a vacation here,” Mike adds.
I’d tend to agree.
Thanks for allowing me to tell your story,
PS – To learn what brought New Jersey native Diane to Wyoming in the first place and why the family’s invested in raising quality Angus cattle, look for their upcoming story in the Angus Journal.