Wednesday, December 24, 2014

From our Outfit to yours - Peace, Joy and Love this Blessed Christmas Season.

From our outfit to yours - peace, joy and love.

I find the flipping of the calendar moving faster and faster with each passing year and the burden of the world's concerns and complexities with the fatigue of it all, sometimes more than I want to bare.

Then, comes the opportunity each December to remember the reason for the Christmas season and it brings a bit of ease to those burdens.  Christmas is the most precious time of the year to reflect on the numerous blessing that that fall on the rapidly flipping calendar and allows us the time to share them with you, our friends.

For everything there is a season and it seems that although I think of him often, the second of each 'season' (in 2014) without Dad has been easier than the first of each (2013).  That's not to say we don't still miss his kindness, calmness, wisdom, support and sense of humor, but truly 2014 was less of an emotional strain than 2013 for the ranch and the family.

2014 has brought record beef prices to the rural ranching communities, record oil prices to our booming energy region and ample moisture to our western North Dakota badlands creating a most 'bully' attitude through most of this calendar year.  The recent fall in crop prices and crude has softened that a bit, but all in all Watford City and McKenzie County have much to be thankful for this year and lots of catching up to do.

The cows are in good condition.  There is enough hay to sustain for the upcoming year.  The horses are fit and plentiful in numbers (that's my shameless plug if anyone is looking for a horse ;).  The K-kid (the Kyle-kid, the Kindergarten-kid) is a joy and blessing beyond anything we deserve.  Our neighbors and family continue to be our greatest support.  The ever changing landscape around here has become the new 'norm' which certainly brings a mixed bag... Or is it baggage?  It is all of the above.

The Chronological highlights of 2014:
  • March - We hosted our ranch's first ever production Bull Sale in Watford City after 25 years of private treaty and consignment marketing.  It was well received by our ranching community and the support from our local and regional customers was overwhelming.
  • June - Watford City turned 100 years old.  After much preparation, there was a 4 day celebration, all school reunions, reminiscing and reacquainting! There truly is NO PLACE LIKE THIS HOME.
  • July - We traveled to San Francisco and Sonoma Valley to celebrate the wedding of Carmen (Pete's sister) to Steve Kromer.  It was a wonderful celebration and a great time with friends and family.  We are very excited to welcome Steve to the family!
  • August - Kyle started Kindergarten.  He LOVES his teacher, Mrs. Moen and is one of 120 to 140 kindergartners at WCES (that number bounces around with the days and I truly wonder how that 15% will do in life).  We said goodbye to our 'Tyra Dog'.
  • September - Brad Hagen (who works for the ranch) married Kaley Schmidt in Chaska MN.  Kyle was their ring bearer.  It was a beautiful ceremony, lovely reception and a great opportunity to meet and better get to know their friends and family.  Pete attended several regional Cattle tours connecting with industry folks and visiting reputation herds in Montana and North Dakota.
  • October - Grandma Olga (my Dad's mom) turned 95 years young!  She is amazing!  Her children hosted a delightful Birthday Party and Open House for her.  I turned '40' and my very thoughtful family threw a 'Median' party... I was the median and the range was 35 to 45.  It was a really wonderful time with friends.
  • November - After a full ballot requiring intense campaigning, I was elected by the people of McKenzie County to a four year seat as County Commissioner (of the fastest growing County in the United States).  My incredibly supportive husband proclaims periodically, "Be careful what you wish for.  Your greatest dream might become your worst nightmare".  Words of wisdom from a wise, incredibly sarcastic guy!  There is important work to be done and more than enough of it to go around.  It is truly a humble honor and all I can do is my best possible effort with decisions supported by research and payers asking for wisdom...   
  • December - We traveled to Las Vegas for the first time in either of our lives with Kim and Lee to attend the National Finals Rodeo (the 10 day Super Bowl event of the Professional Rodeo Association).  For a lifelong ranch kid and the daughter of a team roper, that was a wonderful 2014 vacation in 'Sin City'.
The folks that make the ranch 'go round'...

The reasons that we care so much about the future of this place.
Take it all in and then pause one more moment.  Frame your perspective thoughtfully.
Needed:  A unified plan with a unified front... AND respect and consideration for each person's insight while developing that plan.

BCF's (Best or Boy - depends on the day)

Our Outfit!

Almighty God, we thank you for all the gifts You have given us: our lives, our loved
ones, all that we have and all that we are. Most of all, we thank You for Jesus, your
Son and our Redeemer, who came among us to show us the way to eternal life. Jesus
was the perfect steward of your gifts, showing that complete trust in You is necessary,
and that giving of self is a most important part of following Him. May the offerings of our
time, our talents, and our material resources be made in the same spirit of sacrifice that
Jesus taught us by His life and death for us. Amen.

Last week, Kyle came home from school singing, "Feliz Navidad.  Feliz Navidad.  I want to wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart!"

From the bottom of the heart of our Outfit - Best wished for peace, joy and love this holiday season and for 2015.


