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#399 Friends and Fancies

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Well-known member
Feb 11, 2005
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northern Nebraska Sandhills
This is my dad's "Friends and Fancies" column for the week. Thought some of you might be interested in reading it.


Last Thursday we enjoyed another one of many annual Sandhills Cattle Conventions that we have attended. This was the 72nd annual which, if consecutive, would date back to 1939. I think it was 1937 when a group of ranchers gathered in Valentine, by the invitation of ex-Governor Samuel R. McKelvie, who was editor and publisher of the Nebraska Farmer and owner of the historic By the Way Ranch, south of Valentine. He realized the Sandhills were beginning to need more recognition and publicity as a place to buy superior feeder cattle. Only fifty years earlier Texas Longhorns were still coming up the Texas Trail; that breed being predominant up until the first World War which had ended less than 20 years before. During that period homesteaders on 160 acres were not in a position to have enough cattle to afford an imported British bred bull so progress was slow on sizable enough productions to fill a stock car on the railroad that could attract cattle feeders to come from the cornbelt.

In the meantime, after the war, many small operators were forced out by a deflationary period, usually one of them having more survivorship determination than the rest, buying out their neighbors, making operations larger. In many cases Shorthorns were first crossed with the Longhorns with beneficial results, advantages being more milk, more growth, and kinder dispositions. But then the Shorthorns yielded to the more hardy breeds of Hereford and Angus. When I was a kid, during the early 30s, most ranchers were using Hereford bulls on their Shorthorn-cross brockle-face cows but it didn't take long to breed them out along with the linebacks and the rednecks and a few roans that were considered very undesirable at the time. Some of the things that they were after were curly light- colored hair coats, a short, wide face and short legs, expressed by having "less daylight."

Uniform carload lots were what those family feedlots wanted; cattle that they could be proud to show their neighbors throughout the feeding period. Sam McKelvie, former governor of the State of Nebraska, and breeder of registered Herefords on his By the Way Ranch had many connections in the cattle industry and rallied the group of Sandhill ranchers around the need to form an organization. This new organization would not be in competition with the already very strong and influential Nebraska Stockgrowers Association which focused on Brand and Theft, Education, political things concerning the industry and a stirring up of pride concerning being a part of the cattle industry of Nebraska. I was a vulnerable and easy to impress kid back in that era and I know that the dignified way by which those conventions were conducted had something to do with my dream of, someday, owning a ranch and being a part of the industry. Ranchers and their wives wore their finest clothing and jewelry to those conventions and to be able to see and "rub shoulders" with "greats" in the industry like, to name a few: Emil Fuchser, Earl Monohan, George Gerdes, Irwin Adamson, Tom Arnold, Judge Quigley, Ed Belsky, Chris Abbott, F. E.Messersmith, Bob Howard, George McGinley, Jay Cole and P. H. Young were thrilling experiences to me, a "country boy!"

This new organization would have no political motives but would have the sole purpose of promoting and advertising Sandhills cattle. My dad was a charter member of the organization under the name J. J. Moreland and Sons. Does that make me a charter member? We sat across from a couple neighbors while eating lunch the other day at the convention. They were Bud Reece and Jim Lee who could probably also qualify as charter members under that amendment!

I am fairly certain that the first promotional tour of the new association was one where a cottongrower organization came from the state of Georgia in a large Greyhound Bus. Area ranchers brought their families in their automobiles and met the bus at Jay Cole's Ranch, three miles east of Merriman. The area between the house and barn was pretty heavily populated by the time the cotton pickers got off the bus and the sixty or so cars full of ranchers' families were unloaded. It was get-acquainted time and Jay conveniently had a group of cows and calves in the corral. The calves were branded to give the gentlemen from Georgia a look at how it is done. Sixty-eight year old Ellie Ward, who lived up on LaCreek, got to do the roping and never missed a loop! That was before animal rightists entered the picture. Our Georgia guests enjoyed this part of the "Old West" without complaint. Some of them even ate mountain oysters fried over the wood branding fire.

The cotton grower guests were divided among the ranchers for the trip to Nenzel and then to Tom Arnold's ranch which much more recently has become "Mustang Meadows." The gentleman from Georgia that rode in our car was very observant and had good questions for Dad along the way. I remember his being impressed by several cars, that we met, stopping and pulling over with long, sympathetic looks on their faces thinking the 60 or 70 car procession had to be connected to some one dying!

The ranch ladies all brought food. We stopped at a shady Cottonwood grove near an Indian Camp with many tents, wagons and horses, women, kids and dogs. Tom Arnold hired the same group of Indians each year from the nearby Rosebud Reservation to stack the hay in those sub-irrigated meadows along the Minnechaduza. River.

The crew was coming to the camp, most of them on horse- drawn hay machinery. This day would be different as Tom asked them to put on their native costumes and to entertain the guests from Georgia with their ceremonial dance. Soon the whole tribe; men in their feathered headgear and buckskin pants, women in their long, dark-colored dresses with bells and braids, and youngsters with surprising talent and dress for the occasion came to a spot close to the picnic where they went all- out to entertain in a solemn fashion dancing to the rhythm passed down from their ancestors to the tom- tom beat of the drum. The Cotton Growers from Georgia were thoroughly impressed and I, a kid from the Sandhills, was too!

An after- dinner welcome had been given by Governor McKelvie along with responses by those nice Cotton Pickin' guests. It was the beginning of a promotional program that has snowballed into making the Sandhills of Nebraska famous world-wide in its unequaled reputation for the production of feeder cattle, tailored especially to meet the needs of cattle feeders in the cornbelt.


Back to 2011

Trent Loos, host of his own radio talk show, Loos Tales, is an effective agriculture advocate, who brought his colorful message to this year's Convention at Valentine. He urged members to give the true message of Sandhills cattle industry, which converts an otherwise unusable and potentially hazardous prairie fire grass into food, fiber, pharmaceuticals and fuel. The highly nutritious and delicious protein product feeding millions of people has been developed through research and wise management making life better for everyone. Ranchers have a special niche of ever-increasing importance in the agriculture of this nation. What's for dinner? Enjoy the beef!
Thats a good read! Thanks for the post, and thanks to some far-sighted ancestors for founding such industry supporting organizations.
Trent Loos is guest speaker tomorrow at the annual dinner hosted by an Ag. supplier in town. Not sure if I'll gt to hear him because it kinda snuck up on me and I failed to RSVP. :oops:
Great article indeed. When we were reviewing the SCA by-laws last winter, Ronna had copies of the original by-laws and articles of incorporation. It was interesting to see all of the men who were involved when the association was formed.

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