Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Landscape, Language, Teaching, Wildness, Beauty, Imagination


Wink Ranch, Part II – Welded Art Sculptures in Lemmon and Rock Climbing in Spearfish, South Dakota

Prairie moon over Wink ranch, July 2020.

My week on the ranch overflowed with too many wonderful times to fit into a single post. We took a few days away from the ranch and went to Mobridge (the town where Mom grew up), Lemmon, and Spearfish, SD. Even by South Dakota standards, Lemmon is remote—close to the North Dakota border with a population of 1,989. Lemmon is the hometown of John Lopez, one of the premier welded sculpture artists of the world. We have wanted to see his sculptures and after a day in Mobridge, we headed back to the ranch via Lemmon. We were not disappointed. We loved Lopez’s incredible art at The Kokomo Gallery. Check out his website for professional photos of this artwork, stunning detail.

Custer’s Last Stand

Tree of Life

We headed to the Grand River Museum to see more of John’s work. For those familiar with the movie The Revenant, the film is based on the life of Hugh Glass. We discovered the 200-mile journey Glass walked after being mauled by a grizzly and left for dead, took place along the prairie lands, rather than the mountains portrayed. Here is the piece photographed in full glory.

Delightfully surprised to find Meadowlark on the shelf in the book store and right next to one of Linda Hasselstrom‘s books—perfect!

Earlier in the day, we’d been to Mobridge and saw another of Lopez’s pieces, Fishing Cowboy.

With Mom.

Lots of surprises in this small town, including the Petrified Wood Park, including dinosaur claw marks and bones.

Petrified Wood Castle

Spearfish Canyon of the Black Hills shines as one of the true treasures of South Dakota. Mom’s maternal grandparents, Grammie Lucille and Grampy Dave, lived in Spearfish. I have memories of playing in the water ditch that ran along their house as a child with my cousins. Spearfish is a jewel of a college town nestled right at the base of the Black Hills. This is where the prairie sharply ends and the green forested carpet of the hills begins. On Very Special Days on the ranch, we get cleaned up, put our town clothes on, and head for Spearfish.

Spearfish Canyon

I had two Very Special Spearfish days during the week on the ranch—one when Wyatt and Natasha took me rock climbing and another with Mom, walking the green paths and picturesque downtown. As we find ourselves sticking close to home due to the pandemic, a bit of art, greenery, and liquid beauty for us all.

Spearfish Canyon

For those who know Wyatt, he lives to rock climb. Wyatt never crawled. He stood up at nine-months and started running and climbing everything in sight. He hasn’t stopped since.

Wyatt climbing.

My first time climbing outdoors. I knew my guy wouldn’t let me fall.

Then a beautiful hike along the trails. I was taken with the gorgeous bark of the trees.

Mom and I returned a few days later for another Very Special Day. We walked the trails, strolled the picturesque downtown, and visited the fish hatchery. Mom playing in the stream.

Considering I was only on the ranch six days, we made the most of every minute.

I needed to leave far too soon. Time there filled my spirit and I’m already hoping to make it back this fall. The photo of the full moon over the dam made me think a song that Mom used to sing to us, and often still does, when there is a full moon. Enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SXi1Xvi7Mk




Wink Ranch, July 2020

Amidst the pandemic and all else, I made it to the ranch for a week in July. It had been far too long. A balm for my spirit.

I recently discovered the music of Ryan Bingham and listened throughout the trip, as I crossed the wide expanses of open country. I chuckled at the name of this coffee shop when I stopped for gas in Lusk, Wyoming.

Only in Wyoming—and a fairly apt description of me on many days. Thirteen hours into the trip with only one to go, I crested a hill to this storm cloud. Stunning.

And fourteen hours after leaving Santa Fe, I turned down the lane at last.

The stars aligned this year with Bo and I were both on the ranch at the same time. Wyatt is working on the ranch, joined by his girlfriend, Natasha, whose veterinary school classes went online. Luke spent a number of weeks. Work kept Noé and Wynn in Santa Fe.

A molten sunset the first evening. 

This was the first time in many years these four Winks managed to be in the same place at the same time. A gift.

Too bad we had no fun at all!

Checking water tanks with Daddy and Bo.

It was July 3 and Mom referred to us as her “three firecrackers.”

A gorgeous rain came through. I only wish I could include the scent with this video! Imagine it’s there.

The shifting light, colors, and textures of the land and sky on the Great Plains.

Work continued for Daddy and Wyatt. As Mom would say, “What could possibly go wrong?”

We squeezed as much as possible into this week, including trips to Spearfish, Mobridge, and Lemmon, South Dakota treasures. More on those soon.

