Retirement not in Reeves’ vocabulary

By Deborah McCaslin, Chief Publisher Custer County Chief
Jean Reeves has no intention of retiring. She is a 79-year old cowgirl school teacher, to turn 80 in August, who doesn’t like to sit around, so she saddles up her horse and competes.
“I love the sprort of barrel racing,” she told the Chief in June at the National Barrel Horse Racing Association State Finals in Broken Bow.
She says she is a late bloomer... she has only been barrel racing since 1983. Her children were involved in high school rodeo and college rodeo associations before that, and when her youngest graduated, she brought the horses home.
“Someone needed to ride them,” she smiled. She started ribbon roping, had several roping partners, started going to the barrel racing jackpots and liked it. She is the Northwest director for the state association. She makes it to 16-18 jackpots each summer.
Jean was born in Gordon, grew up there, married a Gordon cowboy and stayed. They just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this past June. They ran cattle and at one point had six to eight mares. Jean broke their colts.
“I’ve had a really good life,” she added. “I’ve been blessed with good health.”
She says she would quit now, but she’s having too much fun.
“When I stop having fun, now that’s when I’ll quit.”
She’s talking about her competitive edge for racing horses. She has a new horse and that makes it even more of a challenge.
The old faithful steed she had before was good enough to win three saddles.
“I just stayed on and he knew what to do. He was so steady. The new horse needs some guidance. I never quite know what is going to happen.”
Jean doesn’t remember her first time on a horse. It was up to the children, she and her brother and sister, not yet 10, 11 and 12 years old, to drive the cattle 22 miles through the meadows each year and they made the trip by themselves. It took them two days.
“The old timers believed in work,” she chuckled.
Through the years, as she rode horses, she also spent time with her second love, children. She spent 30 years as a school principal starting her career in education in a one room school, Albany Pine Lodge.
“I had 22 kids and nine grades.”
When she finished her masters degree she went to work in Shannon County, South Dakota and was named South Dakota’s outstanding principal for the 1991-1992 school year.
“I tried to retire, but the college called,” she said.
She works full time for the Oglala Lakota College in South Dakota teaching English and speech.
I love meeting those who work in education,” she said. “I don’t like sitting around.”
Jean isn’t one you can imagine sitting around, there is just too much spunk.
“The people I haul with take good care of me. They look after me. They are really good people,” she added. “I am a very lucky person.”

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