Larry Wittler makes corrals as a heritage reminder | TheFencePost.com

Larry Wittler makes corrals as a heritage reminder

Gayle Smith
Gering, Neb.

Larry Wittler watches over his display of handmade corrals during Husker Harvest Days. Wittler makes a variety of corral systems and livestock equipment for children.

As some folks pass by Larry Wittler’s table at a local craft show, they stop and stare in amazement, whispering amongst themselves. Eventually, they wander over to try out a miniaturized version of corrals, squeeze chute, feed wagon and loading chute that make up a life-like version of a ranch, complete with livestock.

The grandmother purchases a corral system, with high hopes of playing with her grandchildren and remembering the days when the miniature version was life-sized, and wasn’t a toy – it was her livelihood.

Wittler, who makes his home in Norfolk, Neb., started making his toy corrals as a hobby. Today, the project is much more than that – he feels he is preserving a heritage. “When people walk by and try out my corrals, they are reliving what it was like living on the farm or ranch. When they purchase it and take it home, they have the ability to share that with their own children and grandchildren,” he explained.

Wittler, who retired from farming when the family land was sold, made his first set of corrals for his grandchildren. “I started out building different types of corrals, like I had on the farm,” he said. “I would give them to the grandkids to try out and see if they would hold up. I modified my design until I got it right. Then, my children encouraged me to try and market my corral system at craft shows, so I went to my first craft show in November 2007.”

Since then, Wittler has experienced much success with his corral system, especially in rural areas. “The craft shows in urban areas haven’t worked out too well because they don’t understand what a corral system is all about,” he explained. “I get lots of questions.”

In 2008, Wittler started taking his corral system to Husker Harvest Days. He sold out the first year. “People stop and do a lot of talking, and I like to listen,” he said. “From those conversations, I get different ideas about what they would like. It has been a joy for me to hear what their kids might like and how much children enjoy playing with it.”

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Currently, Wittler markets a set of corrals and different types of gates, so children can use their imagination. He also has a loading chute, squeeze chute, feed bunks, water tanks, hay bale and feed wagon. “I built the feed wagon because my grandson told me he couldn’t find a feed wagon to buy that would work with the inline feed bunk.”

New to this year’s lineup is a round hay feeder with a round bale in it for the cows to eat.

Children who play with the set can use their own imagination, which in Wittler’s opinion is better than pushing buttons on electronic games. “Girls like to make pens for their horses,” he said. “Even the straight pieces of the corral have enough flexibility to make a round pen or arena.”

The boys, and some girls, come up with their own ideas on how to play with the corral system. “They like to set it up like their dad had his corral,” he said.

Attending numerous craft shows hasn’t come without its memorable moments, Wittler said. “Once, at a county fair, a girl came up to our booth with one of her sisters and we could tell just by looking at her that she was totally blind,” he recalled. “She walked up to the table and started feeling the different pieces of the corral system. Then, she started saying to her sister – this is a fence, this is a bunk. Then, she told her sister that she could use her imagination, and to just leave her alone so she could play. She was using her imagination to put it all together how it looked,” he said. “It just brought tears to my eyes.”

The corral system has also proven educational in a classroom setting. “An elementary school teacher in Prescott, Ariz., said she didn’t have a way to teach her students perimeter,” he explained. “She bought one of these systems and said it really helped her students learn about perimeter. Most of that area is ranch country, so it was easy for the students to learn from the corral system because it is hands-on and easy for them to relate to,” he said.

Wittler also is open to special requests. “During the first Husker Harvest Days, someone asked if they provided me with a picture, if I could make it and I said I would try. The daughter had seen my card, but they wanted a particular sorting area. She was able to diagram a picture, so I developed a sorting area from their picture,” he said.

In the future, Wittler plans to start work on a design for a rodeo display. “I have had some people request bucking chutes for bulls and horses, so I hope to start on that this winter and maybe have some for sale next summer,” he said.

In the next year, Wittler said he hopes to allow others to experience joy from playing with the corral system. “I might take it to some nursing homes where retired people can set at a table and put it together like children do, instead of playing Bingo. I have been thinking about taking it to the preschools, too,” he added.

Wittler sells the corral system in a starter kit for $37, including tax. He has additional panels and gates available separately for children who would like to make bigger corrals. He also sells hay bales, watering tanks, feed bunks, loading chutes, squeeze chutes, and feed wagons. The wagon has wheels with bearings on them so they should last, he said.

