Nebraska Marine Daegan William-Tyeler Page Defending the Soil Memorial Award
Grover and Vicki Thompson, long-time ranchers in the Alliance, Neb. area accepted the
Nebraska Marine Daegan William-Tyeler Page Defending the Soil Memorial Award on Saturday, Aug. 26 during the Graze Master Group – Essentials of Agriculture Workshop held at the Cheyenne County Fairgrounds in Sidney, Neb. recently.
The award was designed to honor the memory of Corporal Page who served in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Division based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. On August 26, 2021, Page, age 23, was among the 13 U.S. service members killed in the attack at the Abbey Gate of the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan. At least 169 Afghans were also killed in the bombing, as they struggled to get on flights out of the country.
The Graze Master Group designed this award to keep alive the memory of sacrifices made by Page, his comrades, and also military service members along with their families who have made sacrifices for generations before and will for generations to come. The very least we can do as farmers and ranchers is to protect and renew the soil under our management and care after it has been fought for and defended in a multitude of ways.
Grover Thompson was raised on a ranch on his grandparents’ homestead southeast of Alliance, Neb. After high school, he headed to Colorado State University (CSU) where he also participated in college rodeo.
Thompson enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966 and achieved the training necessary to serve on the 5th Special Forces Group (Green Berets). He served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969.
“A lot of people don’t understand about special forces,” Thompson said. “I was on an A-Team and there for two years. A lot goes on. There were 12 people on the A-Team – you train your own troops and everything.”
“It was very different for the Vietnam vets when we got back home,” he added, matter-of-factly. “Some of it wasn’t good.”
Upon his discharge, Grover returned to the ranch while his brother Harold served in the army. When Harold came back, Grover went back to Fort Collins and rodeoed in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for a number of years. He qualified for the National Finals Steer Roping in 1969. His love for calf roping found success in that area as well.
Thompson also found the love of his life while in Fort Collins. A lady from Chicago – Vicki Janik, was rodeoing at CSU in breakaway roping. In 1972, she qualified for the college finals rodeo in breakaway roping. It was a natural match, as they shared a love for horses and rural landscapes. Vicki boarded a horse outside of Chicago on a farm and the rest is history.
After the couple were married, they returned to a ranch south of Alliance that Grover’s dad Glen bought during the Great Depression. In 1987, Grover attended a week-long Holistic Resource Management school taught by Alan Savory. He then returned to the ranch and started implementing principles he learned to improve the range, cattle, wildlife, and finances.
“When I came home, I built a little fence around a couple of lakes the cattle wouldn’t eat around. It took me a year-and-a-half to really get thinking about it,” Thompson recalled. “We went to rotating the cattle and really could tell the difference in the quality of grasses that came.”
In 1999, the Thompsons began purchasing Kit Pharo bulls to develop smaller, more efficient cows. Another influencer was Bud Williams, who held a workshop on low-stress cattle handling. Eager to continue to improve the ranch, learn, and help others learn as well, Thompson served on the board of directors for the Nebraska branch of the Center for Holistic Management (the organization is now Holistic Management International). He said he, “enjoyed the ranch tours and workshops to learn new ideas from like-minded people.”
Grover was also on the water board for the Natural Resources District for many years and the Thompson family received the Environmental Steward Award from the Nebraska Cattlemen in 2005. The couple’s legacy of ranching and stewardship continues today with their grown children – Amanda and Frank. The couple said their children, “Grew up doing every job on the ranch and having fun along the way.”
Amanda went to college at the University of Wyoming and earned her Doctorate in Pharmacy. Currently, she is a clinical pharmacist at the VA Hospital in Cheyenne, Wyo. Her parents said their daughter loves her job and patients, but her heart is still on the ranch, and she enjoys coming home to help with any kind of project and hang out with the family. She also serves on the committee as a volunteer for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.
Frank went to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs after high school to train in international skeet shooting. He has a degree in business administration from the University of Colorado Springs. He also traveled the world with Team USA. After his second Olympics in 2016, he came back to the ranch where he is happily ranching to the delight of his parents who decided to lease him the ranch in 2020. He and his wife Mandy have an eight-month-old daughter Elsie. Frank also enjoys learning and attended Ranching for Profit school and many other workshops.
Mandy was born in Hawaii, and moved with her family to rural Colorado when she was eight years old. Her family had horses and showed 4-H steers too. Later she would earn a degree in healthcare administration from Metro College in Denver. When she and Frank came back to Nebraska, she worked in admissions and administration at Highland Parke Care Center in Alliance, Neb. After their daughter Elsie was born, Mandy enjoyed being home on the ranch so much that she decided to leave her town job. Now Mandy is the “vice president of polywire,” always trying to keep up with her husband’s grazing moves.
Today, Grover said he finds a lot of joy seeing a new generation of young ranchers in their area, “I enjoy visiting with them and discussing new ideas.”
His wife said a phrase that describes her husband well is, “I fix stuff. I know things.”
A life of service and ranching in the sandy soils of Alliance, Thompson said in closing, “About the most important thing when it comes to cattle is you have to have water before you have anything else. The sand doesn’t work like other soils do. But, we have always been blessed with water here and that makes a big difference along with careful management.”
Grover and Vicki still enjoy the ranch life. Grover noted, “I help Frank – whatever he needs me to do. But, it’s time to stop being in charge when you’re 78.”
Besides, Grover said, there’s plenty of hunting to do as well as sitting back enjoying the cattle and family, Vicki’s cooking, and her company too.