100 Years and CountingWritten by Curt Cox
I love them, and it might shock anybody who knows them, but my in-laws are a persistent, hardheaded and uncompromising lot! Now, I’m sure I am not the first person to ever think that of their spouse’s kinfolk, but I don’t think the majority of the time it is meant as an enormous compliment, as I do with 100 percent sincerity.
A couple of weekends ago I had the opportunity to help them celebrate the centennial anniversary of their family’s ranching operation in the Big Horn Basin. You can’t argue with the fact that it takes some form of long-ingrained genetic grit for one family to hold on to a business, let alone a single ranch, for five generations of ownership over a period of 100 years. I am sure it helps, looking back over the family history, that they have always been well educated, progressive, hard working and highly intelligent.
I really enjoyed listening to the stories my wife’s grandparents and parents told over the weekend. There is a lot that takes place over 100 years, and it was an honor to get to sit and listen to them as they recalled the triumphs, trials and tribulations that the family and the ranch have endured. Regardless of the obstacles that arise, whether it is tough economic times, untimely deaths in the family or a long list of other attritions that can affect any family that has made a living with one business over a long period of time, they have withstood them all.
I have always enjoyed studying history, so I got a kick out of looking through all of the old, grainy black-and-white pictures of their ranch throughout the years. I was especially struck when I came across one picture in particular that was taken from the top of a hill overlooking the ranch looking down the creek. Today, when you stand on top of the same hill as the photographer stood those many years ago, you can see modern machinery shops, numerous irrigation pivots and a feedlot. Despite that, standing in the exact same spots, are the round pen, corrals and open-faced shed seen in the old picture. They may have gotten a few new poles and have had a board or two replaced over the years, but there they stand.
It was exciting that over 150 neighbors, friends and family from as far away as Texas, Wisconsin, California, central Nebraska and South Dakota came to the ranch to help celebrate with an evening barbeque. As with any event in agriculture, everyone who arrived started off by asking how they could help, and the volunteers outnumbered the work by a wide margin. I am not sure when the final guest went home that night because my wife’s grandparents were still visiting with quite a crowd when I wandered up the hill to bed. They have been around for a majority of the ranch’s existence, so it didn’t shock me that they could outlast me for one evening.
I hope that all of you take the time to celebrate and share your heritage and operation’s milestones. It is an opportunity to shine a positive light on our industry and show the world where it is we come from and why it is that we do what we do.
Until next time,
Looking BackWritten by Curt Cox
As the year draws to a close, I find myself looking back over the past 12 months, taking stock of what has taken place around me and looking forward to what the coming year might have in store.
Upon this reflection it became clear to me fairly quickly that in the whole scheme of things, not much has changed in my life from this time last year. I have switched the brand of toothpaste I am using and AI’ed my cows to a couple of new bulls this year, but I did not really make any changes that affected the trajectory of my life. It is not as if the opportunities did not avail themselves, but as the dust settles on the year, all the major decisions resulted in my family and me staying on the current heading and course that we were on a year ago.
I am trying to decide exactly how I feel about this. I mean, change is a good thing, right? The Wyoming Livestock Roundup celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. This gave us cause to pull out the old archives, and when you compare the difference between those first papers and what we are able to put out today, the difference is amazing. The paper hasn’t developed into what it is today by accident. Major choices have to be made all the time to advance the quality of the publication we put out. With that being said, I do not look back with regret on any of the choices I made this year or think my life would have been changed for the better, had I done things differently.
This brings me to the other side of the coin and to the question, am I lucky that I have made it through the past year without being forced into making any decisions that would have had major impacts on my life? Consider, for instance, the producers who lost a significant number of their livestock in winter storm Atlas. They have been forced into making a choice on whether or not they want to go on ranching and all that might mean, considering the devastation, both economically and emotionally. I obviously feel blessed that I was not required to make a decision anywhere near that magnitude this year.
In general I would have to say that I am comfortable with where my life has led, which could be a major contributor to my complacency in keeping with the status quo over the past year. I mean, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” right? I can already see, looking forward to this coming year, there will be a number of things that have the potential to require more significant contemplation than anything that came up this year. Life has a way of putting you in situations that require a decision which involves significant risk regardless of what you chose to do and many times just doing the same thing that you have been doing isn’t among the options.
Knowing this makes me feel blessed for this past year and the way things have worked out. I am sure it will not always be this way. I hope you, too, can look back at this past year and be pleased with what you see also. Let me be among the first to wish you a happy and prosperous New Year!
Until next time,
AmbushedWritten by Curt Cox
I was recently asked to speak to the Casper Chamber of Commerce “Leadership Casper” class during their Agriculture day. I had the pleasure of speaking at the same event last year and really enjoyed it. I tried to keep my presentation simple and straightforward both times. Last year, I walked the class through a flow chart following the cattle cycle from the cow-calf producer to consumers. I then explained why beef prices had gone up in the grocery stores and figures showing that cattle producers were still not getting rich because their input costs had also gone up. I concluded with a general, “Hoorah!,” please-don’t-forget-those-of-us-involved-in-agriculture-have-to-feed-the-growing-world, go-hug-a-farmer type finale to my presentation. I thought it went well. After I was done the class had a number of questions, and we had what I felt was a good discussion. Overall I thought the class enjoyed my presentation.
This year I followed much the same strategy – a cattle cycle flow chart followed by Natrona County agricultural statistics that would give the class an idea of the impact of agriculture and the cattle business here locally. I concluded with the same “Hoorah!” ending. What followed was not the same friendly questions and discussion that occurred last year.
It all started innocently enough with a question about where grassfed beef fit into my cattle cycle flow chart, which led to further discussion of grassfed beef and natural versus organic. Then it happened, seemingly out of nowhere – she struck me like a cow kicking a gate – I get lambasted with a question or accusation, I am not really sure which, regarding what one young lady felt was the cold hard truth – that our industry in general, and at the time it felt like maybe even me in particular, was having an unprecedented negative impact on society at large by unjustly treating food animals with hormones and antibiotics.
Looking back now, I know I needed to have facts, figures and a well thought out argument to even attempt to address her deeply held opinions on the matter. I should have tactfully and respectfully tried to side step the issue, maybe even referring her to experts who might be able to offer concrete facts to dispel what I personally believe to be lies spewed out by the various anti-agriculture acronyms.
Me being me – stubborn and somewhat hard headed – I instead just tucked my chin and charged right out into the middle of the minefield. It is all kind of a blur from there. My response was filled with hastily recalled facts that I tried to muster into a coherent argument, which I fear failed to even make a dent in her strong beliefs on the matter.
In the end they did applaud me for my presentation, but I can assure you that in the future I will be more prepared to handle these kinds of topics, if I ever have the opportunity to address a similar group.
I don’t know if any of you have had similar experiences, but I caution you to be ready to address these kinds of topics when you are addressing the general public, regardless of what you are planning to talk about. Hopefully, if you get ambushed the way I did, you will be prepared to defend our industry.
See you down the road,