There are few landmarks on the relatively lonely stretch of interstate that connects western Nebraska and Eastern Colorado to Denver.
But for many who regularly travel I-76 this time of year, there’s one they’ve come to watch for: “Merry Christmas. Eat Beef.”
Perched on the crest, nestled between pivot corners, it’s a simple message, with beginnings much the same.
Just east of Red Lion Road sits the ranch that Chris Dinsdale purchased 25 years ago. It is home to 600 Angus cows and a 7,000-head feedyard.
Somewhere around 15 to 18 years ago—it’s become a fixture so it’s hard to remember just when—Chris had a skilled welder on staff who made the sign. There are something like 2,500, 1-inch bulbs on the greeting, which stays out all year long.
Not a summer storm or a rubbing cow can keep it from decorating the western skyline for a few weeks each holiday season.
“Hail storms are a little tough on it,” Chris says, recalling the worst incident when they had $1,200 worth of bulbs to replace.
But it’s become their way of shining a light (both literally and figuratively) on the beef community.
“Semis will honk and you’ll see people trying to take pictures of it,” Chris says.
I was in the passenger seat, head down, writing a video script for The Angus Report on a pre-dawn trip west when my husband said, “Hey, look at that!” I barely had time to get my iPhone out and capture a snapshot at interstate speeds.
They didn’t set out to get attention. The message was crafted long before the Facebook-era, but when we uploaded that picture on our Black Ink page, we quickly noticed you all liked it, too. More than 1,000 followers have shared the post, and nearly 190,000 people have seen it.
Thanks to a connected world, with the help from a friend of a friend of a friend, I got the rest of the story from Chris himself. The prominent ag businessman and native Nebraskan knows that trek of road well, living in Sterling, Colo., with ag interests in the next zip code over from me.
“I hope it brings a grin to peoples’ faces, especially there in the livestock world,” he says. “It’s Christmas time, a time to be happy.”
Now that’s a sentiment worth sharing.
Wishing you a Christmas filled with what joy and great beef (which is pretty much the same thing, right?).
P.S. Thanks to the ranch staff for grabbing me the much closer up (and clearer) picture up there in the cover shot.