‘Challenges Are Good’: Kristi Noem Grew Up Doing ‘Impossible Things’ on the Farm

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) believes kids in this nation need to face challenges just like she did growing up on the farm.

Noem spoke to the “Todd Starnes Show” about her new book, “Not My First Rodeo: Lessons from the Heartland,” which is less about politics and more about her upbringing and values that shaped her.


STARNES: I do want to go to the Patriot Mobile Newsmaker Line. It’s always an honor to have the great governor of South Dakota with us, Gov. Kristi Noem. She has an incredible new book and we’re going to talk about that book in just a few moments. “Not My First Rodeo,” Governor Noem, welcome back to the show!


Would Gov. Kristi Noem make a good pick for VP in 2024?

NOEM: Oh man, it’s fantastic to be with you. Thank you for inviting me.

STARNES: And first of all, I want to jump into the story. Newsmax reporting that President Biden is still not going to let you guys have fireworks over at Mt. Rushmore. Is that true?

NOEM: It is true. And it is so incredibly devastating for our state because we celebrate freedom and liberty. The Mt. Rushmore is so special to us and the 4th of July is always our time to showcase really great leaders in our past and what they mean to us here in the future. So, yes, and what’s interesting, most people say, Kristi, why do you keep making a big deal over these fireworks? It’s a fireworks show. It’s really not that important. And I would say to them, the reason that it’s important is because the president is violating federal law by not allowing us to have this fireworks show there. And that’s what I think is incredible, is that they’re being so punitive. We’ve jumped through all the hoops. We’ve checked all the boxes. We’ve met the requirements of the permit that we need to host it. And he’s just denying it to be punitive because he doesn’t like me or the decisions we’re making in the state of South Dakota. So I’m suing him in federal court over it, and we will win because we’re right. But in the meantime, yes, we won’t be able to celebrate at Mt. Rushmore. And it’s incredibly disappointing for our whole state.

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STARNES: And it is disappointing. And I’m with you, I think this is nothing more than he’s being mean. And this is some sort of a punishment. And it’s pretty pathetic, if you ask me, especially on Independence Day of all times. Governor, you’ve also been making some headlines. You have been rock solid pro-life since before you got into politics. I mean, this is who you are. You’re just part of the pro-life movement. And, man, is the left coming after you!

NOEM: Yeah, they are. And I guess I’ve just been pretty bold about being clear with the people in this country about what the Supreme Court decision means for us. You know, what the Supreme Court did was to fix the wrong decision that was made almost 50 years ago. And they returned the power back to the states where it should be to make these kinds of laws and really have the decision making be there at home. So, you know, the extremism, the lies, the hypocrisy of what we’re hearing out of liberals and the left over abortion and pro-life and this issue has just been kind of unbelievable to me. The fear that they’re trying to instill in people is just wrong. And so I have been doing quite a bit of press and conversations with folks recognizing that, listen, the science and the technology of what we know happens to these babies has changed so much in the last 10 to 15 years. The amount of pain that we know that they feel, the point of conception, what we’ve learned it just, even people who aren’t religious or didn’t grow up in an environment that was pro-life. It’s hard to argue with the science. And then you’ve got doctors today that when they’re doing procedures and surgeries on these babies in the womb are calling them patients and giving them patients rights and treating them as another individual. How do you then turn around in a different conversation and say that’s not a human being? So that’s the challenge that this country is going to have to wrestle with when they really decide where they stand at the state level on whether abortion should be legal or illegal in South Dakota. It’s illegal today except to save the life of a mother. And I think that that’s incredible to have a state standing for life the way that our people have.

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STARNES: I completely agree. And you’ve made some tough decisions, but they’ve been the right decisions and you’ve stood by those. And I think the people of South Dakota and really the nation really respect our lawmakers who deliver on their campaign promises, Governor.

NOEM: Well, I talk about this quite a bit in my book that’s being released today. And you know, people don’t really understand sometimes about why I make the decisions that I make. And I think hopefully this book will help them understand who I am, the way I grew up, my values, my faith. And they’ll really see that when they understand who I am, that they’ll understand a little bit more my respect for the Constitution, my love for this country, and why I do the things that I do. People would sometimes put me in a classification of saying that I’m controversial or polarizing, and that’s not my nature at all. It’s just that we’ve had such big issues the last several years since I’ve been governor, rise to the surface of this country that I’ve just been attacked. I’ve been attacked over and over again, yet not willing to cave to the agenda that they have, and that’s created quite a bit of attention.

STARNES: Let’s talk about the book. It’s called “Not My First Rodeo.” And folks, we have a direct link to it over on our live show blog. You can get it wherever you buy your books, your favorite bookstore. Governor, take us through that process. What’s it like growing up on a ranch? I have to imagine that kids that grow up on ranches grow up pretty quickly.

NOEM: Oh, well, you know, Dad expected us to do things that he never taught us how to do. You know, I tell people all the time. I think I started driving when I was eight years old. Probably was driving in the semis the first time when I was 12. You know, we had to work with cattle and livestock all the time. We had to figure stuff out. I said the greatest gift my parents gave me and all of us kids growing up was impossible things to do. I mean, just things that you thought as a kid, how am I going to do that? But when we did it, it created and made us problem solvers. It built our confidence that, you know, if I can do that, I bet I can do anything. And that’s really what we’re doing in this country is crippling our children by doing everything for them. We should be giving them hard things to do. We should be recognizing that challenges are good for us. They’re an opportunity to over-perform, an opportunity to build talent we didn’t know we had, that stressful and hard situations are ones that make us better, and we’re stealing that from our children when we try to protect them from hard things.

