By Betty Jo Gigot, Publisher
It’s dawn in Kansas and a cool breeze is coming through the sliding doors. The little condo on the golf course is half empty, and by Thursday the FOR SALE signs go up on the house, ending another chapter in a long and truly blessed life.
Treasured memories of Kansas abound, starting with my marriage to Dean Gigot at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and carrying on through a twenty-some year adventure.
My travels to Canada, Mexico, Australia, the Netherlands, Panama and France are all recorded in picture albums, and certainly provided interesting intervals, but life right here in one of the hubs of the cattle-feeding industry provided me the meat of the matter, if you will pardon the pun. From 49 years of Beef Empire Days, of which I reported on 25, to the plethora of extremely competent and professional feeding entities in the area, Kansas has provided me with story after story about how and why cattle feeding is such an important part of feeding the nation and the world. Conversely, the friendships formed through the years made for a lot of goodbye calls as I pack it in with promises to come back often. The nice thing about today’s world is that keeping in touch is easy. Everyone knows where I am if they’re reading CALF News, which they assure me they are.
As important as the feeding industry is in the Garden City area, the reason for its existence is the Ogallala Aquifer, providing water to cattle feedyards and large new dairy complexes in the area, and enabling area farmers to grow vast amounts of feed. I hosted a radio show on KBUF for many years, and about once a month I reminded listeners that the aquifer was a major contributor to the area’s economy through the agriculture it supported.
A major part of my 20-year love affair with western Kansas was Circle Land and Cattle, the family farm/ranch in the sandhills south of the Arkansas River. Developed by the Gigot family, the irrigated property produces mountains of triticale silage, truckloads of alfalfa, milo and potatoes, multiple pounds of beef, and provides a home for over 10,000 head of dairy replacement heifers and several hundred stocker cattle. The property is pure sand, good enough to use in your child’s sandbox, but teeming with living creatures such as pheasants and deer, and presents a myriad of blossoming plants every year. How I miss the drives through the property with Dean as the seasons changed and the once unusable land provided its bounty.
The newest and biggest thing in town is the water park that graces the bypass, luring families to town for a destination vacation. When I first started coming to Garden, you had maybe two choices of a place to stay. I always stayed at the Hilton, now the Clarion – you had to get a ticket at the desk to buy a drink at the bar. Now, Garden City offers a Menards, a Wal-Mart, as well as a half-dozen midsized motels and chain restaurants, but the giant powdered milk plant next to the ethanol plant on the east side of town are reminders that its roots are still firmly entrenched in agriculture.
As always, my favorite recollections are about the characters I met on the way. Who wouldn’t want to remember Jack Reeve, Johnny “O”, George Herrmann and Paul Brown? Ladd Hitch bought me a free lunch at Beef Empire Days for years, and who can forget sitting in the grandstands with Temple Grandin one fine spring morning. Of course there’s the character of them all, Dean Gigot, who lured me to Kansas and introduced me to a world of happiness and memories. The Gigot legacy will continue with his family on the land that he loved.
Meanwhile, the next chapter (after the summer heat is gone) will be a casa in the heart of Phoenix, Ariz. The new Gypsy Wagon is a white Nissan SUV and CALF News has officially moved. Come see me.