Tell your story
Wed, 12/28/2016 - 10:55am admin
Your neighbors are like your family. If you make a deal with them you keep it and you take care of them.
“I’m a straight arrow, I just bend a little sometimes,” chuckled George Allen Iversen as he visited with Murdo Coyote staff Rylee Metzger and Lonna Jackson. The day before his 85th birthday came in like a flood of memories as the stories of growing up in Jones County were relived. When thinking of questions you might ask in interviewing a longtime rancher, the itinerary ultimately follows cattle, ranch land, hay, tractors and horses right? Well please, don’t let a stereotype fool you! Everybody has a unique story to tell and Mr. Iversen’s accomplishments truly brought us to the edge of our seats.
Born in 1931 to South Dakota homestead pioneers Ole and Emma Iversen, George Allen is the youngest of 9 siblings. Being the baby of the family was nothing to complain about though according to Iversen. He shared several pleasant memories of attending school with his nephew and good friend, Skip; who is just three years younger. Admittedly a natural born prankster, Iversen recalls that he and Skip played a fair share of pranks on their school teachers together. “Back then you could usually get away with it, said Iversen, “Your friends wouldn’t rat on you and you wouldn’t rat on them.” One teacher in particular stood out in our conversation. “Mrs. Williams Bill Kurt was a teacher that you made sure you stayed out of the way of,” Iversen shared with a chuckle in his voice. (Whatever that means is a tale yet to be told.)
With pride, Iversen shared that the principle of having your friend and neighbor’s back was instilled by his Father’s influence. “Your neighbors are like your family. If you make a deal with them you keep it and you take care of them.”
The Iversen family moved to Jones County in 1902 and homesteaded the property near the White Clay Buttes. Iversen’s father built their family homestead by hand and it since has remained in the family for over 100 years. The family home was one of the first houses in the area to include modern water and electrical amenities. Iversen’s father always worked hard to provide for his family. “He was an honest man, a simple handshake man.” Iversen shared. When not minding the ranch, Iversen’s father worked for the Murdo McKenzie and also broke horses for the Madador Ranch.
Iversen also recalled hearing stories of when his father was the first man to drive across the state of South Dakota in a single cylinder cadillac. He wasn’t just an automobile man though. When not driving the cadillac, his father could be found on Smokey, a horse that he broke and trained himself. “If you had a horse you liked, well you kept him around,” Iversen stated. Smokey lived on the ranch to be the age of 30 years old.
The love and talent for horsemanship is a passion that has lived on through the generations. Iversen shared fond memories of following in his father’s footsteps from a very young age. “We always raised and had horses around, it was a way of life" Iversen shared. In 7th grade he began riding as a jockey at the Fort Pierre race track and struck up a passion that would continue on for the years to follow. Iversen also commented that people this day in age is quite spoiled with the convenience of 4 wheelers as they don’t buck you off and you don’t have to stop to let them cool down.
Through his middle and high school years Iversen worked continuously on the family ranch and graduated from Murdo High School in 1950. After graduation the Korean War began calling for young men to be drafted to South Korea. In 1951 Iversen and his best friend Raymond Sturner rode a greyhound bus to Rapid City and joined the Air Force hoping to avoid being drafted to South Korea. Iversen shared that, “The Air Force was a way to serve without being shot at, you didn’t have to be in the war zone.” For four years Iversen and Sturner worked as clerk typists and resided in both England and Germany. Iversen mentioned that during his time in the Air Force he was thankful to have received 6 months of great education. He also noted that his interest in typing is long gone, so don’t get any ideas; he is not out for hire!
After completing the four years of service in the Korean War Iversen stated that he proudly returned straight home to his beloved Jones County! Once home again to the 12,000 acre family ranch, Iversen began running 300 head of cattle with his brother Dale and the two siblings managed the ranch together. Though the cattle industry kept him busy, Iversen maintained a life full of other passions as well.
The sparkle in his eye said it all as Iversen shared his favorite of lifetime memories; the flying days. Not only did he experience the thrill of watching his race horses fly down the track but he also was licensed to fly a plane. "Sometimes when it rained it was to muddy to get to town and you had to fly," Iversen said. The prime years of his life were spent traveling across the country following the horse racing circuit. “You went where your horse went," Iversen stated. Fans Tie and Roony Razzo were two of his best horses, both hard to beat, according to Iversen. The two horses ran and won the South Dakota Derby several times, even winning by as many as 15 lengths. Iversen’s shelves are full of trophies, stacks of South Dakota Futurity blankets and awards won in races all over the country. George’s son Roy remembers driving or flying to horse races every other weekend with his Dad and brother Chris and said that he cherishes that time they spent together as his favorite of memories.
In the early 1970’s Iversen slowed down his everyday pace and retired to Apache Junction, Arizona. He bought a house in the sunny state and continued raising horses down south and going to races. Through the winter months Arizona remained home but Iversen returned to Jones County every summer to help his sons hay and take care of the ranch. This past year was the first since the 70’s that Iversen stayed in Jones County over the winter. He shared that one of his favorite Arizonan memories was playing game after game of shuffle board and usually winning!
Of all of the story triggering memories, Iversen shared that one of his most memorable experiences took place in downtown Dallas, Texas. He and Dean Sandy had just picked up a charolais bull and loaded it into the stock racks on the back of the pickup. The bull was about to be the very first charolais brought home to the state of South Dakota. Iversen and Sandy drove through Dallas on their road trip home and decided to make a pit stop for a cocktail. While inside, the bull managed to jump out of the stock racks of the pickup and began running around downtown Dallas in-between cars and buildings! The cops were the first ones on it’s tail with Iversen and Sandy following closing behind. Iversen remembered he and Sandy yelling at the cops to “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” The cops let the bull live and he was eventually roped and corralled back into the stock racks and delivered safely to the greener pastures of Jones County. Downtown Dallas would never be the same though.
Iversen’s lifetime of accomplishments and stories could easily fill the chapters of a book. Three kids, nine grandkids and 11 great-grandkids have the privilege of looking up to his influence. The passion for horsemanship lives on through the Iversen family as his daughter Georganna and granddaughter Jamilyn raise horses and barrel race. George’s name is also carried on to both daughter and grandson in his honor. Throughout the interview Iversen spoke very highly of his father Ole and accredited his influence to the man that he became. It is easy to see that George Allen has carried on the same legacy to his own family that his father instilled in him. George’s son Roy and wife Judy Iversen now call the original homestead home. Roy and Chris run the family ranch as the third generation of Iversens to carry on the family legacy in Jones County, South Dakota.