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APHA

Caring for her Flock

LeAnn Hart’s faith guides her ministry as a ranch wife, mother and community pillar.

By Abigail Boatwright

Before a group of women at the forefront of Western culture, LeAnn Hart stepped to the podium. This was the inaugural Cowgirl Essence Exchange, held in the Cowboy Channel’s recording studio in Fort Worth’s Historic Stockyards in November 2020, and LeAnn was sharing a message on Sunday morning. With humor and earnest faith, mixing bucking bull analogies with biblical truth, LeAnn brought encouragement to the group. Anyone who meets LeAnn can see she’s the real deal—and if you spend enough time with her, she’ll probably offer to pray for you, too.

Dollywood Dreams

Born in Southern Louisiana, LeAnn’s family raised dairy cattle and she rodeoed along with her siblings, running barrels, goat tying and roping. She became a Christian at 8 years old, and she has continued that faith throughout her life.

After high school and a semester of college, 18-year-old LeAnn auditioned for, and earned, a gig singing in a Dolly Parton biographical musical at the Dollywood theme park. She packed her bags and moved to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, ready to spread her wings and play young Dolly for the show. With flashing blue eyes and blonde hair, she was the youngest person hired for the show by four or five years.

“It was pretty impressive, a complete change of scenery, completely different environment than what I grew up in, and a lot of adjustments had to be made,” LeAnn said. “I ended up working on a little ranch at one point [while working in Pigeon Forge], just because I really missed being around animals. I wanted to get back to my roots.”

While she enjoyed the experience, LeAnn missed the Western world and the agricultural culture in which she grew up.

“It’s almost like a piece of your heart that I just couldn’t wait to get back to,” LeAnn said. “I knew it was going to come back—I just didn’t know how.”

After two years at Dollywood, LeAnn moved on to a classic country theater show in Pigeon Forge, singing old songs by Loretta Lynn and other artists, but that wasn’t destined to be her lifelong career. Something more, she knew, was in store.

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This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Fall 2021 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.

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