Of course, one of my favorite times on the ranch was my time with Josie, who holds such a special place in my heart for so many reasons. She was the inspiration for the mare in Meadowlark. She’d been out for the summer and one evening Daddy and I headed out to the pasture to see her.

Josie is a grullo with her wild and wonderful coloring. In the winter she hairs-up so much she resembles a yak. Her mane reflects her grullo coloring with threads of russet, blonde, roan, black, sorrel, and the spectrum in between. I cut the tangle from her mane, trimmed the rest, couldn’t quite leave on the ranch, and brought home. My family is not quite sure why hair from Josie’s mane remains on our kitchen counter.

Because laced within the beauty of the horsehair strands are all they represent. Shades and textures of the prairie entwine within, as does the ranch and all that holds—birdsong, shifting light, textures, and colors, and years of family love and memories. One of my guiding quotes is, “Children need two things: roots and wings.” So many of my kids’ deepest roots thread this land, roots that ground them through the sunshine and the storms of life.

As I go about my day, I find myself reaching over to run the tips of my fingers across the coarse, colorful strands of Josie’s mane and my heart smiles.


“It takes a ranch”— Fall 2018

Sunset 2018

“It takes a ranch,” has been one of our family sayings through the years. Some may say “It takes a village…”, but for us it takes a ranch. We rally around this in both good and difficult times. It took a ranch in our family this fall, as we rallied around my dad’s diagnosis of prostate cancer.

So, while Mom and Dad prepared to head south, I tossed baskets of books and my new puppy, Angus, into the car and headed north. We woke the first morning to an eagle outside the window.

Daddy and I drove around the ranch and I drew maps and wrote notes of what I needed to remember in pastures and wells.

Mom and Dad off to Tucson.

Angus (aka the littlest cowboy) and I unloaded my books and his blankie (not in that order) and settled in.

Angus was particularly good at checking cows — if he could stay on my lap!

My running trail by the north dam.

I’m in a PhD program through the California Institute of Integral Studies, a small private university in San Francisco. I searched many years for this program – based in transdisciplinarity and creative inquiry. Those baskets of books were filled with coursework. The table (and rest of the house) became my desk. I’m exploring the intersections of ecolinguistics/linguistic human rights, landscape literature, and holistic resource management.

Early morning study time.

Dawn and Luke

I talked with Luke and said, “So, it’s a wild time. I move between reading about highly theoretical academic ideas about transdisciplinarity, ecolinguistics, linguistic human rights, and narrative inquiry—and then I have to check to make sure the manure is not clogging the pipes in the wash out. I feel as if I am  living in vastly different worlds that somehow come together beautifully.”

“Sounds like you’re living your program, Mom,” Luke said.

He was right.

As 2018 drew to a close, our family has much to give thanks.

Wynn, Luke, Wyatt 2018

The tumor was removed and cancer caught before it spread. I was on the phone with Mom when Daddy was in the surgery that was supposed to take one hour. One hour became two, then, three, and stretched into four. “This is too long for Wink to be under. Wait, there’s the doctor! I’ll be back.”

She called me later to describe how the very erudite and formal young doctor said to her, “I got in there and couldn’t find the prostate. So, I thought ‘What the hell?‘”

For those of you who know my dad, you know he has shattered his pelvis twice in the previous 15 years due to horse wrecks which resulted in hospitalization and my discovered love of tequila and cigarettes when your dad’s a cowboy. In one of those horse wrecks, the internal bleeding fused his bladder to his pelvis. Between that and the scar tissue, the doctor could not see or access the prostate. A problem during surgery for prostate cancer. What the hell?

Most of the time in surgery was the doctor separating the bladder from the pelvis, so he could get to the prostate.

That done, cancer removed and caught before moved to the lymph nodes. Received that news two hours from the ranch. Two hours of tears of gratitude on the prairie.

Intense on so many levels, this fall brought into sharp focus for me what matters in life:

Stick with those you love. Make them your priority.

Don’t wait for tomorrow or another year.

Create beauty.



Wink Ranch, May 2018

“All that is wild is winged—life, mind, and language…”

Jay Griffiths, Wild: An Elemental Journey

“It’s wild to be surrounded by wildlife and hear the birds all the time,” Luke said. I took the video above our first morning on the ranch. (Turn up the volume for birdsong.)

At last, I share our beautiful time on the ranch in May. Wyatt and Luke arrived the week before to prepare for branding. Long gone the days of strapping kids into carseats, listening to endless books-on-CD, and tossing goldfish over my shoulder while driving, hoping come might land close enough for somebody to catch. Noé, Wynn, and I rolled into the lane that evening, 14 hours after leaving Santa Fe.

Dad, Mom, Wyatt, and Luke waved from the front patio.


My heart…

Luke on south porch. I can’t even imagine how many books he’s read on the ranch through the years.

Dad prepares for branding.