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STARNES: I don’t know what it was like for you, but I remember growing up as a kid in the seventies, you know, as soon as you finished breakfast, your mom was like, Alright, I don’t want to see you till sundown, you know? Close the door. Go outside and play. And that’s how you did things.

NOEM: Oh, yeah. We would, you know, we had horses. And so there’s many times we would go get on our horses, as, you know, seven, eight, nine, ten year olds and be gone all day till dark. We’d go to the neighbors, which was four or five miles away, and meet them half way and ride or go hunting. Or in the wintertime, we’d meet on snowmobiles and, you know, it was a wonderful way to grow up. And we just grew up in a way that was very independent, yet very close as a family. And we took care of each other.

STARNES: You had a pretty a tragic experience in your life when your father passed and you went back to the farm. You’re running the farm and the ranch. Take us through that process in that moment.

NOEM: Well, I got married at age 20, so very young. And when I was 22, my dad was killed in an accident on our farm. And at that time, we had one of the larger farm operations in the state and we were probably farming about 10,000 acres, had a cow calf operation, a lot of feedlot, several different businesses. And he was only 49 years old at the time. And I ended up quitting college and coming home and taking over as general manager and working with my family to try to keep the operation together. We got hit with death taxes, too, within several months of his death, and I just remember being so completely overwhelmed at the fact that we lost this man that held everything together. I had planned on being in business with him the rest of my life, and he was just gone. And then all of a sudden, having a federal government law come in and threaten to take our business away, too. We took out a loan to pay those taxes, took us ten years. And it made me angry that we have this tragedy and all of a sudden the federal government was threatening our livelihood. So it was, it was a very, very difficult time for us. In fact, at the time dad died, I was eight months pregnant. And I think my mom will tell you I did not deal with it well, that all I wanted to do was work. I remember I came home from the hospital with that baby and we had a blizzard coming, and I asked my brothers if the caves were in the barn and up close to shelter, and they said no. And I left and didn’t come home for two days. You know, we just worked with the cows and taking care of them and my mom took care of my baby. So I think for that first year or two, that little girl grew up in tractors and pickups. But also, you know, I think it makes you realize what’s valuable. And eventually I was able to grieve my dad. But it’s hard when you have things like that happen in your life, teaches you a lot about yourself, but it also teaches you to rely on your faith.

STARNES: No, you’re right. And and I think those lessons, just those early, foundational years, really created the person you would become as the governor. The governor who really stood up to Washington, D.C., especially during the days of the China virus pandemic.

NOEM: Yeah. You know, we had a lot of people trying to tell us what to do and a lot of people not knowing what this unprecedented event was going to do to our country and to the people at home. A lot of folks and health care officials that were scared and then you had people perpetuating that on the national news all the time. So yeah, I think it was a unique situation and especially for governors who had to decide what to do in each of their states. I just focused a lot on what my job was. I didn’t want to do anything that wasn’t my job. I really believed in the fact that the Constitution clearly defined what authority governors have, what authority we didn’t have, and we followed that. So it was the only state, South Dakota was the only state that never once closed a single business or didn’t even define what essential businesses were, because I don’t believe the government has the authority to tell you your business isn’t essential and did not mandate anything. It was a firestorm. I was taking heat from all sides, not just the liberals every night on the national news, but even conservatives were saying, “what are you thinking?” Even people in my state, long time supporters were, “You got to get in line. This is going to kill you politically.” And, you know, it was a little bit of a lonely time. We’re so grateful for the support of my family and for a few key people in my administration that when I made a decision, we did it. And I think our state is really benefiting from that today. [00:11:14][85.1]

STARNES: Governor Kristi Noem is on the Patriot Mobile Newsmaker Line. Governor, before we let you go, you’ve got to share one of the funny stories of these barnyard battles with the feisty cows, you got to give us one of those funny stories.

NOEM: Oh, I tell a story in there about my dad sending me and my brother over to get a cow in the barn. And her just, you know, she just calved, had a fever, was mean and pretty much wanted to stomp us on the ground. And we were just little kids, and after failing over and over again, we came back and told dad we just couldn’t do it and that wasn’t acceptable. He heads back to the corral, climbs in, had his rubber over boots on, didn’t even buckle them, because he was so upset with us kids, he jumped into that corral, put the cow in a headlock and tripped on his overshoes, ended up with her kneeling on his chest, rubbing him in the dirt. And we eventually got the cow off of Dad. We thought he was going to be killed, but his response was, “Well, I had her right where I wanted her until I tripped on my shoe.” And we said, “Sure, Dad. Yeah, you looked like it.” I don’t know what kind of a man tries to put a cow in a headlock, but he was pretty convinced he had her whipped until he tripped.

STARNES: That’s pretty impressive.

NOEM: It’s one of those stories that are pretty fun, and they’re the ones that will tell you a little bit about my dad’s tenacity and how he approached every situation.

STARNES: Well, Governor, congratulations. This is exciting. And you’re going to have a lot of fun out there promoting the book. “Not My First Rodeo.” Folks, we got a copy of it over at the website. Governor, congratulations.

NOEM: Oh, thanks so much, Todd. You have a wonderful day. Thanks so much for talking about the book. I hope everybody will enjoy it. It’s a book of my life, but it’s got a few fun political stories in there, too. I think people will enjoy it.

STARNES: I cannot wait to read it. Governor, again, thank you. Governor Kristi Noem from the great state of South Dakota. And folks, you can get that book over at toddstarnes.com.

I want you get get a copy of my latest book – Culture Jihad: How to Stop the Left From Killing a Nation. It’s available at your favorite bookstore or ToddStarnes.com.

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