If you are interested in Wittler’s corral system or any of the other pieces he makes, he can be reached at (402) 379-4412 or by email at ldwittler@cableone.net. He has a catalog available electronically displaying his products that can be obtained by emailing a request.

As some folks pass by Larry Wittler’s table at a local craft show, they stop and stare in amazement, whispering amongst themselves. Eventually, they wander over to try out a miniaturized version of corrals, squeeze chute, feed wagon and loading chute that make up a life-like version of a ranch, complete with livestock.

The grandmother purchases a corral system, with high hopes of playing with her grandchildren and remembering the days when the miniature version was life-sized, and wasn’t a toy – it was her livelihood.

Wittler, who makes his home in Norfolk, Neb., started making his toy corrals as a hobby. Today, the project is much more than that – he feels he is preserving a heritage. “When people walk by and try out my corrals, they are reliving what it was like living on the farm or ranch. When they purchase it and take it home, they have the ability to share that with their own children and grandchildren,” he explained.

Wittler, who retired from farming when the family land was sold, made his first set of corrals for his grandchildren. “I started out building different types of corrals, like I had on the farm,” he said. “I would give them to the grandkids to try out and see if they would hold up. I modified my design until I got it right. Then, my children encouraged me to try and market my corral system at craft shows, so I went to my first craft show in November 2007.”

Since then, Wittler has experienced much success with his corral system, especially in rural areas. “The craft shows in urban areas haven’t worked out too well because they don’t understand what a corral system is all about,” he explained. “I get lots of questions.”

In 2008, Wittler started taking his corral system to Husker Harvest Days. He sold out the first year. “People stop and do a lot of talking, and I like to listen,” he said. “From those conversations, I get different ideas about what they would like. It has been a joy for me to hear what their kids might like and how much children enjoy playing with it.”

Currently, Wittler markets a set of corrals and different types of gates, so children can use their imagination. He also has a loading chute, squeeze chute, feed bunks, water tanks, hay bale and feed wagon. “I built the feed wagon because my grandson told me he couldn’t find a feed wagon to buy that would work with the inline feed bunk.”

New to this year’s lineup is a round hay feeder with a round bale in it for the cows to eat.

Children who play with the set can use their own imagination, which in Wittler’s opinion is better than pushing buttons on electronic games. “Girls like to make pens for their horses,” he said. “Even the straight pieces of the corral have enough flexibility to make a round pen or arena.”

The boys, and some girls, come up with their own ideas on how to play with the corral system. “They like to set it up like their dad had his corral,” he said.

Attending numerous craft shows hasn’t come without its memorable moments, Wittler said. “Once, at a county fair, a girl came up to our booth with one of her sisters and we could tell just by looking at her that she was totally blind,” he recalled. “She walked up to the table and started feeling the different pieces of the corral system. Then, she started saying to her sister – this is a fence, this is a bunk. Then, she told her sister that she could use her imagination, and to just leave her alone so she could play. She was using her imagination to put it all together how it looked,” he said. “It just brought tears to my eyes.”

The corral system has also proven educational in a classroom setting. “An elementary school teacher in Prescott, Ariz., said she didn’t have a way to teach her students perimeter,” he explained. “She bought one of these systems and said it really helped her students learn about perimeter. Most of that area is ranch country, so it was easy for the students to learn from the corral system because it is hands-on and easy for them to relate to,” he said.

Wittler also is open to special requests. “During the first Husker Harvest Days, someone asked if they provided me with a picture, if I could make it and I said I would try. The daughter had seen my card, but they wanted a particular sorting area. She was able to diagram a picture, so I developed a sorting area from their picture,” he said.

In the future, Wittler plans to start work on a design for a rodeo display. “I have had some people request bucking chutes for bulls and horses, so I hope to start on that this winter and maybe have some for sale next summer,” he said.

In the next year, Wittler said he hopes to allow others to experience joy from playing with the corral system. “I might take it to some nursing homes where retired people can set at a table and put it together like children do, instead of playing Bingo. I have been thinking about taking it to the preschools, too,” he added.

Wittler sells the corral system in a starter kit for $37, including tax. He has additional panels and gates available separately for children who would like to make bigger corrals. He also sells hay bales, watering tanks, feed bunks, loading chutes, squeeze chutes, and feed wagons. The wagon has wheels with bearings on them so they should last, he said.

If you are interested in Wittler’s corral system or any of the other pieces he makes, he can be reached at (402) 379-4412 or by email at ldwittler@cableone.net. He has a catalog available electronically displaying his products that can be obtained by emailing a request.