Pete, Vawnita & Kyle (6)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tyra 'Puppy Monster' Best

Tyra Best

11-13-02 to 8-27-14

She was 'only a dog', but she was the 'once in a lifetime' dog that all others are compared to.  She was a GREAT, GREAT dog.  We miss her.

The beauty of animal ownership, aside from the obvious; the loyalty, the companionship, the field work that they do in their breed's disciple, is that it is an opportunity to experience 'life lessons' #1, unconditional love, #29, loss and #30, grieving.  I've heard it said many times in numerous ways.  They only live a short period of time.  I don't want to get attached.  I don't want my kids to have to experience the loss of them...

But those experiences are an important part of who we become.  They teach us so much about life and about ourselves.  Mostly, how we could be better _________ (you fill in the blanks)... communicators, friends, at showing appreciation, at recognizing the little blessings in life, at loving without reservation.  They open their hearts and give us everything they have to offer.  No strings attached.  No questions asked.

So our Tyra, the one of 12 little 'accidents' that prompted an early December 2012 phone call from a friend wondering if we wanted a puppy, spent twelve years caring for and LOVING our family.  A family that couldn't be more blessed by her constant presence in our lives if we had special ordered her and ponied up cash for her.

Tyra 'Puppy Monster' Best on New Years Eve 2002.  She was eight weeks old when we got her.

I remember going to the movie, Marley and Me in the theater over Christmas vacation one year and thinking "Uffda.  I would NOT tolerate that deviant behavior.  It would be a one way trip to the wood pile for that dog."  And thankfully, outside of chewing up all the Christmas presents in 2003 (in her defense, we had wrapped a box of milk bones for her and as she spent Christmas Eve service in the pickup with the presents, well...), chewing up a few pairs of shoes (cosmetic damage only), and scratching up a garage door (again, only cometic) to make her great escape as a puppy, she was pretty much "PERFECT".  I will also quickly point out that after being disciplined for each of these violations, there were never repeat incidents.  Tyra was a people pleaser whose most appreciated praise was having sticks or tennis balls thrown for her.

For a couple who didn't see the possibility of children in their future, she spent the first six years of her life with people who had the time to take her hunting and road tripping.  The analysis by Pete determined that she knew over 30 words / commands and had an arsenal of tricks to entertain people with.

One of our many 'pre-Kyle' Christmas card pictures with the T-Dog.
Oh, there was one very, very naughty black mark on her record.  She wasn't a fan of cats.  Particularly kittens.  She didn't chase them, but if they disrespected her by rubbing against her legs... well it could possibly end poorly for the kitten.

There were however, cats that she had built a relationship with.  For those cats she exhibited amazing tolerance.
After six years of being the 'one and only', she welcomed Kyle into our family and became his full time play mate and part time foot warmer at bedtime.  She was always a fan of his, but found exuberant loyalty when he became proficient with the Chuck-It.

The always gentle, always kind Tyra checking out baby Kyle in his Christmas pajamas - 2008.

Our first day of kindergarten - 8-25-14.
The winter of 2009 - 10 Tyra spent with restricted, minimal activity based off Doctors orders to heel a torn ligament in her knee.  Outside of that little episode and the development of cataracts the last two years, Tyra had been completely healthy.  Again, another of the many blessings she provided us.  In late July, I noticed a tumor growing on her side.  Pete took her in to Dr. Seth at the Watford City Veterinary Center.  He plated it and informed us that she had weeks, maybe months to live.  She was in a terminal state without question.  We sent Gunner home for the remainder of the time and spent it enjoying our dog in a way and looking back, with perspective that I am so thankful for.  Life can get so away from us and we forget that in the end, happiness is in the journey, not in the destination.  It isn't how many pheasants that you bring home, but how you feel during the thrill of the hunt, locking on and pointing one out and flushing it up... and of course retrieving it like only God programmed your DNA to live for should your person be a good shot.  Yes.  On occasion she fired Pete and moved over to the 'hot shot' without a dog, usually Kurt.

The morning of August 27th after sending Kyle off on the bus.  She was a GREAT DOG.

Shortly after this photo, I made the call.  It had been a rough night for her.  After we got Kyle on the bus and the guys headed out for the day with their 'to do' lists of ranch work, I threw Tyra a tennis ball.  For the first time ever, she quit.  She looked at me, but wouldn't pick the ball up and bring it back to me.  She would look down at it and look back at me, but she wouldn't scoop it up and bring it back.  She was communicating to me the thing I didn't want to hear.  She was ready.  It was time.  I called Dr. Seth and sobbed on the phone to him that I thought it was time.  Could he send someone out after the clinic closed and after Kyle had a chance to say good-bye when he got home from school?  I worked in the office that day.  She was restless and evidence of pain showed that the cancer was spreading throughout her entire body and consuming it.  She did her best to lay in her spot by my office chair like she had done for so long and in numerous home offices from Bismarck, Dickinson, Williston and Watford City, but she was full of pain.