Grandma Grace’s lilacs.


Beautiful Josie.

Bird-lined branches.

Photo on the fridge. This was Wynn’s ranch wear for years. Tutu, Wranglers, pixie haircut and pink cowgirl boots – yes, yes, and YES.

Cheyenne River breaks.


Feeding baby calves – 20 years of photos of the kids doing this.


My branding braids by Wynn.

Mom wears her branding shirt, “Does this saddle make me look fat?”

Bringing in the herd.

Wynn at the dam.


Cousins! Cuzzin Missy, Mom, Cuzzie Jessie. Mom and Cuzzin Jessie grew up here together.

Our incredible Cuzzin Missy.

I learned how to castrate this year. I’ll just leave that right there…

With dear Josie before we left.

Our time on the ranch was far too brief, which increased the poignancy and power.

There is something about multiple generations coming together on a ranch of deep roots, many chapters, and the creation of deep love that goes straight to one’s heart. It is an experience of beauty.






Gathering from the Grassland: A Plains Journal by Linda Hasselstrom

Gathering from the Grassland

There are certain voices who sing the song of the land. Linda Hasselstrom is one of these voices. Hasselstrom writes the landscape and life of ranching on the Great Plains of western South Dakota. Her latest book Gathering from the Grassland: A Plains Journal  (High Plains Press) shares the journey of her reading her father’s, mother’s, and her own journals from previous years and the insights and continued questions of time around these three interwoven journeys. Both of her parents have passed and there was much of their final years that was far from easy. Hasselstrom’s embraces humanity, in all of its beauty and pain. Yet, what shines through the years within the written words are a fierce love. A love not always expressed with gentleness. Yet through the sharpness and silences, the connection between Hasselstrom and her parents pulses on every page. The honesty Hasselstrom brings to this journey often made me stop and stare, lost in the familial world she opens the door for us to share.

“April 6. Today I woke remembering the strong voice of Meridel LeSeuer saying to me, “I covered some terrible wounds with lyricism. (p.91)”

What resonates is the sheer authenticity of life, family dynamics and rhythms, love lost, love found—underlying all, love. Hasselstom’s love for the land, love for the ranch, love for her parents within the tangled web of history, memories, and emotion that comes with every family, love for a life she lost, and love for the shared life she created. 

Hasselstrom overlooking the Hasselstrom Ranch. © Linda Hasselstrom

Hasselstrom’s writing and ranching life run deep within these pages, and the people who influenced her come to life. 

“I think the view of women as incapable of owning land was similar to the view that women’s writing wasn’t worth reading, especially if it was about their daily lives. When a woman like my mother wrote about her ideas and work in her journey, she was actively claiming the right to be heard, even if she didn’t realize it….Those other women who taught me  how to live mostly recorded their lives and loves in other ways: in quilts, in jars of vegetables in the cellar or freezer, in embroidery and gardening and taking care of other people in their communities. The work was their art, and their journals; their labor was the books they didn’t write.” (p. 131).

Hasselstrom’s quilts and embroidery ©Linda Hasselstrom

Prairie Mail – bouquet left by Linda.

A treasure, just arrived!

Hasselstrom has been a huge influence in my own reading and writing life. When my parents moved to the ranch nearly 25 years ago. On my first visit to the ranch, Mom gave me a stack of Linda’s books, “Here, if you want to understand the prairie, you must read Linda Hasselstrom.” So, I did, and I’ve never stopped. Linda’s ranch lies on our route between Santa Fe and the ranch. One of the highlights of the 14 hour drive is leaving and receiving “prairie mail” tied to the fence post at the top of the lane. 

Like all of Linda’s books, I wanted to know more about the story of this book. I posed some questions to Linda, and she graciously shared her time to share more about the book, the people, and ranching:

DW: To read your parents’ and your own journals from the same time period is an inherently emotional experience—What was the inspiration? 

LH: See p. 20: I started with a practical job to fill in while I was not writing a great deal: to record the temperatures from when my father began doing so, to address the questions about climate change. As I began to delve into the journals, I remarked “perhaps I am making the job seem important” by beginning to read his entries. Then I began to remember incidents that were happening while he was recording only the bare essentials, and of course at my age (74) I fear losing my memories, so I enjoyed being reminded of the past.

Hasselstrom at work.

DW: What did you wrestle with in making the decision? 

LH: On January 4 I asked myself if his journals are important, and the book is my answer: let those who fear or dislike ranching see who we really are. p. 25: future requires knowledge of the past. If we discard it entirely, we discard the lessons along with the mistakes.  I hope the next owner of this land knows how we operated, even if s/he operates differently.

