February 26, 2024

Rural Issues: Real connections in ‘Yellowstone’ make-believe TV

I am an unabashed fan of the “Yellowstone” TV series on the Paramount Network. I have seen every episode — many of them two or three times.

Although I recognize inconsistencies with what happens on the show and what would have happened in real life had such a situation occurred, I remain a loyal fan.

I understand that the politicians, the cowboys, the sixth-generation ranch owner and his children and grandchildren, the environmental activists, the investment bankers and every single other person that plays a part on “Yellowstone” is playing a part on “Yellowstone” — it is not real life!

Spoiler alert: “Yellowstone” is not a documentary. It is a make-believe story about a make-believe ranch owned by a make-believe sixth-generation homesteader with a make-believe son he misses, a make-believe son he pities, a make-believe son he regrets and a make-believe daughter he envies and respects.

Amid the corrupt politicians and corporate tycoons, there are cowboys and law enforcement officers with questionable morals portrayed on the “Yellowstone” series.

It is not a program that I would allow young children to watch with me. The language would make a sailor blush.

I applaud the writers for introducing topics to a consumer base that would have no reason to question the how or why behind what happens in animal agriculture — consumers who may believe that no man should own that much land and that ranchers are not good stewards of the land, mistreat their livestock and pollute the air and water.

Viewers will not get the whole story on a television series written and produced to entertain, but they are seeing more and getting a peek behind the curtains, and I hope beyond all hope that it stirs a curiosity inside of them, so they do ask questions.

In one of my favorite episodes, Patriarch John Dutton describes to his young grandson the difficulties of ranching: taxes, burdensome regulations, market swings, the battle between man and nature and absolute uncertainty.

The boy asks him, “If ranching is so hard, why do we do it?” John Dutton responds, “Because it’s one hell of a life.”

I saw a post on a social media platform announcing Taylor Sheridan, the writer behind “Yellowstone,” will be the speaker in the Opening General Session of the 2023 Cattle Industry Convention.

I always expect the haters to comment on almost any post on Facebook, but I was taken aback by the venomous statements from cattle producers in response to the announcement.

I would like to hear Sheridan speak. I would like to meet him and thank him for creating a series that portrays agricultural life in a way that connects with urban and rural viewers.

Like it or not, the make-believe story of John Dutton and the Yellowstone Ranch is powerful.

Despite a few unrealistic scenes pertaining to “how things are done” on a ranch, I believe anything that we can do to help our consumers feel more connected to the land and where their food comes from is a win.

Sheridan and his co-writers have given those of us who want something better than fake reality TV a program we can look forward to that might make other consumers just a little more aware of where their food comes from.

I do not think it would be wise for us to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.