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At home on the range, young cowboy loves his lifestyle

Staff writer

Cowboys symbolize the free life, closely tied to the outdoors and nature. It is a life Dusty Bina of Lincolnville loves, and that love was apparent in a presentation he made Friday at Marion Senior Center.

Even though his father, Robert, didn’t own a horse or use one in his cattle-feeding operation, somewhere along the way, Dusty acquired a desire to own one. Maybe he watched westerns on TV. Maybe he observed neighbors working cattle on their ranches.

When he was in seventh grade, Dusty used his savings to buy a bred mare and began living his dream. He seemed to have natural instincts about working with horses, “kind of like a horse whisperer,” his mother, Jeanette, said.

Living on the edge of the Flint Hills, Dusty soon had opportunities to hone his skills, helping ranchers work cattle.

He graduated from Centre High School in 2002 and was a member of the rodeo team at Pratt Community College. He enjoyed team roping, competing in Kansas and surrounding states. He graduated with a two-year degree in farm and ranch management.

Soon after returning home, he acquired a place of his own east of Lincolnville, at 2756 280th St. He continued team roping, with ? as his partner. He has won three saddles and a silver buckle in national tournaments.

His life isn’t just fun and games, however. He is a working cowboy. He and other cowboys are gathering “double-stocked” calves from large ranches in the Flint Hills. The animals are “double-stocked” because twice as many cattle as normal are put on grass in spring and are removed in late July or early August to allow the grass to regrow and store nutrients for the next year.

Days begin early during roundup time for the ruddy, rugged cowboy. He is up by 4 a.m. and ready to go to work by 5. He has helped gather more than 12,000 head so far, in an area ranging from Bazaar, south of Cottonwood Falls, to the Z-Bar Ranch at Strong City and the Methvin ranch southeast of Lincolnville. He expects to be busy another two weeks as cattle are loaded onto trucks and shipped to feedyards.

Gathering cattle on horses is better than using ATVs, Dusty said, because the rider and his horse can see dangers, such as rocks and holes.

“Four eyes are better than two,” he said, “and the horse does all the work.”

Dusty also is on call to cattlemen who need help gathering strays, doctoring animals, or roping stubborn cows.

He has been breaking and training quarter horses for several years, keeping them at his place 30 to 60 days. That was his main job at first. The experience has given him a desire to have a herd of his own.

“I decided I wanted to raise my own horses to train,” he said. “I wanted to work for myself. If I have a horse that trains well, I won’t have to let it go.”

He has three bred mares and one foal on the ground from this year’s production. He hopes to have full production next spring. He also recently acquired a 2-year-old stud that will be put in service when he is 5 years old. The horses all have names: Pete, Buster, Doll, Andy, and so forth. He is his own farrier.

Dusty continues to practice roping in his spare time. He goes to Marion some Sunday evenings to rope with other cowboys. He plans to continue to compete. He often pairs with Joel Thomas of Marion.

Being an independent cowboy isn’t a lucrative business. The 26-year-old horseman is single and realizes he someday may have to get a more traditional job. But he intends to keep his present lifestyle, no matter what.

“This is what I enjoy,” he said. “I’ll keep on doing it even when I have other stuff to do. People always will need to eat, and the cattle will be out there, so there always will be a need for the work I do.”

Last modified Aug. 5, 2009

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