I’ve seen and participated in the sudden cleanup after deaths, and know how easy it is in the heat of “we have to get the house ready to rent/sell/burn” to throw out letters, diaries, other things that might be significant later. I have no child of my own, and my stepchildren are far removed from this ranch, so it seemed to be simply responsible to consider what might happen if I die before Jerry, who is 10 years younger than I. I don’t think it’s fair to make my partner responsible for my family decisions, especially whether to save or destroy journals that are part of my family’s history.

Clouds over Hasselstrom Ranch © Linda Hasselstrom

” Thousands of us hurl ourselves into cities like nuts into a hopper, and there by grinding and rubbing against one another we lose our natural form and acquire a superficial polish and a little more or less standardized appearance. In the country, the nuts are not subjected to the grinding process.”  Archer B. Gilfillian, Sheep: Life on the South Dakota Range (Opening quote)

© Linda Hasselstrom

DW: What felt peaceful in making the decision?

LH: Hasselstrom collections were established—my aunt Josephine—so that suggested doing this again. I have no control over what people will think of me once I’m dead, so why try to control those thoughts by destroying any more of my journals, or those of my family? I’ve already regretted destroying my journals when my first husband read them, so I know the pain of losing those records of my entire childhood to a liar who had no sense of morals. I didn’t want to make the same mistake again. As I began to read through the journals and take notes, I was filled with admiration and respect for what my parents and others lived through and commented on.

DW: What aspect/s of the writing this particular book came most naturally?

LH: I feel a responsibility as one of the few (so far) writing ranchers, to explain how ranchers operate, to tell the vital stories. We need ranchers and others who understand the importance of grasslands to explain why all of us—whether we eat meat or live here or not—need to care passionately about grasslands.

“March 31. I started reading about Vipssana meditation, about gurus and yoga, but stopped when I realized that the prairie is both my path to enlightenment and enlightenment itself.

The prairie is suitably immense in age and serenity; its silence and depth provide a meditation room for everyone who pays attention. Sit in silence and open yourself, say the gurus, and you will see god or goddess in whatever manifestation most appeals to you.

Around me, I see nothing that is not holy. Goddess in the grass, the birds, the clouds, antelope, muddy pond. Goddess in the sunlight.” (p. 84)

Linda on the land. © Linda Hasselstrom


Photojournal of the Ranch, Spring 2017

Mom’s window, facing East

After Costa Rica, home briefly and then to the ranch. As my cousin, Janet, said, “Wait. Just. A. Minute. Costa Rica to South Dakota for Spring Break? You’ve got that flipped!” 

We loved it. We went for the college’s Spring Break. Wynn stayed in Santa Fe for her own school. This is the first trip I’ve made in over 20 years without children. This is also the longest I’ve been able to spend on the ranch in years and years. As many of the photos are worth a thousand words, I’ll get out of the way and let them speak for themselves and our time there. 

It takes 14 hours to drive from Santa Fe if you only stop briefly at the Barnes & Nobles Bookstore in CO and for gas in Lusk, WY. We always drive in one day, leaving early in the am. 

Noé and I arrived just in time for wine, cheese, and crackers.

Woke the next morning to this sunrise.

And this sign, as we walked to the ranch house for coffee.

Mom loaned me her pink Carhartt’s and Noé, Dad, and I headed out to see all on the ranch that we’d missed over the past year. 

Mom’s Little Free Library at the top of the lane.

Two beloved horses—Josie, on the right, inspired the mare, Mame, in Meadowlark. Josie’s son, Frankie (Ol’ Mr. Blue Eyes) is one of Mom’s BFF’s. To say that she adores him would be an understatement. 

Joanie and Frankie—A love story.

Josie’s coat in the sun. 

Wink’s WashoutNow open for Summer/Fall 2017!

One of the things I love about Mom and Dad’s ranch house is that it is filled with bits of beauty from our own family history and from around the world. Some beauty to share. 

Mom’s other window facing East.

Smiling tea pot and cups. The first was Bo’s and mine as children. She’s added for the grands throughout the years. 

Mom’s bookshelves of treasures, including teddy bears made of my Grandma Mary’s fur coat (one really doesn’t wear them anymore…), needle and quiltwork from dear friends, a doll made my by Great Grammie Lucille with her own hair, a pair of bootie’s knitted for Wyatt, duckies that represent the grands, and gifts from around the world.

Mom’s vintage marble collection, started in Cascabel.

Jeans hung out to dry.

Pregnant mamas ready to give birth.

We spent a gorgeous afternoon with my cousin, Missy, who has taught in a one-room schoolhouse, grades K-8, for the past several years. Her students are the most fortunate in South Dakota. Here, a storm moves in during our time there.

Storm moves in. Atall School. ©Missy Urbaniak

Storm over Atall School. ©Missy Urbaniak

Mom brought the kids books from Arizona. They surprised her with a birthday party!