Kyle got home that day.  We talked about the fact that when he went to bed that night he would never see Tyra again, on Earth.  He questioned why Dr. Bruce and Dr. Seth couldn't fix her.  The complexities were discussed, but the bottom line was that we needed to do what was best for Tyra and not for us (who didn't want to say good-bye just yet (or ever)).  Interestingly enough, we had watched the movie, Heaven Is For Real a few weeks back and I found it comforting at this difficult time during this difficult conversation with a 5 year old.  Kyle said his good-byes.  I was proud of him.  They were composed, thoughtful, heartfelt good-byes.  I was crying.  He turned from her and started walking toward me and said, "Well Tyra, see ya in heaven good dog" and then he whispered to me, "Hey Mom.  Can we get a puppy now."  Sigh...

Pete and Brad got home around 8:00.  It was the most perfect evening in God's country.  No bugs.  Still as could be.  Partly overcast.  Not too hot.  Not too cold.  Pete started a fire in the pit and proceeded to procure Tyra's resting place on the ridge overlooking the beautiful valley that falls away behind our house.  She more than earned that spot and it was the least we could do for her.

Tyra taking in her last evening with us.
A bit after dark, August 27th, on one of her favorite blankets, Tyra took her last breath and said good-bye to us.  It was a good death which ended the good life of a GREAT dog.  I sent her away with hopes that Kurt (who she adored) was in need of a good (or at least an enthusiastic) bird dog.  That night was one of the darkest skies in recent memory with one of the brightest sets of stars in a long time.  Maybe the stars have been there and we just haven't paused to take the time to consider them.  Or, maybe heaven was joyful to receive a kind and gentle soul that night.

A week has passed and each of us at our own time has visited her.  Kyle doesn't know it, but he is being watched when he does.  He will find a ball or a bone lying around and naturally he hauls it to her and drops it on the disturbed soil.  He hasn't asked for a puppy since 'the whispers of the 27th'.  Don't tell him this, but he will get one some day.  It will be a couple years from now, but I suspect we will know when the time is right and when life lessons #1, #29 and #30 need a kind, gentle canine soul for a young blonde haired boy.  A canine soul that will teach a young blonde haired boy how to be a better person.  A young blonde haired boy who will some day be a man who had that 'once in a lifetime' dog.

R.I.P. Tyra Best.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

If we don't get beyond 'R's' and 'D's'...

First off, Happy Mothers Day to all mommas out there!  Speaking from experience, motherhood is the most challenging, most important, most rewarding responsibility that I have in this little life.

Greetings from the epicenter of the muddy Bakken!

In the case of 2014, April snow and May showers will guarantee us a crop (grass, alfalfa, small grain, oil seed, feedstuffs, ext.)... and that my friends is security for farmers and ranchers in our area.

Speaking of security in 2014, we have that opportunity in front of us, but if we are going to seize it we need to do our homework and get past the R's and D's.  I personally am an 'I' living in a 'R' district (ND District 39).  Most other places in the United States and during most other times in history I would be a 'R'.  Why here and why now am I an 'I' you ask?  Because I am independent enough to vote for the 'D' when I think that their candidate is better than the 'R's' candidate.  I will use the Berg - Heitkamp Senate race as an example and point out how proud I am every time I turn on the national news or open a newspaper article to see Heidi bucking her party at a national level to protect North Dakota interests.  She is an independent thinker that refuses to let the 'beltway disconnect' excuse her from being the voice of North Dakota in our Nation's capital.

March, 2014 was an interesting one.  There were many 'firsts'.  Two of them, I attended and participated in the North Dakota District 39 Republicans nominating convention in Killdeer and attended the North Dakota NPL convention in Fargo.  Yep.  I attended a 'R' and a 'D' event all in the same month!  Why?  To have a voice.  To affect change.  To have a say in our future.  There is a saying which I believe to be true - If you aren't at the table, you might end up on the menu.  The worst possible scenario of course is when the dinner bell isn't used and meals are by invitation only.  Not showing up at the table after the dinner bell rings = shame on you.  By invitation only = shame on them.

I am not a 'D', but I am very proud of this photo.
The November 4, 2014 election holds a number of contested races with decisions for North Dakota and McKenzie County, giving voters the opportunity to affect their future.  The photo above is of me giving Ryan Taylor's 2nd nominating speech for his North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner race.  Ryan is a long time friend and he married a McKenzie County girl, but that is not why I so strongly and publicly support him.  I so strongly and publicly support him because he:
1) better understands North Dakota farmers and ranchers needs (that understanding is gained through listening),
2) knows what is at stake if the crowding out effect on agriculture infrastructure and resources isn't buffered, and
3) is a leader and innovative thinker.
I worked for the ND Department of Agriculture under Commissioner Goehring and I also listened to his campaign speech to the District 39 Republicans as well as soundbites from his acceptance speech from the ND Republicans nominating convention.  I feel strongly that I am backing and publicly supporting the candidate that has the best plan for ensuring that family farms and ranches have favorable position in North Dakota's future and that the rural communities of western North Dakota too, have a future here.  Additionally, he will bring conversation to the Industrial Commission.  Unfortunately, the current Super majority in North Dakota has created a 'shame on them' situation that ONLY 'we the people' can change at the ballot box this November.

