Troy and VeaBea Thomas are fourth generation operators of East Sully’s Thomas Ranch.
When Troy’s great-grandfather arrived in Sully County in 1919, he set up in Buffalo Township, but the Thomas Ranch was eventually established in Pleasant Township and operated by Troy’s grandparents Alvin and Genevieve Thomas, then his parents, Harry and Kay Thomas, and now by Troy and VeaBea in connection with their daughter Cally Kindred.
Apart from attending college and five years they lived in Cimarron, KS, Troy and VeaBea are lifelong residents of the area. Both Sully Buttes alumni, Troy grew up on the Thomas Ranch and VeaBea grew up in Blunt. Although they knew each other growing up and in high school, it wasn’t until after they had graduated that they reconnected.
“I went to Southeast Tech to be an LPN,” said VeaBea. She says the community college didn’t even have a campus at that time. “Nursing classes were in the basement of an elementary school. The departments were spread throughout Sioux Falls.”
Troy attended South Dakota State University for two years in the pre-vet program. He was working with show cattle, and one year didn’t return to school after Christmas break. “If you had a good job, you took advantage of it,” explained Troy.
In an era prior to the connectivity of social media and cell phones, Troy reached out to VeaBea to see if he could ship to her something he needed for the Sioux Falls stock show. “I’m not sure how he got my number,” said VeaBea.
The incident led to a whirlwind courtship, and they were married less than a year later in 1985.
Their daughter Taylor was born in 1987, and the family relocated to Cimarron, KS in 1989. “I was working nights at the nursing home in Cimarron, and Troy encouraged me to go back to school for my RN.” Daughter Cally was born while they lived in Kansas, and VeaBea says that they “went to school together” at Garden City Community College, VeaBea for her nursing program coursework, and Cally for the daycare there.
The operation Troy worked for dispersed their herd after they’d been in Kansas five years, and they returned to South Dakota. “I had to stay to finish school,” said VeaBea, who was in her last semester at the time. “They say you’re not supposed to make any big life changes before you take your nursing boards, but I did. We came back, and I went to Sioux Falls to take my boards. We were the first ones to take our boards on computer.” Her boards successfully passed, VeaBea worked several years as a nurse for St. Mary’s Home Health.
Troy’s passion for beef came as a result have having grown up around livestock. “I didn’t know any better.” They made their home in Onida, and Troy commuted every day to the ranch. “Our operation was growing at that point,” said Troy. “Once we moved back home, I took over the cattle, and dad did the farming.” In addition to their cattle operation, the Thomas Ranch farms about 1500 acres in both East and West Sully.
As their children became more involved in working the ranch and the operation grew, the Thomases determined to live at the ranch. Not long after they had relocated there, their daughter Taylor was killed in a car accident in November 2001.
The Thomas Ranch has since 1972 held a bull sale in the spring. “We always had it at the Highmore Sale Barn, even after it closed,” said VeaBea. “Once it was sold, we built our own sale barn.” The first sale in the Thomas livestock facility was in 2009.
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