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Texas twins blaze ranch, rodeo trail

The family ranch serves as an outdoor classroom where 13-year-olds, Levi and Laycee Littlefield, learn about hard work, responsibility, and consequences.

Ron Smith, Editor

May 17, 2024

15 Slides

Laycee and Levi Littlefield, 13-year-old twins, are living the American dream. This dream includes caring for cattle and horses in fair weather and foul weather, maintaining excellent grades in school, and training to be competitive barrel racers and team ropers.

Long range goals include studying to be a veterinarian for Laycee and owning a small ranch and learning a trade, like welding, for Levi. And they both aspire to continue competing in rodeo.

Their parents, Chris and Dee Ann, say Levi and Laycee are learning a lot about the value of hard work on the Henrietta, Texas, ranch.


The ranch includes 120 head of Red Angus and Charolais cross cattle and seasonal stocker calves on wheat pasture, as well as cattle for roping.

They also breed horses from an AQHA 7S Big Valley lineage Chris started. He also trains roping horses.

That’s a lot of opportunities for two youngsters to learn about work, responsibility, and consequences.

“Chris and I never push them in any specific direction,” Dee Ann says. “We want them to develop into who they were made to be. I take an approach as a buffet mom: make a lot of things available and see what they keep coming back to.”

Their choice

“Whether they want to run the ranch or not, it’s up to them,” Chris says. “But if they work here every day, they will at least know what needs to be done, and if they hire somebody to run it, they'll know how to choose the right one.”

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He says kids who grow up on a farm or ranch learn hard lessons quickly. “They learn about life and death early on. They learn that they can put heart and soul into something and a cow loses a calf that's two weeks old or she dies giving birth. They learn how to handle and cope with the emotions, and they learn early that we're not in control, even though we do everything we can to make life better.

Teaches caution

“My kids rope and ride and go fast,” he says. “They go with me doctoring cattle. My boy can rope pretty dang good. He's better than most people you hire.  But he's been in training since he was little.”

He also preaches caution. “I tell Levi all the time that this work is life and death; people die doing this because they make one wrong decision in a split second. So, you better be paying attention. And I'm trying to preach to both of them, especially as they come up on driving age, that one wrong decision at 70 miles an hour and somebody's dead.”


Dee Ann says Levi took to roping “since before he could walk. He had something in his hand all the time — a shoestring, a vacuum cord, always swinging something like a rope. At two, he was roping his bouncy horse and a roping dummy in the yard. He always had an affinity for it.”

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“I was riding a horse when I was three,” Levi says.

Laycee had to wait a bit. “Laycee was born with seven heart defects,” Dee Ann says. “When she was little, Chris would put her with him on a horse he was riding.”

“She’s still coping,” Chris says, “but she has overcome a lot. Now, she just has to go back to her doctor for yearly checkups. She’s got a lot of  fight in her. She can start an argument and still be arguing at dark.”

“I started riding on my own at about six or seven,” Laycee says. She says sitting on a horse is her happy place.

“She still has to be somewhat careful with her activity level,” Dee Ann says, “but she lights up on a horse. It can be horribly hot or freezing cold, and she’s riding.”

She says the first horse Laycee claimed, Smarty, a champion performance horse with 60 buckles won in reined cow horse, reining and other events, took care of her. “He would not go too fast and would slow her down. Smarty taught her to ride.”

“Horses are pretty smart; that’s a fact,” Laycee says.

Learning responsibility

The twins are learning independence. “They go to the  barn on their own, they rope dummies, go in the pasture and catch the horses. The horses come up to them and drop their heads. The horses enjoy them too.”

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Dee Ann says her kids learn about consequences. “Anyone in agriculture learns that if you don’t plant a seed, you don’t get a crop; if you don’t water cattle, you don’t have cattle.”

She says Chris is an excellent teacher.

“He’s the best horseman I’ve ever seen. I like to watch him ride. When I have a camera in my hand, I see things differently as photographer. Levi rides much the same way.

“Chris is also a talented horse trainer,” Dee Ann says, and a champion roper, which Levi hopes to emulate.

“Chris hasn’t competed as much in performance horse shows in the last eight years,” she says. “He’s been to fewer shows so he can stay home with the kids. He still goes to some roping competitions.”

Started young

Ranching and roping have been a big part of Chris’ life since he was a boy.

“I’ve been ranching most of my life,” he says. “I started getting paid working for other people as a child. I didn’t get paid much, but I wasn’t worth much.”

He thinks early exposure to work is beneficial but lacking in today’s world. “If we don’t start training kids to be adults prior to 18,  we’re in a mess,” he says. “We already are.”


Dee Ann also grew up on a ranch. “My family still ranches in Arizona,”  she says.

She’s also a journalist and has been a communications specialist for USDA-NRCS for more than 20 years.

“I met Chris when I interviewed him for a story for Western Horsemen,” she says.

She says Chris respects the animals he works with. “Training a horse and being a good roper are different,” she says. “Chris puts the horse first. Some ropers are more focused on the roping. He likes to see his young horses get exposed to competition, watch the fundamentals and see how they hold up.”

Horse first

“Competitive roping was something I did growing up,” Chris says. “I always had to put the horse first. I’m always riding young or inexperienced horses, so I try to do things today to make the horse better tomorrow. The better he gets, the easier it is to rope.”

Chris trains about 10 horses for paying customers a month. Some stay for six months; others might be on the ranch for a year.

“I’m not an assembly line trainer,” he says, “Ranching and raising kids takes a lot of time.”

Training is a process, he says. “But I try to give them all a fair chance. The best way to have a good horse is to start with a good one and go from there. Some people want to start with a marginal one and want you to make it good or great. That just hardly ever works.”

Chris says taking care of animals is paramount. “You

gotta take care of them, so they'll take care of us.”

Dee Ann says the competition benefits the training.

“Rodeo and roping professionals are riding horses Chris trained. He trained one called The Darkk Side who has won more than $100,000 in rope horse futurities.”

Laycee and Levi share that competitive spirit and would like to become professional rodeo competitors.

“One of my favorite things is team roping,” Levi says. “I enjoy roping with different people and winning money.  I’ve won a bit.”

He says he’s “a pretty good roper for my age. I’ll

keep at and hope to make it a career with the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association.”

“I want to grow up to be a champion barrel racer and a vet,” Laycee says. “I don’t look forward to all the schooling, but I do look forward to the work.”

Neither should have trouble with school; both are straight-A students.

Ranch work

They both like ranch work.

“I like working with cattle,” Laycee says.

“I love it,” Levi says. “Someday I would l like to have my own little ranch.”

They don’t spend all their time on the ranch and are involved in 4-H and other activities. Levi played football and baseball for a while but opted to spend more time riding. Laycee plays volleyball and was on the track team as a discus competitor.


This interview took place as they were riding home from a team regional horse judging competition.

“The team ended up first in the intermediate division,” Laycee says. Levi was first in the reasoning category.

Dee Ann says in spite of Laycee’s “near-death experience and many trips to the doctor,” it’s important to give them space. “I’m not a helicopter mom. Laycee’s health issues give her and us a different view of the world. She wants to help others.

“It’s going to be fun to look back and see what they will do.”

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About the Author(s)

Ron Smith

Editor, Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 30 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Denton, Texas. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and two grandsons, Aaron and Hunter.

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