Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 2, Spring 2008, pp. 91-104.
Humans have a complex relationship with the land. At the base of it lies our need for what the land can give: materials for shelter, food and water for sustenance, and scenic beauty for pleasure. But, similar to our interactions with other humans, our relationship with the land is not always perfect. The land can often be our worst enemy. Storm, drought, famine, and pestilence are common words from the historical record representing times when this connection between humans and nature is challenged.
Crop insurance is a relatively recent invention that attempts to level the playing field in our contest with the environment. It well represents the complexity and interaction within the human-land relationship. Ranching is another symbol of this relationship. The word stewardship captures a rancher's connection to the land. It denotes a respect for the land. and its utilization in a manner that will reap benefits for the community or group now and in the future. True stewards must have a deep, distinct, and intimate relationship with that thing over which they have stewardship. Ranchers' livelihood depends on this linkage. If they neglect their land by allowing overgrazing, their livestock's sustenance is damaged; if they do not have functional, forage-producing land on which to graze their livestock, then the relationship is broken and ranching ceases. And if ranching ceases to exist, so does the ranching culture.