Breakaway sensation Sawyer Gilbert drives her own rig to every event, no matter where it is, crisscrossing the Western U.S. in her truck (she just bought a 2009 Peterbilt Schwalbe to travel in next year). At 19, she has no fear about going the road alone - she actually prefers it that way. Her resolve to take care of her own business would not surprise anyone from Buffalo, where she grew up. It’s in her DNA.
For six generations, the Gilbert family has ranched in Buffalo, South Dakota. Originally a sheep outfit, the home ranch was established through “desert claim” by Sawyer’s great-great grandmother, Louise, where Gilbert Angus Ranch sits today.
From the time she could get on a horse, she helped with the family business. She learned how to drive tractors and pickups before she was 10.
“Growing up, we were always expected to take care of our own business and do our own thing,” Sawyer says of life on the ranch. "That’s always the way it’s been.”
Sawyer and her brother, Grey, who is two years younger, started moving cattle by themselves on horseback. For the Gilberts, there was nothing especially unique about the youngsters working alongside the adults. The kids wanted to be there, and the adults needed the extra hands.
As she waits to participate in the NRA next month, Gilbert has naturally returned to Gilbert Angus Ranch. She has a home in Texas, where she attended college last year and rodeoed, but the family place in Buffalo is home.
“It’s just easier to balance everything when I’m in South Dakota than when I’m in Texas,” she says. “There are so many horses to rope on the ranch - it’s pretty easy to rope 100 a week."
When she hits the road again, Gilbert takes with her all the confidence, savvy and strength she earned and learned at an early age.
“I always want to be able to pick up and go when I want to,” she explains. “And when I make my mind up about something, I know I’m going to do it.”
Her great-great grandmother would be proud.