#AgLife: Fair kids – a long way from home

#aglife is a County 10 series, brought to you by Bailey’s Pit Stop Travel Centers, that pulls the curtain back on farm and ranch life in Fremont County.

Solitude doesn’t get the publicity it once did, but when it comes to participating in multitudes of entries at the Fremont County Fair, living a long way from the nearest town isn’t that bad.

Sisters Laura and Rylee Dockery of Sweetwater Station know the realities of living in a very rural setting. The daughters of Thad and Andrea Dockery, live four miles east of Sweetwater Station on Graham Ranch Road on the family ranch. The operation is one of the oldest in Fremont County dating back to the early 20th century when it was known as the Myers Ranch. Later, Doug and Cindy Thompson raised Andrea and her brothers Matt and Doug Jr. on the ranch located on the Sweetwater River.

Laura Dockery displays a cabinet she built {h/t Randy Tucker}

The girls are active in 4H and FFA with recently graduated Laura an active member of the Lander FFA and Rylee an incoming 8th-grade student at Lander Middle School. Laura is showing a steer in the FFA division, but Rylee is without a livestock entry since the poultry show was suspended this year in lieu of the worldwide bird flu associated with laying hens.

It’s a long bus ride for the girls from home to Lander each day, almost 50 miles one way. Laura drives on occasion when she needs to stay in town for events or other reasons.

Rylee Dockery displayed some of her 4H projects created for the fair {h/t Randy Tucker}

“It has its ups and downs. I enjoy being out there, there is no one around for miles,” Laura said. “We have our own little community. Brandings are so fun, even the Jeffrey City community picnic, even though there are only 20 of us.”

A few years away from the freedom that comes with a driver’s license, Rylee is a sociable youngster that doesn’t enjoy the isolation as much as her older sister.

“It’s a long day. If I have homework, it’s a really long day, but I can get a lot of it done on the bus,” Rylee said.

While other students suffered hardships during COVID, it was especially difficult for Laura and Rylee.

“It was really hard during COVID,” Laura said. “It was hard getting service.”

The isolation of the family ranch, set in a hollow among the hills along Graham Ranch Road created problems in getting reliable Internet access for the girls during the quarantine stage of the pandemic.

From their parent’s viewpoint, it wasn’t that bad.

“It was awesome having the extra hands during calving,” Andrea said.

The fair offers a lot of social activity for both girls.

“I like to just walk around, see things and meet people,” Rylee said. “I think hanging out with friends and the events are fun.” 

She had three good friends from Lander Middle School who are spending the week of fair with her.

Laura Dockery displays the action of a Benjamin Franklin style desk she made {h/t Randy Tucker}

Being older, and a recent high school graduate, Laura has more connections than her younger sister.

“I know a lot of kids from Lander and Lander,” Laura said.

Rylee didn’t get to show her chickens this year, but she showed her cat and won Grand Champion in the cat showmanship contest.

Many contestants bring in livestock from professional producers within Wyoming, and others bring them in from a long way away out of state, the Dockery girls don’t, they bring livestock raised on their ranch to the fair.

“My dad won’t run an air conditioner for my steer,” Laura said. “I’m trying to make a profit, so my steer stays in the barn. We just picked a calf out of the herd for the fair.”

In addition to livestock, the girls entered the sewing portion of the fair, and did presentations, and arts and crafts.

Laura created professional quality furniture and woodwork in her industrial arts classes at Lander Valley High School, is an accomplished welder, and has an impressive display of grass, and noxious weeds on display that won top awards at the fair.

Collections of grass and noxious weeds gathered by Laura Dockery {h/t Randy Tucker}

Isolation is what you make it, and Rylee and Laura Dockery have made the best of their situation.

Rylee continues her education as a Lander 8th grade next month, while Laura is headed to Torrington this fall to enter the veterinarian tech program at Eastern Wyoming College.

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