Hit TV Show ‘Yellowstone’ Show Gets A Lot Right, Wyoming Ranchers Say

While it certainly amps up some lurid and violent elements for entertainment value, the Paramount hit television series Yellowstone is grounded in the realities of modern ranching, say some Wyoming cattle producers.

Mark Heinz

February 21, 20236 min read

Yellowstone show 1 2 21 23 scaled
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

No, ranchers don’t typically resolve matters with difficult people by taking them to an isolated section of Wyoming highway, executing them and then tossing their bodies over a cliff. 

The infamous “Train Station” – a euphemism the fictional Dutton Family uses for the place they take people to be permanently rid of them – is one aspect of the wildly popular “Yellowstone” streaming service series that’s pure fantasy, some Wyoming ranchers say. 

“Everybody always talks about the ‘Train Station,’ but that’s pretty far-fetched,” Kendall Roberts Told Cowboy State Daily. “I don’t know ranchers to be that cutthroat. We’re tough, and we’re stubborn but that is a pretty tall tale.”

Roberts’ family runs a ranch west of Cheyenne and has been in the ranching business for five generations, three generations in Wyoming. 

Dennis Sun, a veteran rancher and publisher of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, agrees. 

Along with the icy-hearted executions at the “Train Station,” much of the violence, profanity and lurid behavior depicted in the hit Paramount television show – set on a sprawling ranch in Montana’s Paradise Valley – isn’t realistic, he said. 

“Thank God we don’t act like that,” he said. “The constant fighting and the profane language – you don’t really see that out there on the ranches.”

Nevertheless, Roberts and Sun said they both immensely enjoy watching the show and appreciate what it gets right about ranch life. 

Preserving A Legacy

The show’s main character, John Dutton – played by Kevin Costner – embodies the tenacious spirit that ranching families have for preserving their legacies, Roberts said. 

She said Costner “is a guy who always does the same kind of storyline, he’s a man against all odds. He may have his family, but he feels obligated to be the captain of that ship, and he does whatever it takes to save the ranch.”

Roberts sees that reflected in the efforts that she, her sister and brother take to keep their family’s ranch going.

“It’s about the importance of the legacy of this place. Ranching is hard, but we continue to do it because there really isn’t a better life,” she said. 

Sun said the show has brought an appreciation for ranchers and ranching to a broad, modern audience.

“They’ve got America’s attention, and it’s brought on quite a new awareness of the American West and what ranchers go through,” he said. “It’s probably also done wonders for the people who make hats and boots.”

Roberts said she loves the show’s use of “ranch-isms” – or wry sayings that ranchers use to reflect their experiences. 

“John Dutton has said, ‘Ranching is the only business where the goal is to break even,’ and that’s true,” she said. 

Big Drama, Real-World Topics

Sun said he started watching the show regularly during its current fifth season, and notes that it’s touched on some challenges that ranchers actually face. 

“It seems that they’ve gotten into issues that ranchers in the West, especially in our area, have gotten into, such as wolves,” he said. “They’ve shown some of the troubles with development, people coming in and wanting to take over the land.”

The complications of dealing with the interface between ranch property and adjoining federal and state public lands also are an element of “Yellowstone” storylines, Roberts said. 

“We deal with a lot of federal land and property issues, and that’s shown in ‘Yellowstone’ too,” she said. 

She and Sun said that the interpersonal drama and other elements of the show are blown completely out of proportion compared to real life, but they agree that’s what makes the show engaging and entertaining. 

One manifestation of the show’s outsized nature is the Dutton family’s gigantic main ranch home, referred to as “The Lodge,” Sun said. 

“That house that they live in, you do see some larger ranch houses, but that there is a little overboard,” he said.

Family Ties

Roberts said she can see her and her siblings reflected in some of the show’s characters. 

With, “sort of” being the key term as it relates to Beth Dutton, played by Kelly Reilly. 

“My sister is like Beth – definitely not the evil part – but in the way she watches over the ranch,” Roberts said. 

In the show, Beth is known for her volcanic temper and the shrewd, conniving manner in which she deceives – and then destroys – her family’s enemies.  

Roberts said she and her husband are somewhat like Kayce Dutton and his wife Monica, played by Luke Grimes and Kelsey Asibille. 

“We ended up coming back to live on the ranch full-time, like Kayce and Monica did,” she said. “My husband left a good job with John Deere to come back here.”

Connected To The Past, Mindful Of The Future

Roberts added that she’s also excited to see “Yellowstone” spin-offs, such as “1883” and “1923,” which explore the history of the Dutton family and the ranch. 

That reflects reality because ranchers feel a strong connection to their families – including those who are gone and generations yet to be born, she said. 

“We’re borrowing this land from our grandchildren,” she said. “If we don’t take care of it and protect it, they’ll lose this legacy.”

Share this article



Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter