Most people have seen uprooted trees; whether the result of a bulldozer or a spring storm, it is not an uncommon sight. When a tree is uprooted, we miss the shade or the scenery, but we also soon learn that the missing tree leaves a hole. No matter how a landowner tries to fill in the hole, it is always noticeable for years afterward. The same is true when a member of the community passes away.
Gary Waltz spent most of his 56 year life in the Jasper, Mo., area. He was active in the First Baptist Church in Jasper, and served on the school board and the Heart of America Gelbvieh Association. He was a farmer, rancher, father and friend. Then, the storm came. On May 8, 2009, after checking on friends, family and the cattle, Gary died as a result of a hunting accident. Almost two years later, there is still a hole.
Gary’s friends and family did what country communities do; everyone did what they could to help. Several days after the accident, Gary’s 24-year-old son, Brad, was working to get the family’s corn crop planted. Before he got very far, two neighbors pulled into the field with their equipment to help. When harvest time came, so did two neighbors and their combines and five other neighbors with their trucks. The family still gets teary talking about it.
That kind of community may surprise some people, but it stands as a testament to the type of man Gary was and the legacy he left. Brad is trying to follow in his father’s footsteps, trying to fill the hole as best he can, and he is doing admirably. Brad is a director on the Heart of America Gelbvieh board, and the family is very active in the church. While making decisions, the family still considers what Gary would have wanted.
A few months after the accident, the family decided to stick to the plan of going to the Junior National show in Des Moines, Iowa, because it was, “what grandpa would have wanted.” Going to shows is a big part of family life, and shows often become the family vacation. Of course, showing is a lot of work, especially when five members of the family have animals in the ring, but they make it enjoyable. It also helps when your animals perform like the Waltz Gelbviehs do. In 2010, they had the Supreme Balancer Heifer at the Tulsa State Fair, and the next year, they took her back along with her first calf to win Supreme Cow/Calf pair in 2011.
Gary and his wife, Villa, had also wanted to cut back on their farming to focus more on their cattle operation. Villa and Brad have decided to rent out most of their farm ground and are working to improve their pastureland so they can carry a larger herd. They are having an auction this March to sell their farm equipment and 20 head or so of commercial heifers.
Waltz Gelbvieh spans four generations. Villa’s father, Leonard Walker first encountered Gelbviehs almost 30 years ago while in Louisiana, and he knew then that Gelbviehs were just what they needed. Back then, they were raising Horned Herefords, but were looking for more milk production, so, Gary and Villa bought a Gelbvieh bull. Now, the Waltz’s have over 150 registered and purebred Gelbviehs. They have red and black Gelbviehs, though Brad feels that, “a good quality calf should be worth the same amount regardless of its color.”
Villa and Brad still appreciate Gelbviehs for their rib-eye quality, easy fleshing and milk production, but docility is especially important to Villa’s five grandchildren who show them. Villa said they, “always look to increase marketability for commercial herds,” so they have started using Red Angus balancers from Rush Red Angus. “The bottom line is, when we take a calf to the market, it has to pay its way.”
She spoke of an auction they attended recently where she accidentally found herself in the buyers section of the audience. As their steers sold, the buyers began complimenting the animals and were hoping for a chance to buy heifers from the same farm. Villa regretfully informed them they hadn’t brought any heifers to that auction, but it made her proud to realize the reputation they were establishing.
When producers like the Waltz family are praised for producing good quality calves, they are proud of their accomplishments, and they continue to work hard producing superior animals. Similarly, when a person like Gary earns the love and respect of the community for the life he lived, it encourages his family to achieve their best.