"I want to show a cow."
I still remember telling my dad, Jeter Isely, that simple thing when I was 15. What none of us knew then was how such a simple phrase was going to change the shape of our little horse and wheat farm.
Never one to agree to a whim without reason, Dad told me I could get myself a 4-H cow under the restrictions that: 1) it wasn't a usual breed, 2) I could find reasons that the breed would be good for us to have 3) I had to find a breeder. This was a great task because he thought it would deter me from wanting to bring home a cow and, at the same time, gave me a chance to prove him wrong and get my cow.
If you haven't already checked, there are over 350 breeds of cattle that you can browse online. And, when you're 15, you will go through all of them to prove a point. Or I did at the very least.
Dad sat down to hear me out in my unofficial official presentation. I don't remember the majority of my top five, though I know five was a cow located in africa with only eight left in the breed (that was vetoed for some reason) and the top choice was Belted Galloway. Only issue? Finding a breeder near Bird City, Kansas.
But that didn't stop me. He agreed if I could find a breeder then I could get one cow and my sister could get one. That was it. Two heifers to show. Nothing more. I was over the moon about it and started to search, seeking high and low, finding expensive cows too far away, and steadfastly refusing to lose hope.
Fast forward a few months to a hotel room in Denver during the National Western Stock Show when my mom was browsing a newspaper we'd grabbed somewhere or another. Just a small paper, nothing important. And there, in the middle pages, was a small paragraph; two belted galloway heifers for sale. Registered. Kiowa, Colorado.
We called and scheduled a time to come see them (with a trailer in tow.) And I will never forget rushing to the fence and staring at those two who stared back at us. Those two and their sister...who we also loaded up.
We brought home three that day - two unbred and one potentially bred. Two for 4-H. One from purest impulse decision making.
By August of that year our little herd gained five more - including our first bull, Samurai Jack (who I named, naturally.) And each year it grew a little more and a little more until I was leaving 4-H, bound for college, and we had a cute collect of hobby cows and our little bull. I smiled and got ready to leave, figuring this was the small dream and that was where it would stay.
That was until my dad called me my first semester and told me he had just found a herd dispersal sale.
"Aren't you retiring?" I asked, half laughing.
"Yes, with cattle," he replied. "We're borrowing a trailer and getting them next weekend."
He wasn't kidding. Joining our 4-H hobby cows came another 20 or so head. And we were maxed out on our land. We had a cute and good sized beltie herd now. But that was all we could handle and I knew that.
Or thought I knew that until in another semester he had purchased another 200+ acres.
Soon our beltie hobby, my "one" 4-H cow, was one of the largest registered herds in the country.
And it's still strong. We are working on growing our numbers again, working on coming back to herd size since I've moved to the area once more and can help. We want to continue to raise some of the best cattle there are - even if sometimes they are a little ornery, but who isn't?