On a county level, for the first time in a very long time there are two contested races.  The race for two non-districted Commissioner positions and for McKenzie County Sheriff.  The primary election will be held on June 10th where two candidates for Sheriff and four candidates for Commissioner will continue on to the November 4th election.

Prior to those dates, I invite all of my McKenzie County Echo followers to pass the word and to do your home work.  Affect your future at the ballot box.  Consider this your invitation to attend a Watford City Chamber of Commerce hosted forum for the two contested positions:

Where:     Watford City High School Media Center
When:      Tuesday, May 27th at 6:00 PM.

In closing , I have shared two links.  One is shameless and self promoting.  The other is a testament of selflessness.  I hope they both inspire you to affect the future and to vote beyond letters!

Vawnita Hovet Best for McKenzie County Commissioner

Mountrail County brothers leave fate of county to new leaders

Here's to affecting the future!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hay days with Skip and Roger!

Greeting from the ever busy epicenter of the booming Bakken!

'Hay' Skip! - (Not to be confused with "Hey, Kyle!")
I'm sure you have all heard that North Dakota was nailed by a 'Lion-like', "March, exit right"' precipitation and wind event Sunday nigh and Monday morning.  They are calling her Gigi and the national news spent roughly 15 seconds on it yesterday morning after forcing ALL +/- 330 million of us to endure nonstop coverage of 'DC' and the eastern seaboard's routine dusting of snow and periodic 'below freezing' temperatures this winter.

The kicker was that the regional weather forecasters were REALLY late predicting Gigi, who dropped nearly 2 feet of snow on parts of ND.  As you can see above, we received very little of the white stuff which I was thankful for.  It was the freezing rain that was more of a concern.  Kyle and I stayed home from preschool yesterday as it was 'all hands on deck' when the sun came up in the morning.  It was unknown how the two pastures of 'pairs' had fared the freezing rain and below ZERO (as opposed to FREEZING) wind chills.

We had our Under Armor base layers, smart wool socks and additional winter gear on and we were in the tractor by 9:00 AM yesterday and on the move.  Our mission:  Get an eye on every calf (there are over 100 of them now) and get the following out to each pasture:

1 alfalfa bale and 3 grass bales to the +/- 50 pairs of older calves (born between March 3rd and March 20th) - almost all first calf heifers

1 alfalfa bale and 1 grass bale to the horses

a grab of grass hay to the stud

5 grabs of grass hay to the mares

1 alfalfa bale and 3 grass bales to the +/- 50 pairs of younger calves (born between March 21st and March 29th)

1 alfalfa bale, 1 grass bale and 1 straw bale to the 15 pairs of 1 and 2 day old baby pairs

1 alfalfa bale and 1 straw bale for the barn babies

5 grass bales and 3 straw bales for the close up (soon to calve) cows

3 grass bales for the third cycle (mid April to mid May calving) cows...

What is my point to sharing all the details with you?  It was a HAY day.  We have HAY days every three days to be more efficient with our fuel, electricity, labor and tractor hours (depreciation).  In any case, it took Kyle and I 10 hours to get everything fed in good locations that offered natural protection from the cold wind and to find all the calves and make sure nothing had got too chilled from the rain and windchill of the night before.

While we were doing that, Brad was taking care of the calving barn, water and mineral.  The person taking care of the calving barn either moves cows into the barn before they calve or allows them to calve outside and then sleds the calves into the barn shortly after delivery, with mom following close behind the sled.  This is done day and night, every two hours, around the clock when it is too cold outside.

Pete on the other hand was laying inside watching TV... JUST KIDDING.  He was over at Pesek's loading fall calving cows that were sold to Nebraska.  The trucker drove around and through Gigi to get there and stayed on his busy schedule so on our end, we too 'made it happen'.

OK, back to our HAY DAY.  Ten hours is a long time in the buddy seat.  It really was a great day though.  We would role out the bale tails by hand.  We would walk the coulees checking for calves (and pretend to be black bears climbing trees).  We would chop ice on the water tanks.  We would talk about why we were doing what we were doing - from where we were feeding to how much we were feeding to what we were feeding.

We talked about how expensive the tractor was that we were using to feed with and how two of them cost the same amount of money as it took to build our house five years ago.  The expenses are an important part of the equation in all farming and ranching ventures, but especially with registered cattle operations.

When we finished rolling the horse hay out (and the horses were no where around), we ran an obstacle course on the hay back up the hill.  It was a race and when we got to the top I declared, "Now I'm thirsty".  Kyle quickly scooted over to some fresh snow and scooped it up in his glove.  We laid on the hay, ate snow and watched the clouds blow over.  I felt like I was 5 again, which was a great feeling!

The day got me thinking about how fortunate we are to live this lifestyle.  Gigi had me feeling sorry for myself and wishing I had an office job for a short period of time on Sunday night when I couldn't sleep thinking about the babies outside.  Yesterday, I was quickly reminded that I don't have to wait for a 'bring your kid to work day' for Kyle to understand what we do.  I've heard this quote come out of his mouth more than once, "My parents don't have jobs.  They ranch."


