Last night was an awfully stormy night in Indiana. I haven’t slept well, but woke very early, feeling compelled to tell a story...
I love to travel. My love for travel is fed by, not only the amazing places I’ve found outside Greens Fork, but also the incredible people I’ve met along the way. I’ve heard countless, intriguing stories by simply asking, “What brought you here?”
With that, over time, I’ve come to learn that there are certain events in one’s life that can live forever and shape their destiny. It’s how those moments of fear or disappointment, elation or prosper are handled, that can define a person. Often, I’ve reminisced about the things that have happened in my own life that have gotten me to where I am. Did they inhibit me? Did they leave a scar? Did they they change a thought process? Or even encourage a dream?
I know, very well, a man who has never been known as a dreamer, but rather a doer. At an adolescent age he learned a lesson, and made a promise to himself, that would forever change his life.
And mine, too.
Dad and I overlooking the Denver Stockyards
It was because of FFA that Dad was able to carpool out of tiny Hagerstown, Indiana and go with his FFA advisor and agriculture teacher, Mr. Carl Hylton, to the Chicago Stockyards and learn about the cattle industry; and it was in those famous stockyards that a passion was relayed and ignited in that young kid. Dad filled his bedroom with posters of popular production cattle: Hereford, Angus, Shorthorn, Charolais. He read all the animal husbandry books he could get his hands on at school and, on occasion, even paid attention in class.
When Dad was in his early years of high school, the Hagerstown FFA had a program where a local producer donated a heifer to a student who didn’t have the means to buy one. Once the heifer was raised and bred, the first female calf out of that donation heifer was to be returned to the local producer as repayment. Finally, Dad’s year came that he was able to participate, and Mr. Hylton advised him to take part. Through research and passion, he decided he wanted a Shorthorn to bring home and start his own herd. Dad and Grandpa traveled across Wayne County to rural Williamsburg where they picked up the heifer.
I’ve heard Dad describe this heifer many times over, and each time he seems to call her something different, but each adjective is a variation of “crazy”, “wild” or “berserk”. She was about 700 pounds and had never left her momma. She’d never been restrained. Perhaps worst of all, she’d never seen a fence.
Dad spent the next three months repairing already poor facilities, including fences. He got his physical exercise by chasing a heifer back into her lot, and got his mental exercise by trying to justify this FFA project to his parents. It didn’t go well; it wasn’t that Grandpa didn’t have faith in Dad, it was that they didn’t have the time or money needed to keep up with the destruction from an unruly heifer. And, she really, really liked Grandma Bowman’s garden.
Dad relied greatly on Mr. Hylton, who encouraged him, advised him and tried to mentor him through the learning experience.
Finally, through much discussion and some sleepless nights, the decision was made: The heifer would be returned to the original owner.
To say Dad was devastated may be putting it lightly. He was embarrassed and he was sad. But you know what Eliza Tabor says about disappointment:
“Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.”
Returning that heifer, because he couldn’t manage her, was a moment that changed Dad’s life. The feeling of not only disappointment, but failure, ran though his veins like a wildfire. He had always been taught to never give up, no matter what. He had always been taught to work harder and find a way.
Dad laid in bed that night with a heavy heart while looking at the pictures on his wall of those successful, productive cattle. Just before he drifted off to sleep, he silently made a promise to himself:
If he was ever in the position to spend a little money, he was going to buy a Shorthorn cow, maybe a few cedar posts and some barbed wire, and do it right.
Fast forward thirty years to when the Original Three unloaded at Bowman Superior Genetics.
It was the moment where Dad’s dream finally came true, and my brother Luke’s own passion for beef cattle and agriculture education was ignited.
Now, fast forward fourteen years to where Dad stood in front of a crowd to deliver his first-ever opening speech at the Form to Function Bred Heifer Sale at Bowman Superior Genetics. To say Dad was nervous may be putting it lightly. It was one of those moments I spoke of earlier, that will live forever in someone's soul.
Dad specially thanked four people at our first production sale.
Bob and Ula Marie House, who sold us our first Shorthorn cows
(to see more, refer to blog entitled, “It’s A Wonderful Life”).
My incredible Momma, who patiently dreamt the dream with Dad, and who works every day on the farm to ensure BSG is around for generations.
And finally, Dad's agriculture teacher, FFA advisor, and mentor: Mr. Carl Hylton, who smiled gently while sitting silently in the back row of our sale day crowd. The man who organized the carpool to the Chicago Stockyards and ignited the fire in Dad.
Teach a child. Set an example. Leave an impression. Build character.
Grow something irreplaceable.