First Dakota
Beef Bucks
Beef Bucks

Col. Jon Stories


Bob and Nancy Montross received the BEEF Magazine Trailblazers Award for pushing Beef Bucks off their South Dakota farm into national prominence. Bob, Nancy and their volunteer board of directors have promoted the non-profit organization into the national spotlight and in doing so let that spotlight shine in South Dakota...and I might add at no charge to cattle producers.

Bob and Nancy have always encouraged me to actually record or write down some of the stories and true life experiences I've shared with them. They finally carried this suggestion a little further and requested that I write a monthly column for their Beef Bucks website. How could I not comply affirmatively to a small request by folks who have volunteered their services to the beef industry and accomplished so much. They asked me to tell you folks a little background on myself and what you might expect from me, so here goes nothing.

I was born and raised in Wausau, Nebraska, a little town in northeast Nebraska. I lived with my Grandparents, Leonard "Skinny" and Katherine Pfeil. They farmed and fed cattle in the area. "Skinny" was a well-known order buyer, so I grew up traveling to cattle auctions in Nebraska and South Dakota. In the process, became his personal driver and valet, opened gates, and took bids in numerous sale barns and actually auctioneered a few butcher cows and hogs real late in the evening at a pretty early age.

"Skinny" bought cutting bulls, lumps, and bumps, cattle with big horns or bad feet, off-colored cattle or anything nobody else wanted. We fed them ground ear corn that was scooped through a Bear-cat grinder and scooped again into feed bunks. We raised Hampshire pigs in A-frame units in hog pastures and butchered 200 roosters every year. Besides a few milk cows, laying hens, dogs and cats; that was about the extent of our livestock.

"Skinny" and my Uncle Don Pfeil both had full-time hired men, Arlan Beaudette and Al ("Fats")Wulf. These two men were always friendly; hardworking fellows and were friends of mine. We all functioned together under a dictatorship run by "Skinny" and Uncle Don. The only democracy we ever saw was in Washington. If you did what you were told, everything went smoothly. Does that remind any of you about your life in the "good old days?" Just kidding! We worked hard and actually had a lot of fun.

I'll probably write about the very efficient way these area farms operated and how well our local community functioned with two car dealers, two implement dealers, three produce buyers, a big local hatchery, a movie theater and a big school system.

When our best and brightest students attend military academies, they study military history. Our land grant universities don't offer much in the way of agricultural history, so I might take a shot at it. After all, it really boils down to market liquidity. If you've got it, alls well. If you don't have it, economies don't hit on all cylinders. Forty to 50 years ago, we had lots of buyers and lots of sellers... market liquidity was excellent. Today the situation has changed dramatically. I'll probably talk about that more in depth. I'll undoubtedly write about captive supply and how they pressure markets, along with other marketing subjects.

My experiences as a cattle auctioneer in Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of real interesting people; that may prove interesting and hilarious to many of you. Will Rogers said, "I never met a man I didn't like." I never met a person I didn't find interesting and I've met a lot of different people. I'd love to tell you about them.

Several years ago a movie entitled, "The World According to Garp" was produced. I grew up in the "world according to 'Skinny.'" I plan to write about it. Sure hope you find it interesting. I've traded commodities since 1965 and met some very colorful people in those 45 years. I can't tell you everything, but parts of these "dudes" lives will entertain you. Thirty years of broadcasting markets over the airwaves have allowed me to meet a lot of people also. We'll tell you about them.

My father, Frank O'Rourke, king of the western writers, published 68 novels and three were made into movies. I met him for the first time when I was 40 years old. His story is a good one. I'll tell you about it.

Like one old-timer told me at an open house broadcast at Wynn Noem's place in De Smet, SD, "I was listening to you in the pickup driving in here, Col. I could turn the radio off in the pickup but now that I'm here at Wynn's, I gotta listen to you and can't shut you off." My monthly ramblings in the Beef Buck website won't cost you a dime. If you don't like what I write, you can just turn the computer off and go read Jim Woster's stuff. It doesn't cost anything either!

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