Embracing the possibilities
From the day he arrived on campus, Kevin has embraced all the possibilities Boys Ranch offers. From his cowboy hat to his all-around cowboy buckle to reciting cowboy poetry, Kevin embodies the western lifestyle.
“I grew up on a farm and ranch, and I knew how to swing a rope, but it wasn’t team roping kind of stuff that we do now,” he said. “They said I looked pretty good that first time, because I had that background. I was pretty comfortable with it.”
He stayed comfortable with it. For the five years he has been at Boys Ranch, he has competed in the Boys Ranch Rodeo, roping and riding roughstock while earning multiple buckles.
“I was nervous (at that first rodeo),” he said. “It’s kinda nerve-wracking with everyone watching you. But I did pretty good. I think I got second in roping.”
Kevin also found a home in the Farming and Ranching Experiential Learning Program, one of the tracks that allows Boys Ranch residents to sample different career possibilities. Many residents try several ELPs before finding one that fits them best, but Kevin never left the ag program, where he works with cattle and the farming side of the ranch.
At home on a horse
For the past two springs, Kevin has been entrusted with one of the most difficult and demanding of cattle responsibilities: roping the calves for branding. The roper must work patiently and slowly, laying trap loops for calves to step into and then quickly snagging the calves and calmly pulling them to the branding fire. It’s not a task for beginners, but Kevin is modest about his success.
“It’s just a little more difficult than roping a steer’s head,” Kevin said. “It was good that I was catching them this year. Cooper is one of the horses I ride. He’s my team roping horse. He’s a fun horse to ride. The one I was branding on, he’s a little green. We’re working on him to get him sound and back into the horse barn so they have him for trail rides.”
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Kevin can’t remember the first time he was on a horse, and he grew up watching other people work with horses, so helping a green horse along comes naturally to him.
What came harder was getting along with people, he said, something he has been working on since he arrived at Boys Ranch.
“I’ve been here for so long and I’ve seen kids change,” Kevin said. “It’s made an impact on my life. I like the impact that it can set on a kid in a good way and make them better.”
Following a new path
Kevin said he was making poor decisions and getting into trouble when his parents heard about Boys Ranch.
“So we drove down here and looked it over,” he said. “It was pretty cool, and we heard a lot of good things about it. I did my interview, and after a couple of weeks, they said yes. If I hadn’t come out here, God knows what it would be like right now.”
Since then, he has been making better choices, he said.
“Coming (here) away from my family, I realized if I kept doing what I was doing, I could go down the wrong path,” he said.
He liked Boys Ranch initially because it wasn’t just a collection of homes, but a true community with a ranch located in the middle of ranching country.
“I think it’s pretty awesome,” Kevin said. “I believe in God. It kinda takes it back to crazy things He has done and all the good things He has done for us – how big He is and why I believe in Him. We just went through some alfalfa fields, and it shows the beauty and grace of God. I think it’s pretty awesome.”
At Boys Ranch High School, Kevin has been putting his athleticism to work in sports, playing football for the Roughriders – defensive end and left tackle.
“I’m the smallest guy in either position, but I’m aggressive is what they say,” he said. “I get after it. I hope the new uniforms put a little more confidence in us and we win a game.”
Boys Ranch won new uniforms from Xenith after Facebook fans voted for the team in consecutive rounds. The uniforms are expected to debut this fall.
“I play baseball,” he said. “Last year, I broke my arm coming off a bronc. I couldn’t play. Then I was really excited I was going to be able to play this year and tore my ACL. I couldn’t play this year. Hopefully next year, no injuries.”
Kevin will be a senior for the 2021-22 school year, and he’ll take some college courses as well. After graduation, he plans to earn an associate’s degree, perhaps becoming a veterinary technician.
“Maybe I’ll end up being a rancher,” he said.