Missy’s sons, Bailey, Everett, and I found the school library. While Mom and Missy worked, we found loads of books for the boys to read next. Such treasures from when my own boys were this age that brought back such memories of our reading together. It was all I could not to curl up and start reading to them in that moment.

Bailey, Everett, and books!

View from ranch house on porch facing East. Prairie Parlour on left. 

Memories of the Cascabel Ranch and Mexico.

Memories of Mexico and Cascabel

It was a week of wonderfulness. 

South-facing Porch



From Ranch to Speaker


Dean Wink, Custer Buffalo Roundup 2016 ©Sherry Bunting

Dean Wink, Custer Buffalo Roundup 2016 ©Sherry Bunting

From Ranch to Speaker

Sherry Bunting for Progressive Cattleman

A gorgeous piece written about my dad, Dean Wink, rancher and Speaker of the House of the South Dakota House of Representatives, by Sherry Bunting for Progressive Cattleman. Bunting conveys my dad’s spirit and the ranching and political life, no small feat. Enjoy. 

South Dakota cattleman reflects, looks ahead

He may have grown up on a typical 1940s diversified farm in Iowa, but Dean Wink and the South Dakota prairie adopted each other decades ago.

The longtime rancher served eight years, representing Meade and Butte counties, in the South Dakota House of Representatives and termed-out as speaker at the end of 2016.

Dean Wink ©Sherry Bunting

Dean Wink ©Sherry Bunting

His time in the legislature was marked by the balance a rancher understands – that of knowing limitations, seeing short-term decisions in the context of long-term outlooks, building relationships, relying on gut instincts, appreciating how a mix of views – like a mix of grasses – strengthens the land and “following your heart on the right way to go at a given time.”

After graduating with degrees in biology and physical education from Yankton College in South Dakota, he made a brief pro football career with the Philadelphia Eagles, followed by earning his masters in physical education and teaching at colleges while his wife, Dr. Joan Wink, followed her educational pursuits.

From there, he went back to a ranching partnership in Cascabel, Arizona, and time working for a Texas cattle company. He ultimately returned to South Dakota in 1988 to establish roots on land first homesteaded by Joan’s grandparents in Howes – about 65 miles east of Rapid City.

Roots for the long run

It is this ranch on the western South Dakota prairie where Wink seems most at home, managing the cattle, horses, grasslands, wildlife – and their biological interdependence. “The grasses depend on the cattle, and the cattle depend on the grasses, and we depend on the cattle and the grasses,” Wink explains.

The Ranch, South Dakota Sunset ©Sherry Bunting

The Ranch, South Dakota Sunset ©Sherry Bunting

Such interdependence followed Wink to the legislature where, as speaker pro tem and then speaker, his goal was “to always respect the process, so colleagues could be assured their bills would have a fair hearing.”

“I always recommend to concerned citizens that they get to know as many legislators as possible before asking them for their vote on a particular bill,” Wink relates.

“Both parties need a chance to express their points of view before critical votes are taken. There may be insights that both sides need to know, where amendments can be offered to bring parties together.”

Dean Wink, Custer Buffalo Round-Up ©Sherry Bunting

Dean Wink, Custer Buffalo Round-Up ©Sherry Bunting

The South Dakota legislature is one of only 15 with term limits, something Wink has always supported. But he admits that it has a downside: “It does give more power to the administration.”

When legislatures turn over, the administrative bureaucracy continues on through these changes and can gain the upper hand in regulation ahead of representative legislation.

Ranchers understand the limitations of the land. At the Wink ranch, cows are moved once every 30 days so that each of the 12 1,000-acre pastures get grazed once per season for 30 days.

Wink Ranch ©Sherry Bunting

Wink Ranch ©Sherry Bunting

Stocking densities are 20 acres per cow for six months and 10 to 1 over the summer. In Arizona, the limitations were different; his stocking densities were 100 acres per cow.

As we drive, he points out the projects he is glad to be working on to make the management more “hands-off” so he and Joan can travel more. After Winter Storm Atlas devastatingly downsized the herd in 2013, Wink began renting pasture to young ranchers from June through September instead of building his own herd back up to its pre-storm numbers.

Dean Wink ©Sherry Bunting

Dean Wink ©Sherry Bunting

We talk about the variety of native grasses from the short curly buffalo grass that greens up quickly after a rainfall to the western wheat grass, tall green needle and bluestem. Each has its place and time in the life cycle of the prairie.

“A mix of warm- and cool-season grasses is always the goal,” he says, noting that this year’s drought punctuates two years of ample moisture following the previous three years of drought.

Such is the dryland prairie. “We have to know the best use of the land, the limitations – soil type and moisture. I would like to see it stay in grass, and we need cattle on this land to do that,” Wink observes.