So yesterday, he was getting tired and when that happens 'his ears quit working'.  After rolling out a bale and watching him jump over and on it acting like a puppy I said, "Hey Kyle.  Lets go.  We still have a long list of things to get done before dark".  He ignored me.  The next thing that popped into my head and came out of my mouth (Why? I don't know)... "HEY SKIP!"  Kyle's immediate response, "WHAT ROGER?"

This set me back a bit as funny and random.  My question to him, "Why Roger"?  Kyle's response which will forever stick as one of his funniest, most animated responses, "Skip and Roger!  Get it?  I love you mom."  I didn't get it, but it didn't matter.  It was a great day that I was incredibly thankful for for so very many reasons.

The DAILY REPORT from 'Hay Skip and Roger' - all the calves are just fine and Skip's parents don't have jobs!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

A debt of gratitude to both blood and ranching families

Greetings from the epicenter of the Bakken oil formation!

Last Tuesday (March 11, 2014) cowboy hats and over boots converged on Watford City in the heart of the western North Dakota oil boom.  Pete was determined to capture this sight in pictures after being told by a nice reservation receptionist at one of the new motels in town that a bull sale will never 'work' in oil county.

As they flocked to the Watford City Livestock Scale Association to look through our 2014 offering of Angus bulls, and then to Outlaws' Convention Center for lunch and to participate in our video auction it got me reflecting.  It stirred more emotion than I thought the day would and I pondered what the day REALLY meant.

Our Angus cow herd has been very good to us.  We challenge those girls and most of the time they rise to the occasion.  This day had been 25 plus years in the making and it was possible because a junior high age 4-Her had befriended his neighbors, owners of one of the most respected maternal Angus herds in the country.  They providing him an amazing opportunity after witnessing his willingness to help out, to be present and to be curious.  McCumber Angus allowed Pete the opportunity to select a heifer from their replacement pen back in 1985, the point where this day REALLY began.

Pete did an exceptional job formulating a 'project' plan for this inaugural event and spearheading the execution of it with help from a team of friends, family and neighbors.  Over the past year people would ask how plans for the sale were coming and if we felt 'good' about moving to a sale.  If you can remember back to your own marriage engagement period and wedding planning process, well it was a lot like that.  There were sleepless nights.  There were tears.  There was stress.  There was love and support.  There was yelling and arguing.  There were lots and lots of phone calls looking for advice, support and participation.  There was a need to cuss the weather and to thank everyone for their behind the scenes contributions.  And then just days before the sale the continuous polar vortexes that plagued the high plains since November moved north.  Some thawing occurred and the possibility of a seasonal change showed.

The morning of the sale was an anxious one.  Will people show up?  Will they like the bulls?  Will they see value in the bulls for their cattle operations?  Will they remember that Watford City is on CST (I'm just saying that LOTS of people missed our wedding thinking that Watford was on MT)?

I remember the day I picked our local veterinary up from the Am-trak station in Williston back in the spring of 2012.  It was Dr. Pederson's first time to North Dakota and McKenzie County.  Our long time provider to the greater McKenzie County area's four legged critters, Dr. Nelson was retiring and we needed a practitioner.  What I remember more vividly than anything else was telling Dr. Pederson about the ranchers of the area.  I explained that we were a tight knit group who helped each other out and looked out for each other's interests.  There was an unspoken code of ethics in this ranching community where you respected your neighbors and you didn't covet their things.  Business was done with a hand shake and your word was your reputation and without your reputation you had nothing.  These were salt of the earth folks who respected money (for they knew how difficult it was to make a living off the land out here) and were frugal with it, but who valued their relationships above the almighty dollar.

After Dr. Pederson got to Watford City and started practicing in June of 2012 he commented to me many times on how I nailed that description of our ranching community that day.  He has gone on to expand on my observation and add (my paraphrased version of his comments) how faith, family and commitment to others centered our ranching community.  He could see through their actions and words how much they appreciated the lifestyle they live and the people they live it with.  I couldn't agree more.

TRULY, our local and regional ranching community is one of the greatest communities I have ever known.  I am very, very proud to be a member of it.  When you are humbled by your company in that way, the support that was shown to us on March 11, 2014 is beyond anything that I can put into words.  Below are pictures from the day of the sale.  For those of you that were there that day either online or in person, I offer you the most humble "thank you".  For those of you that were not, we hope you can join us next year.

If you are interested in the results of the sale:    
CLICK HERE for 2014 Best Value in the Badlands Sale results

The bulls sacked out at the scale enjoying the sun and warm weather (with the recently constructed and just opened Comfort Inn & Suites in the background).

Cattlemen and friends enjoying the warm sun and conversation at the Watford City Livestock Scale Association Yard.

Part of the sale day (and pre-sale day) crew - l to r:  Kaley Schmidt (Brad's fiancĂ©), Brad Hagen, Zac Hall (Hall Stock Farm) and Kim (Hovet) Murphy.
A pen of 2-year old bulls on sale day.
The lunch crowd at Outlaws' Convention Center.  The Outlaws 'gang' did a great job with our ranch raised beef meal and the entire event... ALL while starting up their Williston location that same week!
Outlaws Bar and Grill - Watford City and Williston locations  

The auction block - Pete, Roger Jacobs (auctioneer), Lee Murphy (brother-in-law and sale clerk).  Not pictured (off to the right) was Logan Hoffman representing DVAuction services.

The south side of the 'sale barn'.

The north side of the 'sale barn'.
The back of the 'sale barn'.

Of the 78 bulls that sold last Tuesday (76 through the sale and 2 afterwards), 54 of them will stay in McKenzie county with the remainder going to Bottineau, McHenry, McLean, Ward, Mountrail, Dunn, Williams, Divide, Billings, Stark and Adams counties in North Dakota and McCone county, Montana.  Four west river North Dakota ranches purchased in volume of 5 or more head.  There were many debts of gratitude felt that day with the volume buyers' support being right up there along with our long time, repeat supporters who in the past found our program in spite of our low key marketing efforts.  

At the end of the day just before climbing into bed my phone chimed with a text from my one and only sibling, my sister Kim.  It read "Great sale today!  Dad would have been so proud to be there."  That pretty much sums it up...

Our debt of gratitude transcends generations, is founded in relationships and could not be more heart felt right now without words to express it.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Our Fortune 500 neighbors and my little wall of shame

Greetings from the epicenter of the Bakken oil formation!

I had the opportunity last week to travel to Washington DC with a TAG (Tomorrow's Agriculture Generation) delegation sponsored by the North Dakota Farmers Union.  It was a wonderful opportunity to visit with North Dakota's senators, visit several agencies and dine at both Farmers, Fishers, Bakers and Founding Farmers (two of the four North Dakota farmer owned restaurants in the great DC area).

2014 TAG delegation with Senator Heitkamp.
Founding Farmers Restaurant- click here

One of the agencies we visited while we were there was the EPA.  We met with their agricultural counselor,  Sarah Bittleman.  As we went around the room and introduced ourselves to her, I used my standard introduction when I get outside the upper mid-west, "My name is Vawnita Best.  Along with my family I ranch in western North Dakota southeast of Watford City where we grow registered Angus cattle".  Ms. Bittleman looked candidly at me and asked "How do you like your new neighbors in western North Dakota"?  I paused, thought about this and where I was sitting and replied, "Do you mean the Fortune 500 ones"?

"Yes, those ones" she replied.

I think my response was along the lines that they weren't overly transparent and that they were backed with extensive legal teams and lobbyist in our state capital.  What I should have said is that simply "WE WERE NOT PREPARED FOR THEM AND ALL THAT COMES WITH THEM".

And so here goes my January story in pictures with a narrative that fills in the blanks and an explanation of my little wall of shame:

Mid-morning on Tuesday, January 7th we are on our way over to the feedlot, Pesek Family Farms in western McKenzie County that feeds our calves.  We had 40 steers committed to Sidney Livestock's Wednesday featured feeder calf sale the next day.  This is the only road in or out of our ranch and these cones were placed across it 3 miles from the county road.

Before walking down our very long hill covered in snow with several inches of ice under it, I more closely examined the warning cones and the hard hat on the road "Hamm & Phillips".
As we walked down and started to see the issue I thought "Houston, we have a problem and I suspect the driver of that rig does too".
Definitely Hamm & Phillips.  Definitely.  Oklahoma plates and all!

The drop off behind the truck's drivers (hanging over the edge) goes at a very steep grade for about 300 feet and then comes to a creek bank with another 50 foot straight fall to the bottom.  The only thing that stopped this tanker loaded with over 6,000 gallons of salt water was that when the drivers on the back of the tractor went over the drop off the tanker's jack dug into the road and stopped the $150,000 rig, the driver / operator and the 50,500 pounds of salt water from ending up in the bottom of Elkhorn Creek.

Remind you, we were on our way over to our custom feeder to sort steers which we needed to deliver to the Sidney Livestock Sale Barn. It is how ranchers pay their bills to the vendors who keep them operating. They market cattle.  So I tried to contact who is responsible for getting this 55,000 pound road block out of the way and found their land line had been disconnected.  For a company who claims to be recruiting talent on an ongoing basis to expand their services in the Bakken this was odd.

After waiting in sub-zero weather with an even larger sub-zero windchill for some one to show the Calvary started to arrive in their red H&P pickups. By that time I was cold, hot (under the collar) and rather chippy. For the sake of protecting the guilty and the innocent, there were four Hamm & Phillips employees that I dealt with that day. We will refer to them as M, the Watford City yard manager; H, the Watford City operations manager; G, the Watford City yard mechanic and R, the Watford City yard machinist. Straight off I asked if the driver / operator was OK.  He was, but shaken. My second question was "How long is it going to take to get this road block moved?  We had time sensitive business to tend to."  M and three guys with him (who I could tell thought I should take a chill pill over what I had to worry about and be more concerned with what they were tasked with) were scratching their heads as they had a good understanding of the technical intricacies it was going to take to not lose the rig and it's recovery equipment over the edge and into the creek below.  I explained to M that I needed to know how long this was going to take and if he couldn't determine that with fair accuracy, he needed to provide us with either vehicles on the down side of the road block or chauffeurs to get us where we needed to go.

