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Always an early riser

Woster at Stockyards

Jim Woster pauses at the cattle pens at the Sioux Falls Stockyards. Woster worked at the stockyards from 1962 to 2004. 

Associate Editor

Jim is associate editor of Tri-State Neighbor and also works with the SDSU Alumni Foundation.

There are many minor afflictions associated with the aging process: hearing loss, eye sight, blood pressure elevation and others. However, I stress the word “minor.” As Mother Marie often proclaimed, following a regular visit to one of several physicians, “It seems at my age, every change in my body is a symptom.” Something to ponder, for certain.

Another affliction, which seems to be fairly common for those of us a bit long in the tooth is the inability to sleep soundly for any length of time. In fairness, for the old cattle guy, that goes back to the early 1960s, when I began my tenure at the Stockyards.

Clete Scholten, my Farmers Union Commission Company co-worker and friend, normally began our day at 5 a.m. at the Stockyards Café and from there across the street to proceed with the daily labors.

During my cattle buying years at Greenlee Packing Co., several of us, including the World War I veteran and founder Orville Greenlee, would gather at the West Truck Haven, a café near the Greenlee plant, again at 5 a.m.

As the market reporter for the Stockyards, I began my day in the office at 4:45 a.m., putting together the estimated receipts for the day and distributing them to several news sources around the region. I think I mentioned one time that long before I actually met Jerry Oster at WNAX, he was the early hour person I talked to at that station. Boy, that’s a long time ago.

As long as I’m wandering down the “time to get up” trail, all of my years at Olsen-Frankman Livestock, we were normally in the office and ready “head outside” by 5:30 a.m., unless it was an exceptionally busy day. Then the outside departure might have been 4 or 4:30 a.m.

The hardest worker in the yards, Mark Van Damn, was often the first of our crew to begin turning on water and filling hay mangers, but the rest of us weren’t far behind.

In fairness, even as a little guy, or so I’m told, I was not much of a sleeper. Mother blamed it on “too much energy ever since he was little.”

Funny story in that regard: During her years at Waterford, one of the senior living centers in our city, Mother and several of her friends would gather in the atrium around 9:30 almost every morning for coffee, homemade cookies and a bit of friendly gossip. One morning, on the way out of town, I stopped to see how she was doing and as I approached her table, she said something that brought a roar of laughter from her associates.

When I asked what was so funny, Mary Jane Reardon replied, “Your Mother just commented that she wished that Ritalin would have been available when you were little. She darn sure would have had you on it.” Thanks, Marie.

Waking at 5 a.m. during the spring, summer and fall months is most often a joy. Sunrise has always been special, much like it was for our dad. He loved the early morning and often said so in various ways.

For that matter, he was quite content on his combine during sunset. Cousin Leo Woster, who was one of the Woster Brothers truck drivers, has commented how much he enjoyed “Uncle Henry’s beautiful voice, as he sang and filled a hopper with grain, while watching the sun set over Medicine Butte.”

I wholeheartedly share that sentiment. On a quiet evening, we could hear him from across the section, and folks, it was a concert worth attending.

When I reflect upon the folks at the Sioux Falls Stockyards, which I seem to find myself doing more and more as of late, I think of the many who drove in each morning, some from quite a distance.

We had daily arrivals for work from Beresford, Dell Rapids, Garretson and Edgerton, Minnesota, to name just a few. Maynard Jensen, who was one of our first auctioneers, drove from Chamberlain, Alan Odden came from Flandreau, while father-son auctioneers Bob and Jim Peterson, called Brookings home. We had more than a few buyers from Sioux City, led by the great one, Frank Gilbert, who never missed an auction at our place. They were there from start to finish, which meant they often headed for home late into the evening.

The prize for long distance travel and never missing a morning has to go to our long-time friend and cattle buyer deluxe, Bill Mc Dougal. For 37 years Bill made a daily round trip trek from Le Mars, Iowa and was in his office making calls before 7 a.m.

As an aside, a couple months ago, David Frankman, Charlie McIntyre, Frank Gilbert and myself drove to Le Mars, where we met Billy for supper at the iconic steakhouse, Archies. Folks, I know I don’t get out much anymore, but it was one of the more enjoyable evenings in a long time. We missed Billy’s 90th birthday party due to COVID, but made up for it with the early evening gathering.

Since the Stockyards closed in 2009, we have had several Stockyards reunions. The sentimental feelings I have as I write this column would indicate it’s time for another.

What a year it has been for the folks who raise our food! I hope yours was decent in production and prices received. Be safe and thanks for all that you do.

Jim is associate editor of Tri-State Neighbor and also works with the SDSU Alumni Foundation.

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Associate Editor

Jim is associate editor of Tri-State Neighbor and also works with the SDSU Alumni Foundation.

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