Current Edition

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  It’s that time of year again when county fairs pop up all over the place.  We just finished up our fair here in Natrona County, and it was a bit of a milestone of sorts for us in the Cox household, as this was the first year my boys were old enough to join 4-H and exhibit livestock.

With my job, I get to spend a considerable amount of time around what I consider to be Professional Major League “Fair Parents,” and I had hoped that over the years I would have absorbed some of their knowledge on how to survive a week of fair. We did make it through the week, but I can tell you one thing, we are definitely not ready for the big leagues yet.

That being said, at the end of the week, we were all still talking to each other, and most of us were even on civil terms. We definitely learned a lot, both parents and kids, which I guess, if you think about it, is a big part of the whole experience.

Another thing that stood out was there are so many people who pour countless hours into making a fair successful, many of whom stand in the shadows and receive little or no recognition for their efforts. From the members of the fair board, superintendents, 4-H leaders, FFA advisers, show and sale secretaries, countless committee members and the list goes on and on, fairs take a lot of volunteer support to make happen. Without them, a fair simply wouldn’t take place. The kids and their projects would simply show up and stare at each other for a week and then go home. I would like to personally thank every one of them for everything they do. Their tireless effort and dedication is nothing if not inspirational.

I would also like to thank every person who is willing to give up their day to sit through a junior livestock auction and support the kids by purchasing their livestock every year. I can’t imagine the total number of dollars generated annually across the country for the kids, but the contribution it makes to our society is immeasurable.  I can think of very few places where you could spend your money to support a future generation of people who, when they come out the other end, will know the value of hard work, sacrifice and a knowledge of how the world really works.

You are giving a financial kick-start to the dreams of so many young people, whether they are saving up for college, putting those funds toward starting a herd or a flock of their own or any of the other countless ways it could be spent toward achieving a life goal, which otherwise may be out of reach. So again, thank you from all of us “Fair Parents!”

Everything considered, I think we can mark our first year in the success column. The boys are already excited about getting their projects started for next year. I do want to give fair warning to all the parents with kids showing at State Fair. Don’t get concerned if you see me wandering around the barns looking lost. I’m just taking notes and looking for pointers to improve my game for next year.

Until next time

    I love them, and it might shock anybody who knows them, but my in-laws are a persistent, hardheaded and uncompromising lot! Now, I’m sure I am not the first person to ever think that of their spouse’s kinfolk, but I don’t think the majority of the time it is meant as an enormous compliment, as I do with 100 percent sincerity.

         A couple of weekends ago I had the opportunity to help them celebrate the centennial anniversary of their family’s ranching operation in the Big Horn Basin. You can’t argue with the fact that it takes some form of long-ingrained genetic grit for one family to hold on to a business, let alone a single ranch, for five generations of ownership over a period of 100 years. I am sure it helps, looking back over the family history, that they have always been well educated, progressive, hard working and highly intelligent.

I really enjoyed listening to the stories my wife’s grandparents and parents told over the weekend. There is a lot that takes place over 100 years, and it was an honor to get to sit and listen to them as they recalled the triumphs, trials and tribulations that the family and the ranch have endured. Regardless of the obstacles that arise, whether it is tough economic times, untimely deaths in the family or a long list of other attritions that can affect any family that has made a living with one business over a long period of time, they have withstood them all.

I have always enjoyed studying history, so I got a kick out of looking through all of the old, grainy black-and-white pictures of their ranch throughout the years. I was especially struck when I came across one picture in particular that was taken from the top of a hill overlooking the ranch looking down the creek. Today, when you stand on top of the same hill as the photographer stood those many years ago, you can see modern machinery shops, numerous irrigation pivots and a feedlot. Despite that, standing in the exact same spots, are the round pen, corrals and open-faced shed seen in the old picture. They may have gotten a few new poles and have had a board or two replaced over the years, but there they stand.

It was exciting that over 150 neighbors, friends and family from as far away as Texas, Wisconsin, California, central Nebraska and South Dakota came to the ranch to help celebrate with an evening barbeque. As with any event in agriculture, everyone who arrived started off by asking how they could help, and the volunteers outnumbered the work by a wide margin. I am not sure when the final guest went home that night because my wife’s grandparents were still visiting with quite a crowd when I wandered up the hill to bed. They have been around for a majority of the ranch’s existence, so it didn’t shock me that they could outlast me for one evening.

I hope that all of you take the time to celebrate and share your heritage and operation’s milestones. It is an opportunity to shine a positive light on our industry and show the world where it is we come from and why it is that we do what we do.

Until next time,

  As the year draws to a close, I find myself looking back over the past 12 months, taking stock of what has taken place around me and looking forward to what the coming year might have in store.

Upon this reflection it became clear to me fairly quickly that in the whole scheme of things, not much has changed in my life from this time last year. I have switched the brand of toothpaste I am using and AI’ed my cows to a couple of new bulls this year, but I did not really make any changes that affected the trajectory of my life. It is not as if the opportunities did not avail themselves, but as the dust settles on the year, all the major decisions resulted in my family and me staying on the current heading and course that we were on a year ago.

I am trying to decide exactly how I feel about this. I mean, change is a good thing, right? The Wyoming Livestock Roundup celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. This gave us cause to pull out the old archives, and when you compare the difference between those first papers and what we are able to put out today, the difference is amazing. The paper hasn’t developed into what it is today by accident. Major choices have to be made all the time to advance the quality of the publication we put out. With that being said, I do not look back with regret on any of the choices I made this year or think my life would have been changed for the better, had I done things differently. 

This brings me to the other side of the coin and to the question, am I lucky that I have made it through the past year without being forced into making any decisions that would have had major impacts on my life? Consider, for instance, the producers who lost a significant number of their livestock in winter storm Atlas. They have been forced into making a choice on whether or not they want to go on ranching and all that might mean, considering the devastation, both economically and emotionally. I obviously feel blessed that I was not required to make a decision anywhere near that magnitude this year.

In general I would have to say that I am comfortable with where my life has led, which could be a major contributor to my complacency in keeping with the status quo over the past year. I mean, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” right? I can already see, looking forward to this coming year, there will be a number of things that have the potential to require more significant contemplation than anything that came up this year. Life has a way of putting you in situations that require a decision which involves significant risk regardless of what you chose to do and many times just doing the same thing that you have been doing isn’t among the options.

 Knowing this makes me feel blessed for this past year and the way things have worked out. I am sure it will not always be this way. I hope you, too, can look back at this past year and be pleased with what you see also. Let me be among the first to wish you a happy and prosperous New Year!

Until next time,