If there is ever a ‘Prairie Tough’ list, Ron Borys would be sure to be at the top of that list. Turning 79 in July, Ron continues to cattle farm approximately 40 kilometres north of Weyburn. As the old saying goes, “If you win the morning, you win the day,” Ron wins each day by rising around 4 am to attend to approximately 120 head of cattle.
“The beauty of the early mornings is that it’s usually calm, we always seem to have quite a bit of wind in this country, if you get up early in the morning and if there’s going to be a calm time, that’s normally when it is,” explained Ron. “Then you hear the birds singing, and it’s so nice and peaceful outside, if you appreciate mother nature, you’ll appreciate the mornings more than ever.”
We asked Ron how long he’s been cattle farming and what changes he has seen over time.
"I was milking cows from the time I was 9 years old, back then, of course, when I was just a young fellow, it was all loose hay, everybody says man you’ve got big hands well, I can tell you it wasn’t from picking my nose,” chuckled Ron. “It was just the way it was, you worked hard, and you developed lots of muscle and strength, of course, (referring to himself) that’s all gone by the wayside now.”
As a young man, Ron’s dream was to farm. Sometime around 1963, Ron and his wife Carol moved onto the land and began raising their family. While he was excited to be actively pursuing his dream, the realization of his dream meant ploughing through several tough years.
“I’ve got to thank my parents a whole lot, they let me use their land as collateral to purchase my first farm, and we never looked back, it was very difficult the first several years,” shared Ron. “Be d***ed that I was going to let my parents sink because of a decision I had made.”
As the 60s moved on and determined to honour his financial commitments, Ron was willing to take on one of the toughest labourer jobs around. Working 16 hours plus workdays in extreme cold and heat, Ron had now entered what is often called the ‘Working Man’s Playground’, Ron began rough necking in the oilfield.
“I wound up working, the highest paying job back then for a labourer was rough necking, when I started, I was making $1.95 an hour driving a hundred miles one-way to work,” explained Ron. “That was only the first cheque, the second cheque we got a raise, we wound up getting a 10 cent an hour raise to $2.05, and we thought we had the world by the a**.”
While continuing to farm, the oilfield took Ron overseas.
“In 1971, I went overseas on a job with this oil company for $1500 a month which was big money, you couldn’t possibly make that kind of money here,” said Ron. “The next posting, they sent me out to a big sand bar off the east coast of Canada called Sable Island.” Ron’s overseas work in the oilfield also took him to the Philippines.
Keeping his financial commitments to his parents, the oilfield helped Ron pay the bills and build a life for his family, he eventually began farming 3000 acres and raising up to 300 head of cattle.
We asked Ron what his greatest memory as a cattle farmer is.
“When the kids were at home, I had given all the kids some livestock, I let them choose what they wanted, my youngest son had a cow that had triplets, she had five sets of twins, and a set of triplets and she raised them all, she was an amazing cow, she had one single birth in all the time we had her,” said Ron. “Why her fertility was so much greater in that one cow I have no idea.”
The memory of his son’s cow had tough guy Ron leaking a tear or two.
“I’m quite a sentimental person, most people remember me as a hard knock guy but deep down inside I’m not,” shared Ron.
We asked Ron if he had any words of wisdom to offer young grain and cattle farmers.
“You know what, never give up on a dream, I came from a large family, I never thought I would get a chance to farm,” shared Ron. “Nothing but perseverance and eventually I got a chance at life.”
The long hard work has paid off, and now moving on into their later years, Ron and his wife Carol have a second home in Weyburn and now rent out their 3000 acres of land. As Ron’s health has begun to slightly wane, he is now looking to sell off the rest of his cattle this fall and do some much-needed travelling.
“We’re going to do a bunch of travelling; we have a daughter in California, and I’ve got an ole’ buddy who I met overseas, one of the greatest people I’ve ever met who now lives in Houston, Texas, we’re going to generally tour a whole pile of the United States,” explained Ron.