M thought that sounded like a tough thing to make happen, but to talk to H, the operations manager and he provided me with his cell number.  Pay attention.  This is an important part of the story.  I called H and explained the situation.  He wasn't excited to pull people from their 'to do lists' when they were already behind.  I reminded him that I wasn't excited either and if Harold Hamm just wanted to buy these 40 steers at fair market value, well then we didn't need to get through their road block today.  OK.  Chauffeurs it would be.  Throughout the day in our travels with G and R, I was pretty sure someone above wanted me to hear about the sacrifices they were making to be here, working to support their families back in Chicago and northern Minnesota.  They were polite, hard working, salt of the earth, humble men who had faced adversity and who felt this 'wild west' was the path to security for their families.  I was impressed and moved by them and the sacrifices that they and their families were making.  I needed to hear that.  I will additionally note that G had two options when we were at the feedlot.  I encouraged him to sit in his heated pickup while we sorted steers.  Oh no.  He ran a gate for us and when it was obvious he knew what he was doing he confessed he grew up on a dairy farm.  He claimed that he enjoyed the day even though it was frigid and he was dressed in shop garb.

Well, fast forward to early February.  I am on the sponsorship committee for the Boots and Bling Gala - the annual fundraiser for the McKenzie County Health Care System.  I decided that after getting to know one of our new neighbors in the area, I would offer them the opportunity to be a part of this event which financially supports many aspects of our health care system which has faced incredible challenges trying to meet the needs of this RAPIDLY changing community.  I called H's cell phone.  He answered.  I asked if he remembered me and if I might get the contact information of the person who oversees their Community Giving Program for the Watford City area.  After a pause, it was declared that he was the person.  Perfect.  I gave him the verbal overview and asked if I could email him additional information.  Yep.  All good.  I then informed him that I would follow up in a week or so.  Needless to say, since that time and after the realization that I am not a CDL driver wanting to drive for Hamm & Phillips H doesn't return my text messages, phone calls or emails. 

I might not always be an idyllic neighbor.  That's not to say that I don't try to do what is right and fair for the neighborhood.  If I am a neighbor that is choosing to not step up to the plate and be a part of local solutions, but rather sit back 'mining resources' for my business' gain with disregard for the impact it's presence has on the neighborhood, I hope someone throws me up on their wall of shame and makes sure I realize what I am doing.

Just a reminder - H&P's driver was less than a foot away from needing McKenzie County's volunteer staffed EMT and Cash and Rescue crew's (these folks are GREAT neighbors) services to extract him from that truck at the bottom of the creek and if he was really lucky, take a trip to the exact emergency room that the annual Gala raises money for to keep the doors open and keep answering the 600 ER visits that come busting through their doors every MONTH.

So back to Ms. Bittleman's question, a handful of our new neighbors are wonderful.  The rest... they need a dictionary, cultural sensitivity training, a meaningful community giving program and a fear of being listed on a wall of shame - what ever it takes to make them want to be a part of the solutions to our many challenges in oil country rather than just sitting back 'mining the resources'.

Lastly, I should mention that while one of our operating neighbors, XTO decided to shut their wells down during that bad storm which resulted in this 'near miss' for Hamm & Phillips, Newfield, the operator that H&P was hauling for chose not to shut their wells in.  Another neighborly decision (which they are notorious for)...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The 'March' is on for this Lutheran Elephant in the room!

Please check out the newest addition to our website (the above link) and please do so before I start MY 'March'.

The MARCH IS ON and it isn't even Bison Football season yet!

Greetings from the 'Rocky Bakken' (notice:  NOT the Rockin' Bakken today folks)... If you have been on Facebook this AM, you get what I'm talking about.  From radioactivity being 'loosely' handled to lavish CEO's of fortune 500s doing business from afar in a selfish, inconsiderate way to good companies cutting corners because nobody is verifying otherwise, I have been a bit ranting-ish.  The media is starting to bring light to issues out here that could have long lasting impacts on our ability to produce renewable food and live on this land and quite honestly, that has me fairly worked up.

CLICK HERE - This is a good company, but without regulatory oversight, they too are taking high risks. Cherry Creek runs into the Little Missouri less than 15 miles from this location. We were VERY lucky. Hopefully it is a wake up call to the NDIC as with the correct equipment on this well, this would NOT have happened.

CLICK HERE - The North Dakota Industrial Commission apparently doesn't regulate 'drilling socks'? I would LOVE to know WHY? I fear Homer Simpson would do a better job of protecting McKenzie County...