“Most of these ranches do not have enough water in the wells to irrigate for crops, but this land works well for livestock.”

A future for producers

We stop at a break in the fenceline. While he helps an escaped calf back through to its anxious mama, Wink talks about the future of the beef industry.

Wink Ranch ©Sherry Bunting

Wink Ranch ©Sherry Bunting

“Concentration in the packing industry is at a worrisome level. The cattle market has the influence of hedge funds driving cash markets via the futures markets,” he observes. “At the same time, the cash markets are razor-thin because packers have controlling interest in the cattle supply, even in cases where they don’t own the land.”

While he knows that farmers and ranchers, like himself, are used to the market cycles, his concern is how the captive supply adds another dimension that farmers and ranchers can’t prepare for.

He cites the cow numbers being down to 50-year lows in 2013-2014, with the world looking for beef. “We usually see three- to four-year cycles, but this time we saw just one very good year in 2014 and then it crashed.”

It’s not a complaint so much as a desire to see cycles based truly on supply and demand, where producers have some opportunity to prepare for the bust during the boom.

“Agriculture is unique. We have no control over aspects of weather or markets, but the things we can control are the antitrust issues,” he says.

As the industry moves toward fewer independent feedyards and a growing sector of captive supply, he wonders how long it will be before packers having formulas based on the weaned calf, making it tough for the cow-calf operators to get the bids for their calves.

Independence and resilience

The challenge going forward? To have a beef industry that works as a team while realizing the combined independence and interdependence of the farmers and ranchers within that team.

Dean Wink, Philadelphia Eagles, 1968

Dean Wink, Philadelphia Eagles, 1968

“Playing football in the NFL was probably the most memorable time of my life,” the South Dakota rancher reflects. “I came into it as an undrafted free agent and got the call from the Philadelphia Eagles to be activated to play.

I will never forget Bob Brown (Hall of Fame offensive lineman known as “The Intimidator”). I lined up with him at practice every day for two years. I learned from him to hold my own.”

In the same way, he says, farmers and ranchers can hold their own in a changing beef industry and, if given a fair shake, can do so long term.

“Globalization is taking place whether we want it or not, and we have to adapt to it,” Wink affirms. “But if we can’t compete with Brazil on our scale or cost of production, then we should be able to differentiate our product with labels and let consumers decide.”

He and others were devastated three years ago by the ill-timed Storm Atlas in the Black Hills region – home to a large source of cattle, where the grasslands and livestock and rural economies are interdependent.

“Storm Atlas demonstrated how tenuous being in this business of agriculture can be. Most people who are not involved don’t realize that the two main criteria for success and profit (Mother Nature and the market for our products) are things for which we have very little control,” Wink relates.

“The biggest regret I hear and feel is that we couldn’t benefit from the best cattle prices ever in the following year due to our loss of livestock in that storm.”

Dean Wink ©Sherry Bunting

Dean Wink ©Sherry Bunting

But ranchers and farmers are a resilient bunch. They accept that being involved in agriculture comes down to “the job we do, the lifestyle we live and the joy and satisfaction we get from being involved,” he suggests. “Both the good and the bad come with the territory.”

As Country of Origin Labeling was repealed, Wink observes that it may be more important than ever to communicate with consumers about where their beef comes from, not just in terms of safety and regulations but in seeing that the U.S. beef industry is about more than being the most efficient beef producer or in contracting everything down to its lowest global cost.

There are livelihoods, legacies, limitations and the land to think about, including the interdependence of the cattle to the grasslands and prairie ecosystems, and of the people and rural economies that depend on both. 

Sherry Bunting is a freelance writer from Pennsylvania, who has covered livestock markets and production for over 30 years.

Custer Buffalo Roundup 2016 ©Sherry Bunting

Custer Buffalo Roundup 2016 ©Sherry Bunting


Buffalo Roundup 2016



Dad, Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup ©Sherry Bunting

Imagine–Buffalo stream over hills and through gullies like water, whoops of the riders float through the air as they gather the herd.

Every year, Custer State Park in South Dakota hosts a buffalo roundup to ensure the health of the herd. For the past several years, Dad and Mom have ridden in the roundup. Each gather has presented its own set of adventures, including Dad’s pickup spontaneously bursting into flames as he hauled the horses to Custer.  This year, the pickup made it without flames, Mom decided not to ride, so she could enjoy the whole, and Dad was asked to carry the South Dakota state flag.

Thank you to Sherry Bunting for these gorgeous photos!


Dean and Joan Wink ©Sherry Bunting

Dad and Mom

Dad and Mom, Custer State Park, 2016 ©Sherry Bunting


Buffalo ©Sherry Bunting

A video of the roundup. (Turn up the volume.)


