June 15, 1941-November 16, 2006
Bernie was born June 15, 1941, in Mullen, to Kenneth and June Simonson. He married Lex Ann Teaford on April 20, 1963. They have three children: Gordon, J.W., and Paulette.
Bernie grew up on the Lowe and Simonson Ranch north of Seneca with his parents and a younger sister, Carla. He was a big help on the ranch. In the fall, when he was a young boy, he helped trail two year old steers to Mullen and put them on the train for Omaha. He also worked on the Harley Nutter Ranch in the hayfields for two summers during high school. He graduated from Thedford High School in 1958 and worked on the Glen Nutter ranch after graduation. He spent one winter working for Dick Smith helping him calve out cows. He learned at an early age the work ethic and tactics that were necessary in running a ranch successfully because of what he learned from his working experiences. He witnessed the livestock industry grow; from running two and three year old steers to selling calves off the cows.
The Teaford Ranch eventually became Bernie’s permanent home. He came to the ranch to work for his future in-laws, Raymond and Winifred Teaford. He married their daughter, Le Ann, and the Teaford and Simonson Partnership was formed. Bernie and Lex Ann ranched for several years with Raymond and Winifred. The ranch produced commercial cattle from the beginning with yearlings being the main part of the business. Raymond and Bernie based their herd on the Hereford breed of cattle. Bernie and his son, Gordon, eventually formed a partnership and continued the tradition of raising excellent, first rate cattle on the Teaford and Simonson Ranch. Bernie had an eye for good cattle and raised some of the best calves and yearlings in the country. His love was selling grass yearlings in the summer and fall. He would start selling yearlings in early July and they had to weigh 875-900 pounds before he would take them to town. In the later years, with Gordon, the focus of the herd was based on the Angus breed. The tradition of first rate cattle grew stronger and Bernie shared his wisdom of ranching with his son Gordon as well as with several neighbors and friends.
Quarter horses were another passion of Bernie’s with a good share of horses bred and raised on the ranch. Most of all the home grown geldings were broke to ride on the ranch and were used in the rodeo arena. Bernie sold the fillies as weanlings. He personally enjoyed doing all of the cattle work horseback and did so until the year before his death. Bernie refused to work cattle any other way.
Bernie was a member of the NSRA for a number of years. He participated in steer wrestling, team roping, and even tried a little bull riding. He, and his wife Lex Ann, traveled to the NSRA rodeos for a number of years. She would run the barrels and had great success on Bernie’s horse “Wiz.”
He encouraged all of his kids to rodeo and furnished them with bucking horses to ride, steers to rope and goats to tie. If the kids wanted to go to the rodeos they had to practice to perform at their best level. His kids all had great success because of the work ethic that he instilled in them. His children won many awards, but he was most proud of the fact that all three of his children got college rodeo scholarships that paid for all of their college education.
He also had some helpful hints for his grandkids who were just starting out their rodeo careers. He enjoyed watching the next generation of Simonsons rodeo and try their best.
He was a member of R-Calf and the Elks Club. He was the “Elk of the Year” in 1991. He was a director in the Purdum Fire Department. He enjoyed fishing and arrowhead hunting.
Bernie Simonson was one of the most respected people in the country, for his knowledge and ability, of the ranch way of life. He lived on Goose Creek for 43 years and was a steward of the land. Caring for his pastures and making sure the hay was put up in a timely manner. His equipment and fences were always in good condition.
He built an excellent cow herd, and always bought top bulls, as a result the calves or yearlings would sell near the top, or most of the time would top, the market.
When you helped work cattle for Bernie, you knew everything would be well organized and planned out. He was also a very good cook. He would help work cattle in the morning, and about 11:00 he would leave and go to the house and have a complete meal ready when we came in. Bernie always had the house clean and everything in place. He carried on very well after Lex Ann passed away. Bernie taught his family how to handle cattle and manage the ranch the way he did. He was good for the community always helping someone, and optimistic when things were tough. He would laugh and say “it’s going to rain” or “things will work out, don’t worry.”
Bernie always rode good, well-trained horses, and I think one of the things he missed the most before he passed away was when he couldn’t ride or help work cattle anymore.