Scot Oliver Proud to be a Rancher
Written By Scot Oliver
The best stories in my opinion, make people think a little, feel a little and have the possibility to teach something along the way.
I remember when I had moved from our family ranch in Kansas to Southern Virginia to start ranching on my own. In the south the grass was taller, greener and it rained more, or so I thought.
Anyway my grandfather was a very successful horned Hereford breeder. I also acquired to love the white faced breed as well. I would go to the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado with my uncle and grandfather to help take care of the bulls in the “Yards”.
In those days commercial cattlemen would come to the NWSS to purchase their replacement bulls. It was great to listen and watch my grandfather talk and negotiate the sale and price of the bulls. This one particular time I remember my grandfather literally pulling a guy out of the main alley to show a pen of bulls he had for sale. The potential customer said that “he did not want any damn Hereford bulls” and my grandfather just kept on talking.
Well they went on for thirty minutes or so, then the man left. I remember thinking that did not go very well, so I went forking up manure and cleaning the pens for the night. A short while later my grandfather told me that we would be moving the bulls to a new pen for the night, over by the loadout chutes. That man the one that did not want any “damn Hereford bulls”, was going to haul them home first thing in the morning. He bought all twenty four bulls.
My grandfather truly was a fantastic salesman, he had a great product and knew it. You must believe and know in your heart that what you have for sale is the best. People can tell if you are sincere, they can feel it. I learned a lot of things from my grandfather and in many different ways. I know from that day forward what I wanted to do, raise and sell bulls.
After moving to Virginia, I started my own herd of Hereford cattle. I purchased heifers from my uncles Mills Ranch Inc., I was excited to say the least. I enjoyed caring for those heifers and was in eager anticipation for my first calf crop.
They really looked good and I got lots of compliments on them. I was going to calve them out in the fall and they were about seven months bred at the time. It was a terrible dry summer and everyone was praying for rain. The grass was brown and there were cracks in that hard red Virginia clay soil. Things looked bleak but there was a chance for some moisture at the end of the week and I was hopeful.
All ranchers and farmers know the feeling of being desperately hopeful for rain. Everywhere a guy would go in town, the sale barn, coffee shop or the equipment company for parts, everyone was talking about the need for rain. I remember telling my dad if it did not rain soon I would just sell my heifers. Screw it, I was really bummed out because I really loved those heifers so much. I did have 400 head or so of sheep, but that is a different story all together. Enough said on that.
Anyway, I remember that next Saturday night after we had gone to bed in the middle of the night we were all wakened by the loud thunder, lightning and the sound of rain on the tin roof. It was music to my ears and was a wonderful feeling.
Everyone was happy and talkative that next morning at breakfast. The air was crisp and smelled clean, you could just see the grass growing. The ponds and dams were full and everything was great.
Well it was too wet to drive around and check on the cattle and it was a Sunday anyway, good time to take a break I thought. A day of rest. We packed up and went to town to shop and maybe party a little bit, things were looking up.
Well Monday morning rolls around and we can’t wait to check on the pastures and livestock. I went to the sheep pasture first, they always got out and were generally just a big pain in the ass. Again, enough said about the sheep. They were scattered all over the pasture eating the tender young grass that literally shot up overnight. They did not even notice we were there checking on them, usually they came running for some feed. “All good there” I said, cattle next.
I kept the heifers in a beautiful pasture with picturesque creek that ran through it and some nice tall majestic oak trees at the very top of the hill. I loved that pasture. I remember driving up that hill and stopping so my dad could open the gate, I honked the horn and spooked him, and he called me something, I don’t remember. He got back in the truck and we drove up the hill towards the trees. Then we saw them, buzzards, hundreds of them up in the top of the big oak trees. I said I wonder what those darn things are doing here, maybe a dead deer or coon or something. Nope, lightning had struck one of those trees and at the base of that tree lay all of my prized heifers dead. It was a sick sight all that time, money, excitement and anticipation, gone. I don’t think that I cried but I will never forget that sick feeling. Pretty sad day on the farm for sure.
So I remember calling the local rendering company to come and haul those dead cattle away. The guy on the phone said that they don’t come and pick up a cow or two and suggested that I bury them. I said I get it but how about if there are 40 head. “We will be there in a little bit with the big truck” he said.
I played a lot of different sports as a kid and young adult. When things went bad or didn’t go well my father would tell me to never hang my head, stand tall and go on. Never quit ever, so that is what I did. I started over again, that is life on the farm.
I eventually raised a nice set of bulls to sell three years later and eventually topped many bull sales in the south and in the state of Florida for many years. I was very proud of my cattle, maybe because of my rough start I appreciated them a little more. I don’t know.
All ranchers and farmers know what I went thru and they all have their own stories of hard luck and mishaps to tell. Most city folks have no idea of their blood, sweat and tears and how though it can be on the farm and ranch. I believe we are truly born to it. It can be rough but the preeminence, the strength and character of country folks comes from hard times, you have to go thru the fire so to speak.
Anywhere in the country or the world for that matter, all farmers and ranchers share a common bond. Everyone wants to be a cowboy until it comes time to do the cowboy stuff.
Rand Owens, of the group Alabama and also a Hereford breeder wrote and sang an appropriate song, “You can’t keep a good man down or woman. I am proud to be a rancher.