Not one for small talk
If you don’t like it, you know the kind. Perhaps you’re just getting to know somebody, and you reach a point in the conversation where that silence hangs heavy and it makes you uneasy.
I’m a talker by nature and profession, so I usually fill that space with idle chatter. I find one more question to ask or one more observation to make.
But after spending half a day with Jerry Bohn, longtime manager at Pratt Feeders in Kansas, I realized sometimes silence isn’t uncomfortable. It’s necessary. It’s beneficial.
Jerry isn’t the type of guy who talks just for the sake of talking. His words carry weight.
People have said that about him. (See Mark Gardiner’s comments as he won the Kansas State University Stockman of the Year award in February.) And I have interviewed Jerry before, but something about riding around, looking at cattle and talking about a career devoted to raising the best—that really cements it in my mind.
I ask about the ups and downs of decades in the business, more than three of them at the helm of Pratt Feeders. He doesn’t give me any rose-colored version. It didn’t really start out as a “dream job” or some higher calling; it was just a good opportunity that stuck.
“I was ready for a new challenge and these guys were looking for someone to run this facility,” Jerry says. “But it was a hard move.”
He turned down the position the first time the owners sought him out. He’d spent seven years as a CattleFax analyst and he and his wife, Julie, liked the Denver area.
“I tease that when you see a ditch along I-70, that was her feet dragging the whole time.”
But the couple grew to love Pratt and people they found there.
I ask about how his family life and career coincided. He doesn’t make use of any false pretenses there, either.
“It was hard because our days here were relatively long, but as our children became more involved in school activities and athletics, we always tried to make an effort to be there,” Jerry says.
As a 21-year member and officer in the National Guard, the cattleman had drill assembly once a month and two weeks of service in the summer. He wasn’t home for everything.
“It’s something you really have to focus on or you can let your work become the main focus,” Jerry says.
They are coming up on 47 years of marriage—a fact that stands to tell me they got the balance figured out.
There have been many changes over time, both personal, like raising three kids and now enjoying five grandkids, and professional, like improving genetics and marketing methods. They added more yards to the Pratt Feeders umbrella, became members of U.S. Premium Beef, partnered with the Certified Angus Beef ® brand, and he bought into the feeding company. Jerry grew his influence as a Kansas Livestock Association president and volunteering with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association put him on track to become president there in 2021.
But no matter the role or where you meet him, whether he’s shaking your hand over a cattle deal or greeting you in church, Jerry’s steady. Solid.
“When people think about your career someday, what do you hope they’ll remember?”
There’s a pause.
I resist the urge to rephrase the question or keep talking.
“I hope I’m known as someone who keeps his word and does what I say I’m going to do,” he replies. “I think that’s important.”
May your bottom line be filled with black ink,
P.S. Jerry will receive a special recognition at this year’s Feeding Quality Forum in Amarillo, Texas, Aug. 27 to 28. Register now to take in some top-notch educational sessions and see that award presentation.
About the author: Miranda Reiman
I love this life. Things that top my list? God, my family, rural life, agriculture and working for the brand. I’m officially the director of producer communications, which basically means I get to learn from lots of smart people and pass that information along to other smart people: YOU. I’m fortunate to work with producers and others in the beef community from my Nebraska-based home office here in the heart of cattle country. (One other delicious job perk? Any time we meet, there’s sure to be good beef involved.)