October 22, 1950
Jesus Manuel Ramos Rodriguez was born to Juan Ramos and Teldora Rodriquez in Ojinaga, Mexico on October 22, 1950. “Jesse” or “Jess as an only child; his mother died when he was 8 years old. He attended elementary school, and then was passed back and forth to relatives as his father could not care for him. The “school of hard knocks” became his way of life. Although his formal education was cut short, his intelligence and his sharp memory served him well.
Jess became a cowboy early in life in the northern Chihuahuan Desert with his uncle Ramon who raised him on the ranch. He dreamed of a better life in the Unites States where some of his relatives were working. After several attempts, he finally fulfilled that dream in 1969.
Jess had the good fortune to land at Haythorn L & C, in the Nebraska Sandhills. Waldo, Craig and families were generous mentors, and more importantly, became good friends. Jess spoke no English, so Craig and Jess would spend time mastering the language barrier and working on his legal papers.
Jess became skilled in using Belgian draft horses for daily work on the ranch. Many memories were made there, and he often tells of the blizzard of 1975. While trying to save a newborn calf, the blizzard became so dense he could not see the hand in front of his face. He had faith in God and that his bay gelding horse “Bill” would spare his life. Before he knew it, the horse led him back to the barn. An estimated 700 head were lost at the ranch during that storm.
Jess competed in the Nebraska State Rodeo Association. Particularly memorable was when he places 12th at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo arena with heeler Ralph Moul in 1975. He also competed in United States Team Roping Association competitions in later years. Jess and his cousin Juan (john) Ramos won the team roping at Lisco Days in 1991, a belt buckle he still proudly wears. Team roping remains a favorite past time.
Jess worked hard taking classes to get his citizenship in 1995, when he officially changed his name from Jesus to Jess. Jess married Linda Wittmack in 1987, shortly after their meeting at a rodeo in Lewellen. Jess and Linda are the proud parents of Jasen (Cristina) and Risa (Brian) and Jess enjoys being “Papa” to their two energetic grandchildren Madysyn and Daniel Bopp.
Jess has been an authentic career cowboy, working with Nebraska cattle at Rushcreek L & C at Lisco, McGinley-Schilz feedlot at Brule, various feedlots and the IBP packing plant at Lexington.
Upon the family’s move to Valentine in January 1998, Jess interviewed at O’Kief Brothers Ranch and committed to helping them “just through the calving season, “ yet has been an integral part of the ranch the 25 years following. Jess has always preferred the ranch life over town life.
Sharon O’Kief, wife of the late Jerry O’Kief, says “I have known Jess Ramos since he came to work on our place 25 years ago. Jess is a conscientious and knowledgeable cattleman and an energetic and capable ranch hand, generous and helpful. He often does the extra kindness for me, any fellow worker, or anyone needing help. I have a favorite humorous recollection of Jess using effectively an American idiom, because Spanish remains his native tongue. Many years ago a fellow worker suggested fixing a roadside chute by quickly cobbline together some repairs. Jess’ response to the idea: “No way! We don’t need any “sore eyeful” on this topnotch place!” This is Jess-my longtime and respected friend.”