I grew up on a 100 pair cow/calf farm in the Blue Grass Valley near Monterey, Highland County, Virginia in the Allegheny Mountains. I made extra money when I was in high school by trapping, digging ginseng, and riding colts for neighbors. I sure wish I’d have known about Ray Hunt then. It would have saved me a lot of hide.
They graduated me from Highland High School in the spring of 1967 and I joined the US Navy that fall. I spent the next four years as an aviation electrician’s mate working on F-4 Phantoms for fighter squadron VF-101 and VF-11 aboard USS Forrestal.
When I got out of the Navy in the summer of 1971, I spent the next several months working for a couple of different electrical contractors. I learned the ropes a little bit and decided to hang out my own shingle.
I did mostly industrial and commercial work. At the height of my contracting career, I had 6 crews of electricians and an underground utility crew. I even got into building a few houses. In 1979, I started downsizing the contracting business and up sizing my cattle business. I was going to get into where the BIG money was. (Ignorance is truly bliss.) Then I spent the next 25 years living a dream and starving to death.
My outfit was more of a cattle company than it was a ranch or farm. I mainly bought lesser quality calves and upgraded them. They were vaccinated, wormed, de-horned, castrated and back grounded to go to grass. I resold most of them to local stocker operators and/or grazed them by the pound gain for Midwest farmer feeders or investors. I grazed a lot of them for myself. I also put together mama cows for resale and to build my own herd. By 2001, we were handling right at 10,000 head a year of stockers, feeders and cows and calves. During this time, I was a rep for Superior Livestock Auction and most of my own and customer’s cattle were marketed through them. Superior is doing a great service for the beef industry.
I had a small broodmare band of usually about 15 head. I started the colts in the winter along with “refitting” trader horses for resale. I got my 20 year breeder’s certificate from the AQHA in 2003. All this kinda kept me busy and out of the bars and off the street.
On October 14, 2003 fed cattle futures closed over $1.00 a pound for the first time ever. Prices were going through the roof. I could see a little light way down there at the end of the tunnel and figured I’d better get out while the gettin’ was good. When I started selling out, we were running about 450 head of mama cows and grazing around 1200 head of yearling cattle. It took 3 years and that light kept getting brighter. We finally got through that tunnel and came out in Stanfield, Arizona, of all places.
All of this sounds real slick and smooth. I just don’t have nearly enough room here to elaborate on all of the wrecks, screw-ups, breakdowns and the mud and the blood and the beer it took to get all this done but it was quite a ride, Woodrow.