They are known as vaqueros or gauchos in South America and jackaroos down under. Here in America, we call them Cowboys. Their business is ranching and it’s the fastest growing agricultural sector in the world.
Steely-eyed, sun-dried, and always stoic. The face of a cowboy speaks a thousand year old story of grit and determination. Lessons by way of adversity and toughness forged in the elements of life itself. The cowboy way is different, although simpler, its wisdom is profound and keeps them down to earth.
Times are changing as are the men and women called to this way of life. Information has always been passed down from one generation to the next; safe practices, learned experiences, and rules of the wild. A level of physicality exists within ranching that drew previous generations to it. Already hardened due to the times, they were prepared through life and eager to test themselves. Modern society has created many comforts and as a result those who seek out hard labor are few and far between.
Mr. Minden, a United States Army Soldier, has dedicated his life to the cowboy way and ranching is his profession. Seeing a lack of a work force in his industry prompted a curiosity within him to solve the problem. What if more Veterans were cowboys? What if ranching was a viable option post service?
If you take the second paragraph and swap out cowboy for Veteran, it is almost a perfect fit. “The face of a Veteran speaks a thousand year old story of grit and determination. Lessons by way of adversity and toughness forged in the elements of life itself.” Veterans possess the tenacity and work ethic necessary to cowboy up and fill the ranching demand.
Mr. Minden was then faced with the stark reality that no institution existed (that he knew of) to train Veterans on how to be a cowboy. Although he himself helped manage a small ranch, the funding was simply not present to both teach and employ Veterans simultaneously. That didn’t stop him. Sacrificing his personal time and money, Mr. Minden went on to do just that.
Fifteen Veterans later he had finally created a structure out of those learned experiences. He did it the cowboy way.
Present day Mr. Minden operates the non profit Bear Hug Cattle Company. His mission is to lower the barriers between Veterans and the ranching industry by providing them with the resources and knowledge to be successful. Basic horsemanship is taught to veterans that typically have no experience with horses. This ranges from basic health care all the way through riding. After basic horsemanship, veterans will then have the opportunity to continue growing by learning roping, doctoring, sorting, and a variety of other ranch tasks.
The future for Bear Hug Cattle Company is teaching the intricacies of ranching throughout months of experiential education. This is where Mr. Minden believes true value can be gained and cowboys can be made. For this reason he has chosen to diversify the environment and host programs in Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. By splitting camps he can offer Veterans an experience and depth of knowledge unlike anything else available.
The hurdles for Bear Hug Cattle Company will come by way of sponsorships, equipment, and donors. The ability to be aligned with a western companies will ensure riding gear stays up to par. Equipment is harder to come by but is equally important to the success of the programs. Donor’s influence the ability to provide room and board for student Veterans. One day this will also mean the ability for previous student Veterans to find a home as teachers at Bear Hug Cattle Company.
Modern society has also created a class of men and women conditioned to adversity that were taught leadership and a positive work ethic over years of service. The business of ranching has just been given an amazing transitional ranching program for Veterans. Here information can be passed from generation to generation, one graduating class of students to another, one Veteran cowboy to the next.