TOWNER, N.D. — Buyers and sellers are two different fellers. That’s how the old saying goes. When it came to our calves and yearlings, our family has always been a seller, and, more often than not, the cattle buyer was a man named Art.
Now Art and Dad, or Art and I, may have been different fellers, as buyers and sellers, but we always felt he treated us fairly, and he was our friend. There was a lot of loyalty in Art, and he got a lot of loyalty in return. Other cattle buyers would look at our area as a pretty tough place to break in and make a deal. For years, Art bought most of the cattle.
I reckon that being a friend, beyond the cattle sale, earned him that loyalty. Sometimes he’d stop and visit, even when there weren’t cattle to go look at. He’d bring a little something by for Christmas, either food or a gift of some kind. He was there to offer condolences when Mom and Dad passed away, he fully supported me when I was campaigning for public office, he’d always have a piece of candy or something for the kids when they came with us to the local scale to weigh the calves.
Art was still buying cattle well into his 80s, darn near right until the end.
Doing what he liked
Nikki and I heard about Art’s passing when we were bringing in a group of cows and calves to sort and vaccinate. It seemed like a fitting time for such news. It was beautiful fall day, and we were doing what cattle buyers appreciate, getting those calves vaccinated a few weeks before weaning.
While we sorted the cattle in our old pens by the barn, I thought of all the years we sorted cattle in those same pens for Art and sale day. There were a lot of trips to our local rancher-owned scale in Towner, or to the farm scale where he bought cattle for years. At the end, there was always coffee and donuts and a check to pay last year’s bills and, hopefully, get us started on the next year.
Art loved buying cattle. There’s no doubt about that. Some might say he loved it too much, or he bought too many, but no one can deny he spent his life doing what he liked. Much of that life was driving the back roads to ranches and talking on the telephone, sometimes simultaneously.
It’s all in the hip action
One of my favorite stories I heard about Art was when he was at a sale barn, bidding and buying calves, and, of course, talking on the phone. As the story goes, he ended up having a phone in each hand held up against each ear when a set of calves that he really wanted to bid on came into the ring.
Now, to buy cattle, it’s best to have a hand to bid with, but with both hands tied up and the auctioneer slowing for no man, Art did the only thing he could and he started bidding with his hips while he was talking on two phones. It was said that the gyrating hip movements of Elvis himself paled in comparison with the moves Art had that day.
I think it’s a true story, best told in person with the accompanying hip action, and it makes me laugh each time I hear, or see, it. I hope he got the calves that day with the creative bid.
Tonight, I’ll attend the prayer service for our cattle buyer and friend. He was a man of steadfast faith who’ll certainly be sought out in the great beyond because I’m sure a lot of old ranchers up there will want to know, “Just what are those calves bringing this fall, Art?”