Last updated: January 12, 2015
The Lusk Herald
April 9, 1997
by Jeanne Peterson
The Sandrock Ranch five miles north of Van Tassell, loving effort of four generations, is operated by Rex Shoults and son Ron. Ron's sons, Travis and Skeeter, often help with the cattle operation, taking pride in the 1/2 blood Maine Anjou bulls they cross on black Angus cows or quarter-blood heifers.
When a calf is born, its eartag records the last number of the current year and its mother's eartag number. Since many ranchers recognize their stock as individuals, the eartags enable either Rex or Ron to identify any animal's age and maternal lineage at a glance.
The family runs its calves to yearlings. In winter they feed hay and cake. In summer they harvest a variety of hay for winter feed; about 60 acres of brome grass, 70 acres of alfalfa/crested wheat grass mix and 90-100 acres of alfalfa mix, the latter from a circle irrigation system.
The sandrock formations throughout the area for which the ranch is named jut abruptly from fertile pastures where the Shoultses maintain a cow-calf pair on approximately 25 acres. Some sandrock formations have been part of the corral system since the ranch's inception and are only now beginning to dissipate.
The ranch was originally homesteaded by Lucille Larson Shoults' family in 1912.
Tony Larson came to Niobrara from the nearby Crawford/Harrison area; Ethel Fogleman grew up near Philipsburg, KS.
Tony and Ethel both attended college before entering the teaching profession, Tony at Grand Island, Neb., and Ethel at Ottawa, Ks. When Ethel accepted a position in the Harrison School system in 1913, she met Tony, who had been promoted to principal. They were married in 1915, and Ethel applied for a homestead adjoining the one Tony established in 1912.
The childless couple wanted to adopt a son. When they met the train in Van Tassell the nurse begged the Larsons to take the baby girl she carried home, fearing the epidemic in the orphanage would take her life. It was love at first sight. They named her Olive May.
The frail baby was buried in the Van Tassell cemetery some three months later, probably the victim of a heart problem.
The Larsons' best Christmas gift arrived Christmas Day 1918 when the Larsons' first biological child was born during a raging blizzard, Miss Waldy - "a lady of some medical knowledge", as Lucille's sister Gayle wrote about her own birth - assisted Ethel with the difficult delivery. The doctor arrived in time to sign the birth certificate, via the freight train through Van Tassell. Daughters Lucille and Doris joined the family in due time.
Though they continued their educational careers - Tony becoming the principal of the Van Tassell school system, and Ethel teaching intermittently per district needs - the Larsons stretched their resources, raising a large garden and using their cream check for additional groceries. They ate cottontails, jackrabbits and lots of beans, supplementing their diet with chicken.
Tony bussed neighborhood children to school, during a severe winter in a box sled on runners lined with benches. Ethel heated bricks to warm the children's feet.
In 1945 the family moved to town, but returned to the country each summer.
Lucille met Rex Shoults at a community dance near his Prairie Center home and they were married in 1944. In 1949 their son Ron was born, and they moved to the ranch in 1952. Rex joined Tony in a partnership that ended with Tony's death in 1963. Rex and Lucille purchased the operation in 1973.
After Ron graduated from the University of Wyoming, he joined his parents. He and Georgia Germann grew up only 16 or 17 miles apart but the six years' span in their ages had prevented their sharing activities. They became acquainted when Georgia worked in Whiteaker's Clothing Store and deepened their acquaintance at the Central Wyoming Fair. On Oct. 2, 1976, Georgia became Ron's wife. They now live in the home that encompasses the homestead house where Lucille was born. In addition to Travis and Skeeter now a senior and a junior at Niobrara County High School where their parents and grandmother graduated, Ron and Georgia now have two small daughters, Hannah - almost three, and Jaci - nearly one.
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