Women of the West — Becky Lisle
Preserving her family’s century-old ranch requires passion, flexibility and plenty of well-worn saddles.
Becky Lisle was raised and still works on her family’s operation, the Prunty Ranch, located near Charleston, Nevada. In the early 1900s, the ranch began raising and selling hard-working horses. Four generations later, this Nevada cowgirl is carrying on the family tradition.
IF YOU’RE GOOD at what you do, gender isn’t an issue. Becoming good and confident at what you do is the hard part. If you get caught up trying to prove yourself to other people, you will never be satisfied.
THINGS THAT YOU have to get done on the ranch don’t come wrapped up in a neat, tightly controlled package. You either need a really good horse, or you have to be a good-enough hand to get what you want out of a not-so-good horse.
MY PARENTS didn’t want me to limit myself. So I went to college and got my BA in Elementary Education. This way, I knew what else was available before I committed my life to ranching. Ranching has always been my way of life. My family knew I would come back.
ANY FAMILY BUSINESS is challenging because you can’t leave work at the office. Your personal and work relationships are completely intertwined, so it’s easy to let any difference you might have escalate.
MY BIGGEST ADVICE to young cowgirls is to make sure ranching is what they want to do. They should get away from the ranch for a while and explore other things. If they don’t, they might always wonder what else is out there. You can’t fully appreciate something until you’ve been away from it.
MY FAVORITE PASTIME as a kid was anything I could do fast and on horseback.
YOU CAN LEARN something from almost anybody, whether it’s what to do, or what not to do.
I LOVE COMPETING in team branding. There are so many variables that come into play—how your horse handles, how well you rope, how you handle cattle. And a little luck never hurts. Elko is where the event was created and where it is still the best, as far as I am concerned. In Elko, you use a hot iron, not paint, and the cattle aren’t little gentle Jerseys out of somebody’s backyard. There is no rubber allowed on the horn, and you can’t use tie-downs. It’s a real, authentic, cowboy competition.
OVERALL, YOU WANT A HORSE that’s level-headed, reasonably responsive and that can keep his feet under him.
SNIP HAS BEEN MY favorite horse. He is by a Jet Deck appendix stud but was never registered. He’s 21 now and retired, but in his day he could go 30 miles a day easy when we were gathering horses from the winter range. He earned his keep. He always had so much heart and so much go. I could also take him to town and team brand on him. I even ran barrels and poles on him in high school.
THE TYPE OF HORSE that people want has changed over the years because there aren’t that many people who cowboy for a living. Twenty years ago, we sold mostly tough, go-get-a-job-done type of horses. Now, we’ve refined the horses a lot more with Quarter Horse studs.
MY FAVORITE MOTTO regarding horsemanship is, “Where knowledge ends, anger begins.” The moment I start to get frustrated is a good indicator of what I might lack in knowledge. I realize, “Okay, this is what I need to learn more about.”
GETTING MARRIED and starting a family is the best thing I have ever done. Having a baby puts everything in a whole different perspective. You start to see beyond yourself and you realize how much everything you do now is going to matter to the next generation.
WE SPEND THE WINTER in Idaho and work other jobs to keep the bills paid, but we always go back to the ranch in April or May and stay through November.
MANY THINGS ARE CHANGING, and I don’t think it’s for the better. There are too many outside interests and political agendas involved, and they don’t have anything to do with common sense or reality. The fact that policies are partially dictated by people who never set foot outside an office just doesn’t seem right to me. But people are always going to find a way to carry on because ranching is such a wonderful way of life. It’s not going to die out, but it will have to change as time goes on.
WITH RANCHING on shaky ground, it’s hard to say what the best choice for my son will be. But I’ll leave that up to him. It would be so fulfilling and so gratifying for Tyler to be able to do the things that we’ve done with our lives.