Gypsy Wagon – Feb/March 2018

By: Betty Jo Gigot

In thinking about our generational theme for this issue, I flashed back to a song or two. In my grandmother’s generation it would have been “How ‘Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree)?” or later, an issue of CALF News featuring grandson Nick on the cover that opined, “Ladies, Don’t Let Your Sons Grow up to be Cowboys.

We headlined this issue with stories about three ranch families – the Lyons and Ahlquist/Eberts of Kansas and the Bradleys of Texas. The blood, sweat and tears it takes to keep heaven and soul together shows in each story. Their dedication to their chosen field is to be honored.

How did you decide what was going to be your passion when you grew up? I had lunch with a group of my son Lance’s older friends recently in St. Louis. They were an eclectic bunch – a retired priest, a former NASA employee and an historian were among them. Mike, the guy to my left, told me they had formed this group when they flew model planes together as young men. They have remained friends and lunch mates ever since.

Mike started building model airplanes when he was five. By the time he was eight, the model manufacturer had begun including the history of each airplane model in the box. Mike made a career out of aeronautics and still studies history for a hobby.

On the same note, Alex Trebek, host of T.V.’s Jeopardy game, recently asked a contestant about her long-held ambition to be on the show. She said she had watched Jeopardy with her dad for years and dreamed of the day she could compete. He father told her to learn three new things every day and, some day, she would be ready. She was.

Run the names of the generational cattle feeding families through your mind – Timmerman and Gottsch from Nebraska; Brookover, Reeve and Herrmann in Kansas; Rebholtz in Idaho; Hitch in Oklahoma; Engler and Josserand in Texas; and, of course, Farr and Monfort in Colorado. Their second and third generations have joined newer ones in production agriculture. What a rich cast of characters who fought the same battles of weather, prices and detractors through the years that we still face today. The more things change ….

As it turns out, some things have changed for the better. The new Secretary of the Interior has rolled back federal land designations, and the new Environmental Protection Agency chief is dismantling some the more far-reaching regulations on water and other resources.

Always a concern for our industry has been the estate tax, which has cost many families their ranches or farms. The new tax law didn’t eliminate the tax, but did make it more manageable.

My newest project is a book about Carl Stevenson, pioneer cattle feeder and founder of a dynasty in Arizona. Carl – who still has a mind like a trap and is so full of stories we may write two books – and his son, David, own and operate Red Rock Feeders. Celebrating his 100th birthday at Christmastime, Carl is the stuff legends are made of. He was born in Hollywood, Calif., drafted in 1940 by FDR and served in the U.S. Cavalry where he used horses and mules to fight in World War II. He later became one of the first cattle feeders in Arizona. Carl has spent more years feeding cattle than I’ve been alive. It’s hard to imagine.

As we look forward to 2018 and a struggling but vibrant industry, looking backward at our roots gives us strength while we continue to feed the world.