By Betty Jo Gigot, Publisher
My recollections on Australia are going on hold until the next issue as many of the areas now on fire are part of my story. I know that all of our prayers are with the brave people fighting for their lives and their livelihoods.
Meanwhile one of my favorite cowboys and cattle feeders, Ed Barrett, passed away this week. The three-part story I wrote about him starting in November 1996 is one of my favorite recollections. Here’s to Ed.
“All of my life, I have had two idols – E.C. Crofoot and John Wayne, and of course my wife, Mille,” Barrett said.
He went on to tell me that he knew just when he decided to be a cowboy. Stockman Jim Lowder invited 11-year-old overall-clad Ed to join him at the movie. Jim was dressed in his “good-looking” hat and “nice-looking pants,” and the fact that Jim would want to be seen with Ed made him decide he needed to go into the cattle business.
At 14, he was spending summers working at a ranch and, after quitting high school and trying a couple of other things, he went back to feeding cattle with a pitchfork, a shovel and a team of horses. Stints at a packinghouse and as a candy and tobacco salesman added to his resume. When Lowder built Cattlemen’s Feedlot outside Emporia, Kan., he hired Barrett to be the assistant manager of the 5,000-head yard.
Barrett moved to Texas for a bit, working for E.C. Crofoot and Earl Brookover near Lubbock, but soon went back to Kansas to build his own yard. In 1969, Barrett and Ron Hughes got a $250,000 SBA loan and built their own 10,000-head yard, including the gates.
“Do you have any idea how many gates there are in a 10,000 head feedyard?” he quipped.
In 1975, Barrett was visiting Texas and, after the decimation of the industry from the 1974 crash, he saw an opportunity. “I called Mr. Crofoot and said, ‘These people down here are so sick, they’re not sure they ever want to feed cattle again.’’’
Crofoot said if Barrett would come down and run it, they would buy a yard.
The rest is history. Going into a 50/50 partnership and after touring around, they bought the Pittman yard. Barrett had to drive past the Big Tex yard every day on his way to work and, in 1976, the two men bought that yard also. The Barrett/Crofoot empire was born.
“That’s what made Texas so great – all of those Kansans came down here,” Barrett joked.
The Barretts moved down to Texas en mass and remembered the first few months. The east yard only had 1,200 cattle in it when they arrived and the market was bad. They took in 40,000 head in the first 30 days, without help. They begged, borrowed and stole help and made it through. Barrett’s son, Bob, remembers the second year when all of the water tanks froze.
“I started at one end and Dad at the other. We would get one unfrozen and go on to the next,” he said.
Barrett was terribly proud of his family and the fact that they worked in the business. “This is the best of all worlds; the best thing that can happen to a family,” he said. “I always admired the way the Timmerman family worked together. I am terribly proud to have all of my kids here.”
At the end of the interview, Ed leaned back in his chair, shifted the ever-present Stetson and said, “I have got to be one of the luckiest people in the world.”
RIP my friend.