Roderick quickly found work as a ranch-hand - at first near Terry and the following year up the Powder River at the Mason Ranch. Then, in 1893, the family moved east to the tiny settlement of Ekalaka, close to what would become the Medicine Rocks State Park and the Custer National Forest. There Roderick began to raise sheep and cattle on his own account, on the open range along the Little Beaver Creek, to the north of the town.
Ekalaka lay in the southeast corner of Montana, bordering upon South Dakota and Wyoming. In 1893 it was still part of the sprawling Custer County, administered from Miles City. The township itself was little more than a hamlet that had been established when a waggonload of booze for thirsty cowboys became bogged down, and the owner, rather than move on, opened a saloon on the spot.
The place was named after a Sioux woman, related to Red Cloud and Sitting Bull, who married a buffalo-hunter who became a rancher. In this remote location - almost as isolated as the places they had known in the Falklands - Roderick and Mary finally put down roots. On the grasslands along Little Beaver Creek they created a ranch that was mostly given over to sheep-rearing. Quite apart from Roderick sticking to what he knew best, sheep were more suited than cattle to the local environmental conditions - they were hardier creatures, better able to withstand the fierce winters and occasional summer droughts, and to find nourishment in poor pastures. But if Roderick became a fairly typical Western 'sheepman', his real love, and a source of welcome additional income, lay in his rearing and training
of sheep-dogs. He imported collies from Scotland and sold on their offspring as trained working dogs to ranches and farms across the USA.
As at Lochinver in New Zealand, so too on the Little Beaver Creek ranch, most of the work was done by family labour. During the 1890s the older boys - Roderick, James and Colin - came into their teens and could be relied upon to take an increasing role in moving, guarding, rounding-up or shearing the flocks, as well as branding the cattle that were also part of the ranch's livestock. During the 1890s too, there were further additions to the family. Katherine was born at Terry in 1891, while three more daughters were born at Little Beaver Creek - Williamina (1894), Alexandrina Victoria (1896) and Dolly Christine (1899). With his daughters (including the three older ones, Mary, Maggie and Nellie) in mind, Roderick built a family home in Ekalaka in 1900, to which the bulk of the family then moved. The principal aim was to save the girls the ten miles round trip to and from school in Ekalaka, but issues of personal safety were probably involved as well. The open range was not yet fully 'tamed', and Mary, often left at home with the girls while the menfolk were away, had had to deal with at least one prospective horse-thief.
We have few specific details about the nature or extent of the Munro herding business over the years. The impression is of a fairly fluid and mobile existence - of sheep and cattle being moved from place to place over the open range, sometimes over considerable distances if grazing was scarce, and of the men in the family alternating work on their own property with employment on other ranches. The pastoral economy was flourishing - livestock and wool prices were high, and large herds of cattle were regularly trailed past the Munro place, from Wyoming to the railway to the north. Although the family prospered, it seems to have been a modest prosperity which could not deliver full employment for all of the family. Consequently, when Colin Munro, Roderick's younger brother, turned up in Montana around 1904 he found himself working on neighbouring ranches rather than on Roderick and Mary's property.
It is not clear what title Roderick may have had to the 'spread' on Little Beaver Creek before 1903 - when he registered a claim for 160 acres under the Homestead Act. In 1906 three separate pieces of land, totalling 320 acres, were purchased from their owners and registered in Mary's name - which may have been an attempt to protect their original property from land speculators, as the open range of eastern Montana came under pressure from new settlers. Since only 160 acres could be claimed under the Homestead Act of 1862, and this was too little to support faming enterprises on the high plains, much of the earliest homesteading activity in Montana had a speculative character. However, high grain prices and the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909, which doubled the area that could be claimed by 'proving-up', turned the former trickle of farmers coming into eastern and central Montana into a veritable tide, and large parts of the state shifted from pasture to tillage almost overnight. At the height of the boom we see several members of the family registering land titles in the southeastern corner of Montana - in what became Carter County in 1917. How much of this reflected the needs of the growing family to create independent properties for the rising generation, and how much was speculation in an active land market, is difficult to discern from a distance. However, the farming boom was short-lived. The plough laid the land open to wind erosion, productivity declined sharply, and severe droughts in 1918 and 1919 wiped out the crops. Most of the homesteaders who had flocked into Montana after 1909 left again from 1920 onwards, and livestock production once again became the mainstay of the eastern districts.
By the height of the homesteading boom, the Munros were well established in and around Ekalaka. Roderick and Mary had become 'pillars' of the local community, and their children were busy weaving connections to a wider society. Many of the new generation had been away to Miles City for education - including all of the girls - because Mary in particular had that strong Scottish belief in the value of education. For most of the girls, the end of schooling was followed fairly quickly by marriage. May Ann married a Scandinavian immigrant named Olsen and had four children before being killed by a tornado at Fairview (on the Montana-North Dakota border) in 1917; Maggie, who married a man named Richard Ferguson in Ekalaka in 1905, had five children by 1913; Nellie, the only one to have been born in Scotland ( at Knockfarrel), married Paul MacLean, the son of the sheriff of Ekalaka, in 1913 and they had five children in all; in the same year, 1913, Katherine married a rancher named John Hanson and moved with him to Hanley, North Dakota, where they raised four children; then in 1915 Victoria married Charles Pickard, and Englishman (from Cornwall) who had a butcher's business in Ekalaka.