Dad ©Sherry Bunting


Buffalo Roundup ©Sherry Bunting


Dad carrying South Dakota flag. ©Sherry Bunting

And into the corral.



Daddy with calf. ©Sherry Bunting

Daddy with calf. @ Sherry Bunting

A few years ago, I wrote a piece titled When Your Dad’s a Cowboy about my dad and what life is like when your dad is a cowboy. This came about after one of Dad’s horse wrecks that landed him in the hospital. I wrote then:

When your dad’s a cowboy, you think he’s invincible.

Seeing Dad in such pain led me to the previously undiscovered wonders of straight tequila and cigarettes. At one point after a long day of painful tests for him, he was getting an MRI and for the umpteenth time that day I thought I was going to pass out. I lay down on the cool tile floor right there in the office, cheek to the tile, bum in the air.

“The doctor saw me and said, “Um, ma’am? Would you mind waiting somewhere else, please?” No problem. I crawled out of the office and into the arms of José Cuervo and the Marlboro Man. When your dad’s a cowboy, I recommend them for fainting spells in the hospital.”

With Dad, Cascabel Land & Cattle Company, AZ, 1978

With Dad, Cascabel Land & Cattle Co, AZ, 1978

… A separated pelvic bone, shattered wrist, internal bleeding—and, one week later, Dad was released from the hospital. His first day home, the yearling fillies got out of the corral. Dad was out there shuffling long with his rolling walker, trying to bring them back in, with Mom carrying his catheter bag.

Is it any wonder my heroes have always been cowboys?

And they still are.

Cascabel Ranch, 1977

Cascabel Ranch, 1977



Of Graduation, a 50th Anniversary, the Ranch, Laborers—and Sunsets


With Luke at his graduation party.

So, sometimes life is a ripple and sometimes it’s a tidal wave. The past month has been a tidal wave kind of life, resulting in both my being OBA (Officially Behind in All, including writing to you!) and so awash in gratitude that it drops me to my knees. I swing back and forth between the two and grab firm ground when I can.

Last I wrote, dirt was flying, cement was being poured, and flowers planted in preparation for Luke’s high school graduation. The flurry of activity continued up until the last minute (reminding me Noé and my wedding!), including the great ramada-raising, which now included the arrival of the mounties to help.


Wyatt, Noé, Dad

 Luke graduated in fine style with the most enthusiastic cheering section.


Noé, me, Wynn, Wyatt, Luke, Dad, Mom

Every minute of planting, building, copious amounts of watering and wine was worth it. 

View from the roof. ©Rosemary Dunston

View from the roof. ©Rosemary Dunston

‘Twas the season of celebration. Immediately after Luke’s party, we headed to the ranch to celebrate Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. We arrived just as the sun was setting on the lane.

Wink sign arrival

If you look closely, you’ll see Wyatt and Wynn fishing amongst the clouds here. 

Fishing in the clouds.

Fishing in the clouds.

Wynn and I went to spend time with my favorite horse, and inspiration for Mame in Meadowlark, Josie. 

Wynn and Josie

Wynn and Josie

I was taken with Wynn’s hair next to Josie’s mane – the colors and textures of both…


…and made a ring from strands of Josie’s mane, now in my jewelry box. 

Horsehair ring

One of my all-time favorite photos of Wynn, now on the ranch. I have no idea why we called her the The Pink Pistol…

Wynn, the Pink Pistol

Wynn Elizabeth, The Pink Pistol

What began with this June 4—50 years ago…

Mom ad Dad wedding

Dean and Joan Wink, June 4, 1966

…now looks like this. What a life Mom and Dad have created.

Whole fam-damily

Whole fam-damily, June 2016. Bo, Austin, Garrett, Dad, Mom, Wyatt, Wynn, Luke, me, Noé

Cousin time!

Cousin time—Wyatt, Austin, Wynn, Garrett, Luke

Came back to head to Tucson for Orientation, where Luke will be studying International Business at the University of Arizona—because, he is the luckiest guy we know.

Bear Down, Wildcats! #WildcatMom

With Luke Orientation

And then to Chicago to meeting again with two incredible communities that come together once  a year at the Annual Instructors Conference (AIC) for the LIUNA Training and Education Fund. Once a year in Chicago, instructors in the Laborers’ International Union of North America and international educators from all over the world come to work together in an incredible week. Through the years, I’ve come to love the people of these communities deeply. People always ask me what we do at this conference. There is so much happening here, better to watch for yourself.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/131241866″>The 2014 Annual Instructor Conference Recap</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user17215533″>LIUNA Training &amp; Education Fund</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Home to teach three classes of Orientation to the Teaching Profession. Clearly, we needed flowers and stones for our first night of class. 

Flowers for first night

After class, watched this sunset unfold from our roof…

Sunset 1

Sunset 2




A Cascabel Birthday

Cascabel Birthday Cake

Cascabel Birthday Cake

The month of March in our family is known as March Madness for the multiple birthdays. Luke kicks off the month the 10th, then Grammie on the 20th, Wyatt is the 25th, and I bring things to a close on the 28th. I’m 48 this year. No need for mystery. I love growing older. A friend recently referred to our family’s Birthday Gauntlet, which I loved and is a perfect description!

Mom, Dad, and Wyatt all came for our tradition Birthday Party (all thrown into one lump day), which included an ecumenical walk around the Plaza for Palm Sunday.

All Family

Wyatt, Wynn, Grammie, Bop Bop, me, Noé, Luke – Palm Sunday

4 bop bop grammie

Palm Sunday walk around the Plaza.

Road to Cascabel. As Mom said, "The road to Dawn's heart..."

Road to Cascabel. Mom said, “The road to Dawn’s heart…”

Dad hauled a pickup, El Blanco, that has been in our family since 1984 and the Cascabel Years. It has been a ranch truck all the past years. With all of the garden work and hauling we’re doing in our new home—and for unabashedly sentimental reasons—I wanted El Blanco in Santa Fe. Dad hauled it down. As most trips involving my dad and vehicles, this one also included an adventure. His pickup and the trailer hit black ice in Colorado, the trailer jack-knifed and his F350 pickup and trailer all plowed for several hundred yards down the interstate. Spinning the steering wheel back-and-forth throughout, Dad kept all tonnage hurtling down the interstate on the road.  Somehow, no one was hurt and the truck and trailer didn’t flip. He was pulled over by an officer several miles later for “losing control of his vehicle.” 

“If I hadn’t kept control of the vehicle,” Dad told the officer, “I’d have been in a ditch back there!”

What Daddy didn’t tell me was that he’d had new magnetic signs made for the side of El Blanco, exactly like what had been painted on there 30 years ago.When I saw, it hit the Cascabel Button and immediate tears. 

Dawn sees Cascabel sign

Dad Dawn El Blanco Close up

Wyatt and Wynn helped unload.

Wyatt WynnPickup


A 30-year old ranch pickup from Cascabel? I am soooooo ditching our mini-van!

Reflections of memory. Cascabel bluffs. © Joan Wink, 1983

Cascabel bluffs. © Joan Wink, 1983

I have had exactly one kind of birthday cake in my life that I remember—the Cascabel Birthday Cake. Cascabel (‘rattle of a rattlesnake’ in Spanish) is the area in southeastern Arizona nestled within the San Pedro River Valley where I grew up. We’ll refer to it as The Holy Land. The sandstone bluffs overlooking the river of Cascabel framed the valley and framed my childhood. These bluffs, these years, these memories, and this cake are inextricable intertwined.

Mom said that original recipe was in some a magazine long lost to memory. In our March Madness of birthdays, this cake is sort of the grand finale of fireworks for me. The rest of birthday rhythms can be consumed by the waters of life—but the cake, the Cascabel Cake, we do not miss. Traditions ground us in the whirlwinds of life. This cake remains one of my own anchors. 

Cascabel Birthday Cake

Cascabel Birthday Cake

Always the same cake: Angel Food cake with the topping of a mixture of whipped cream, crushed pineapple, and lemon Jello. Always cut into thirds with layers of the topping amidst. Whip the jello, so all blends together. Essential to the Cascabel Birthday Cake are the purple irises atop. Purple irises ringed two of the trees in front of the ranch house in Cascabel. They always bloomed right before my birthday. Mom always decorated my cake with them. Yes, bulbs for purple irises will be planted in the gardens of our new home. 

Mom 4 years old

Mom, 4-years-old

Mom’s birthday this year was an especially poignant one for all. Ten years ago on her birthday, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Five years ago, Noé and I walked the Pilgrimage to Chimayó to celebrate her five years as a survivor. This March 20th, she celebrated her 10 years as a survivor. Mom writes of this beautifully here: Joan Wink – 10 Years Cancer FreeMy Uncle Jim surprised us all with this photo of her taken when she was four-years-old. 

My mom and dad, my heroes. Always and forever. 

With the passing of the incredible Cara Esquivel, all feels especially vulnerable and tender. In the midst of these national and international times so filled with so very much tragedy, the events in Brussels and conversations and happenings impossible to understand, a tiny group of people who loved Cara have come together around her passions and fierce love of Oaxaca and the the world. These past weeks, amidst all, I’ve experienced the very best of this tiny circle of people giving all to bring beauty to the world, out of love, out of passion, and out of loyalty. This experience again and again reminds me of what really matters in this world. What a blessing to experience the very best of humanity. 

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

Spring buds