The Cowgirl Who Can Rope Cattle and Build a Fence


As Told to Diana Micheal Briggs, The Job, New York Magazine

Apr 19, 2017


Bev Peterson, Rancher, Washburn, North Dakota


Iím a ranch-wife. Sometimes Iím a farmer. Sometimes Iím a cowgirl. Sometimes Iím a florist. I wonít tell you my age because Iím older than dirt.


My husband and I met team-roping and thatís how I got to his ranch. I didnít know what I was getting myself into, I just knew this guy was what I wanted and he invited me to come out and visit. He drove me out and pulled up in front of this old shack, and I was like, okay, we can fix it up, and he started laughing because it was just some old junk hole! I could have lived in a paper bag with him and I know we could have made it better. I hope he realized then that he got a pretty good deal Ö


I always wanted to be a world champion roper. I realize thatís probably not going to happen in my lifetime.


Thereís a boyís version of calf-roping and thereís a girlís version. Thereís no gender bias at all involved with that. The girls have whatís called a break away: This tiny string breaks away your rope from your saddle and the judge can see when it breaks, and thatís the time youíre given. A guy will have to get off his horse, and the saddle and the calf are connected by the rope solid, thereís no breaking apart. And he goes down and lays the calf down and ties three of the legs up. If you want to do the menís style, youíre more than welcome to. These calves are over 350 pounds, so if you can lift and put that critter on the ground, have at it.


One time we had a calf that had fallen into the river. Somebody from the other side of the river called the sheriffís department over and he got hold of us. Itís just a 15-foot sandy bank, thereís no shoreline or beach. When calves get in that situation they are frantic, so itís like having a Saint Bernard attacking you as bad as he can, thatís how bad they donít want to be roped, they just want to find their mother. Our neighbor had made this boat ramp close enough to where the calf was. My husband somehow got the rope around the calfís neck ó mind you, every rope that we throw around here is barely 30 feet long, so we have just a little bit, once we get it around the calf, to wrap around a horseís horn. We were able to shimmy that calf through the water a good mile to where this boat ramp was. Then somehow that calf got away. It was my husband, my son-in-law, and I, and we were all riding [after him]. By then the rope is soggy and awful, but I was able to rope the calf before my husband and my son-in-law could. Every year we seem to have one thatís going to fall in the river, but that particular year I was busting my butt because I was so proud of myself.


Right now, my husband and I are transferring our entire ranch over to our children. My daughter and her husband have taken over the cow portion, and then my son and his wife have taken over the farm portion. Thereís a gray area in between where certain things have to be done together, for example, haying, which can be a money cash-crop or it can be to feed the cows. Everybody has to work together to make it, to haul it, to rake it, to stack it, and thereís a couple of other areas too.


Everybody knows that first week in June they have to come to Petersonsí because thatís our date of brand. You really try and stay with the main guys that help you, then you go and help them, and itís the same way all over the state, you have ten or twelve really good friends that come and help you. Theyíll bring their horses and their trailers and weíll start at the crack of dawn. Everyone has their own job: