A Socratic Rancher 30th Edition | TheFencePost.com

A Socratic Rancher 30th Edition

J.C. Mattingly
Moffat, Colo.

A few stockmen in Fort Collins, Colo., might remember Jim Wingate. He auctioneered many local farm sales, and I’m pretty sure he owned what became Centennial Livestock Sale Barn at I-25 and Colo. 14 back in the 1970s, maybe even the 1960s. Ernie Wimmer worked with him and went on to start his own business.

Jim Wingate sold the Sale Barn in the late 1970s, and I recall him telling me he’d bought bonds and intended to retire, but he still did an occasional farm sale. He lived on east Mulberry near Riverside. Unfortunately, he passed away unexpectedly sometime in the 1980s.

Back in the day when he ran the Sale Barn, Jim put out a newsletter (on bright green paper, as I recall) listing the prices of various classes of stock along with a couple paragraphs of commentary on the state of the livestock markets. I remember reading these commentaries, start to finish, and following them like the words were on a leash, but when finished, I shook my head and wondered what the heck he’d actually said.

This is not at an actual reproduction of a Wingate commentary, and anyone who happens to have one of those old green sheets, I’d love to have one, but this is my memory of the nature of Wingate’s market analyses …

“Well, folks, the markets were straight up and a mile south this past week. Some classes showed strength where feeders were not getting excessive with the feeding habit, as some fellows just like to feed. Preference clearly fell to the leaner kinds while heifers, guaranteed open and carrying the right flesh, topped the market in their class in certain cases where they hadn’t crossed the line between feeders and fats.

“Baby calves continued to bring a fine premium over pairs, if factored for the same constitution, as some folks like to bottle feed and fight the scours, Holstein bull calves being the most common in the sort, with occasional dogied calves from old cows sent across as canners. Old, thin cows not carrying hardware or blue bag, also brought a big ticket being good gainers on stockpiles of subgrade feed on the farm after fall harvests.

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“Sheep were steady to weak to much the same as usual, if not slightly less so. That’s all for this week, so, as always, bore another notch in your belt and tighten it up for the hard times that look like they might just be around the bend.”

John Walker called me one day in the early 1980s (or maybe it was the late ’70s) and I stopped by his house in Bellvue, Colo. I don’t recall if it was after John had bought the Fence Post from Don McMillan, or shortly before he bought it, but I recall a copy of the Fence Post on John’s desk, a bulky magazine of 16 pages! Up from last month’s eight pages! Exponential growth!

After we’d tossed the hog for a while, John showed me a few of Wingate’s commentaries and asked for an interpretation.

John said, “I’ve wanted to include some of Wingate’s, uh, analyses in the Fence Post, but what is he saying here?” He pointed to Wingate’s comment, “Straight up and a mile south.”

“I believe that was Wingate’s famous WAG.” (Wild Guess).