S.D. trail drive held in advance of special sale

Farm Forum

SCENIC, S.D. (AP) – For a time, it evoked memories of the Old West, with encouraging shouts of ”Come bull! Hip! Haw!” and cowboys wrangling steer through an open prairie.

Such calls punctuated the rural solitude last week as a small cluster of riders moved a herd of 100 Hereford bulls to a shipping point 10 miles from their winter pasture south of Scenic, just as it was done before trucks and trailers became commonplace.

In an era where cattlemen ponder volumes of paperwork, weighing documented genetic traits to decide which bull is best for their breeding operation, a special cattle sale this week will be something of a throwback. There are no birth weights or expected production indicators available on these bulls owned by rancher Curtis Temple. What a buyer sees is what they will get.

Temple, 50, will used the bull sale as a way to pay tribute to his hardworking ancestors and their values.

”I wanted to do something for dad,” Temple told the Rapid City Journal.

While other ranch families host memorial steer-ropings and rodeos to honor their ancestors, Temple thought: why not a bull sale? The cattle and horses represent his family’s commitment to good cattle and horses, he said.

So, almost four years to the day after his father’s passing, Temple sold 100 horned Hereford bulls, 65 heifers and 15 head of horses in memory of his father at the Pitchfork Ranch’s Memorial Hereford Bull Sale on May 3 at the Gordon Livestock Auction.

But first the bulls were brought to the sale site, and that required a three-hour trail ride to get them where they could eventually be trucked.

An occasional head-butting, ”power-play” between a pair of muscle-flexing 2-year bulls sometimes slowed the herd’s progress, but the advance of a nearby horse and yell from the rider usually separated the horned combatants.

”I’ll just be happy when I see them go across the highway,” cowboy Duane Jobgen remarked to a nearby rider. Jobgen, his son Paul, and another friend, Katie Nordhorst, helped Curtis Temple and his son, Trey, with the three-hour trail drive. ”These bulls have never seen the blacktop and sometimes they don’t like it.”

A little sand on OST Highway 27 and plenty of shouting persuaded the reluctant bulls to step on to the highway. A few miles later the bulls reached a make-shift set of pens to begin the second leg of their journey.

”Do you think these bulls will sell?” Temple asked another rider.

Watching his herd wander across the prairie bluffs, Temple seemed unaware of the beauty of the warm spring day as he concentrated on his herd.

”Dad is probably shaking his head at me and thinking ‘What is he doing?”’ Temple chuckled softly the following morning.

After successfully moving the bulls to waiting corrals, then trucking them to pens at the Gordon, Neb., sale barn, Temple confessed that things were moving ”kinda slow” on his Porcupine-area ranch recently. As it was, he was on the phone before 7 a.m. He was still drinking coffee at 7:30 a.m.

Reva auctioneer Lynn Weishaar called early to catch the third-generation cattleman in the house to sort out a few more details before the bull sale.

Following the sale, Temple is hosted a meal and dance at the American Legion Hall.

Picturesque red and white Hereford cattle have dotted the Temples’ Shannon County pastures for more than 80 years. Temple is carrying on the tradition started by his grandparents, Al and Georgianna Temple, in 1932. Their son, Doug Temple, passed the fondness for Hereford cattle and hardworking red sorrel horses on to his children. And now, Curtis Temple is teaching those passions on to his son and daughter, Tarah.

”Dad and grandma were hard workers,” Temple said. Sometimes, it felt like the adults were a little too fond of work, he recalled. Temple and his siblings learned early that workdays are long on the ranch and usually involved a lot of time in the saddle on a ranch-bred horse that usually carried the same distinctive red and white hues of the Hereford cattle.

When neighboring ranchers lost interest in Hereford cattle, with many switching to black Angus cattle, the Pitchfork Ranch refused to follow the herd.

”Dad was a straight Hereford man,” his said. ”No ifs, ands, or buts about it.”

When neighbors gathered at branding time, Doug Temple always defended his preference for red and white Hereford cattle.

”These cattle have kept food on the table for the last 30 years and I’m not quitting them,” Temple recalled his dad saying.

Over the decades, the Temples have earned respect among Hereford cattlemen for their keen eyes for fine cattle, Weishaar said.

A veteran auctioneer, Weishaar doesn’t hesitate to give the bulls his stamp of approval. The bulls are all structurally sound and reflect some of the finest Hereford breeding in the region, he said.

Weishaar’s father and grandmother knew the ranching business and what they liked in cattle and horses. The cattle and horses sold recently represent decades of careful selection and breeding, Temple said.

”Dad wasn’t one to look at the paperwork. The old guys never looked at all that paper,” Temple said. ”They just bought the bull they liked.”