PIERZ — Inez Hayes is a creature of habit.
She gets up every morning before the sun rises, and has for at least the last 60 years.
“It’s so beautiful in the morning,” Hayes said. “The birds are singing. The air is crisp. I love the outdoors.”
Hayes owns and operates Rockin’ H Cattle Ranch on the outskirts of Pierz. At 83, she runs the ranch on her own.
Hayes and her late husband, Kenneth, got into dairy farming in 1947 after Kenneth returned from his World War II military service. Inez said that while she and Kenneth grew up just miles away from each other, they met only shortly before he was shipped overseas.
“We exchanged letters for two years,” she said. “When he came back we decided to get married.”
The Hayes family started out helping Kenneth’s father manage his dairy farm and eventually started their own.
“There were no jobs when he got out of the service,” Hayes said. “He was a truck driver for the military and that’s what he wanted to get into, but he couldn’t find a job. So you have to do what you know.”
Hayes said their farm had as many as 100 dairy cows at one time. That meant a lot of work for the whole family.
“Everybody had their job,” she said. “We were up every morning to milk the cows at five and then again at five in the evening.”
In 1990, after five decades of dairy farming, Inez and Kenneth transitioned their farm into an Angus beef ranch to lighten some of the pressure of dairy farming.
“It was a lot different,” Hayes said. “You get used to getting up at five in the morning.”
In 1999, Kenneth died, leaving the farm to Hayes, who decided she would continue with business as usual. She has no plans of slowing down.
“I had to have something to do,” she said. “I could do dumber things, I guess.”
Hayes said she does most of the work around the farm herself, and for the things she can’t do her family is always happy to help out.
“The only thing I don’t do is I don’t bail,” Hayes said. “If I need help or get stuck or something, they’ll come pull me out.”
Hayes granddaughter, Kellie Hinnenkamp, said she has great memories of being on her grandparents’ farm.
“My best memory of my grandma is seeing her out in the fields on her small orange tractor with an umbrella attached and sharing her seat with her Australian Shepherd, Patches,” Hinnenkamp said. “She always shares her seat on the tractor with Patches.”
Last year, Hayes underwent triple-bypass surgery, forcing her to sell most of her cattle. Within months of her recovery, Hayes was already thinking about rebuilding her herd again.
“I’m starting over,” she said. Hayes currently has eight cattle and plans to double her herd this summer.
Hinnenkamp said she proud of her Grandma Inez and they way she continues to work.
“I love how spunky and sassy she is,” Hinnenkamp said. “She has more life in her than most people I know.”
Hayes said besides taking care of her farm, she enjoys the company of her three dogs, her family and, of course, eating a good roast beef dinner.
“Everybody says they look forward to that when they come to grandma’s for roast beef,” she said. “They can’t believe how good it tastes, and I say, ‘Well, I raised it myself.’”
SARAH NELSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5879.