CLICK HERE - Exxon Mobile's production division is XTO. XTO has minerals leased under us and all around us. This CEO has completely failed to put himself in anyone else's shoes who own property in their 'asset' locations. Maybe we should all sign on to a class action law suit regarding our devalued property and see if that sits well with him.

I have been trying to wrap my head around how to best start conversations that move solutions forward.  'Bismarck' with its three branches of state government (the legislature (Senate and House of Representatives), the Governors office, and the North Dakota judicial system) housed there is the key. How 'Bismarck' approaches the North Dakota business environment specifically is key.  I am certainly not a fan of the 'California' approach to energy needs (make it happen someplace else so we can have our cake and eat it too), but I am becoming less and less a fan of the current Bismarck, North Dakota approach in the same breath (which I am starting to coin as a 'free for all').  The discussion about separating the position that oversees North Dakota oil and gas regulation from promotion is a great place to start.  That alone isn't the silver bullet but again, a very good place to start.

So getting back to conversations about solutions, the conversations have to come from a grass roots place.  These conversations can not be quieted or be asked to go away because there is not 'politics' in them (I should add that I have a letter of insubordination in a past work file that I am very proud of - just so you know).  These conversations aren't 'owned' because the people having them aren't 'owned'.

East.  West.  Rural.  Urban.  We are ALL North Dakotans.  When I provided written testimony last session to the combined Appropriations Committee on the 'Energy Impact' bill, I talked about being in Fargo at NDSU during the 1997 Red River flood.  I was a western North Dakota kid that was 'just there for four years to get an education', right?  NO!  Those were my people facing the lose of their homes to the mighty Red.  I sand bagged.  I didn't make excuses.  I pitched in.  My time at NDSU was part of me and Fargo was a place that helped shape my future.  It's people were my people.  I knew my people needed help so I helped.  What is my point?  WE ARE ALL NORTH DAKOTANS.  We are all in 'it' together and I believe that a large majority of us feel that way.  That really should be an opinion poll question when the North Dakota Petrolium Council conducts their annual polling of North Dakotans.

Our current North Dakota legislature is being held by a SUPER majority right now.  I should be thrilled by this because although I find myself a very independent voter, at my core I am an elephant... a Lutheran Elephant.  That is as funny as it gets today folks.  Picture it - a Lutheran Elephant.

Unfortunately, I believe this is creating an environment in Bismarck where the 'people's conversation' is not welcomed and the people's vision for their state is not being reflected in the bills that are and are not voted into law by our legislature and the riders they contain.  I am asking you to consider taking on a task.  I am asking you to do so because I believe the future of our state needs the people's voices to be heard.  Please, voice your thoughts and do so in a way that conversation will bring solutions.  PLEASE, PARTICIPATE in the future of NORTH DAKOTA.

Also, if this blog post has offended you or any one you know in any way, I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!  I am serious about starting conversation...  GOOD OLD, UNEDITED, CONSTRUCTIVE CONVERSATION!

The MARCH is on KNOWING that North Dakota political parties are holding their district nominating conventions and state conventions ahead of the April 7th deadline for Affidavit of Candidacy to the Secretary of State (districts over the last week of February and the first two weeks of March, state in early April).  If we are going to change the legislative conversation in Bismarck, this is where it starts!  Wow!  Maybe March Madness should have been the title of this blog?  Anyway, I hope you catch it.

Until next time, make a difference.  Change the conversation to the people's conversation.  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Our own Steven Spielberg

Greeting from Elkhorn Creek Ranch near the epicenter of the Bakken oil formation!

Yep, we have been ever so busy in 2014.

March 11th will bring our first ever production sale in Watford City where we will be offering along with guest consignors, Hall Stock Farm, 90 Angus bulls and 20 commercial heifers.  After 25 years of private treaty marketing of our bulls we are going to a production sale!

So our typical operating procedure is that one of us takes a 'lead' on ranch projects and the other get the final 'do it', 'print it', 'send it'... go ahead.

We have tried to take an approach to marketing our production sale which is as unique as our ranch and the resources of it.  When Pete proclaimed that he was going to make videos to bring the ranch to cattlemen's computers for them to experience the environment our cows work in my thought was, 'that's a good idea'.  And then before he loaded it on youtube last week I reminded him that I need to 'view it' first.  Typically, I am ruthlessly critical when I am not the lead of a project and I expect the same in return.  Below is the ranch video produced by our very own Steven Spielberg, Mr. Peter G. Best.  After the debut Kyle, who was sitting in Pete's lap turned, puts his hands on each of dad's cheeks and said, quote - "Dad, WE are SO PROUD of you!  That was just GREAT!"

Enjoy and look for more to come!

Elkhorn Creek Ranch Video Tour

Best Angus and Quarter Horses HOME page - visit our webpage and download our sale brochure for additional information on our 'Best Value in the Badlands' Production Sale!

Best Alliance 321 - he sells on March 11th!

Best Alliance 380 - he sells on March 11th!

Best Extra 2117 - he sells on March 11th!

Best Tracker 2142 - he sells on March 11th!

Until next time, BEST Wishes!