Cattlemen Lose a Real Champion

I’ve heard Johnny Smith say more than once, “Right’s right and Wrong’s wrong!”

From the sale ring to the kill floor to the court room and congress, Johnny constantly fought corruption and spoke truth to abusive power. Johnny was a man of unusually great courage.

A wealthy person once said to me, “You know, Mike, when you die, whoever has the most money wins.” I responded, “What do you win?” He answered, “You just win!” This was NOT Johnny Smith.

Like this so-called ‘wealthy’ person, there are a few people who have the power and wealth to exploit others and are willing to do so. There are those who are fascinated and attracted to this abusive power and wealth. They want to be close to those who have it. They are a part of the problem. And, there are those who are willing to look the other way and do nothing about it, nor give any assistance to those who are injured. Some are just too afraid to say anything, and then there are the very few, like Johnny Smith, that are willing, at any cost, to confront it and defeat it – always putting others before money and power.

Johnny was good at conversation, skilled at debate, and always willing to step-up and fight when necessary.

Heralding the new South Dakota law, SB95, Johnny Smith of Ft. Pierre Livestock Market emphasized the need to save agriculture, the state’s number one industry. “We have to save the industry! This new law will stop the big meat packers from ‘stealing’ our cattle. The packers are bankrupting good producers with their anti-competitive bidding practices. The price discrimination, captive supplies, secret deals and overall abusive market power has to be stopped. Today we took an important step in fixing a badly broken marketing system.”

Lee Pitts related, “My good friend and Pickett plaintiff, Johnny Smith, always said, ‘We knew we could win if we got the facts before a jury of our peers.” Eight years later the cowboys finally got their chance in front of a jury and just like Johnny Smith prophesied those twelve Alabama jurists proclaimed IBP/Tyson guilty of using captive supplies to manipulate cattle prices.’”

The greatest reward is not for those who accumulate the most money. Johnny knew from his own experience that the greatest reward, besides eternal, is the daily satisfaction in helping others, the many friends you leave behind, and the place you made better for those yet to come.

To many of us cattle producers, some of Johnny’s most important work involved his constant battle for fair markets. Thankfully, he left us with a better cattle market along with a clear example of what it takes to keep it.

I pray that many more of us will aspire to follow the example of Johnny Smith and may he rest well in his much deserved peace.

Mike Callicrate

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3 Responses to Cattlemen Lose a Real Champion

  1. Very well said. I also respected Johnny immensely for his big heart. He cared for and worked hard for all cattle people, and all in the industry, even those who fought desperately to quiet him. He wanted the best for them too, and never, ever tried to get a “jab” in at the folks who stood on the other side of the fence. He just said it the way it was, like it or not. He never responded to bitterness with bitterness but would just smile and go on with his day, knowing that in the end, good would prevail. Fortunately for those of us who own and sell cattle, he had an immensely positive impact on the market.

    Also an uncommonly intelligent man, he remembered and understood facts and details about the market that I, for one, will probably never grasp, despite his patient teaching and explaining.

    Johnny was a special man with a huge heart. The definition of a “real man” whose handshake was his word. He will be greatly missed.

    Carrie Stadheim

  2. The Legacy

    There are two kinds of folks
    Who pass through this life.
    One kind strives for fame and fortune
    And awards to line their shelves.
    They speak loudly and often
    And think pretty highly of themselves.

    The other kind speaks softly
    And cares nothing for fortune and fame.
    They put others before themselves
    And don’t care if you remember their name.

    They fight for what they believe is right,
    Not much room for areas of gray.
    For them, it’s pretty much black or white,
    The “Hell” with what others may say.

    They’re not perfect, of course, and they’d
    Be the first to tell you so.
    They only strive to do their best,
    Since there is only One who was perfect, you know.

    They haven’t just taken up space
    When their lives come to a close.
    They leave this world a better place,
    Johnny Smith was one of those.

    He fought for independent cattle producers’ rights
    Often going out on a limb.
    He didn’t think we should be dependent
    On every government whim.

    You can tell a lot about a man
    Whose earthly life has come to an end,
    When so many fill the seats and line the walls,
    Messages of love, respect and farewell to send.

    Yes, some folks achieve fame and fortune,
    But are forgotten when their lives come to a close,
    But some folks leave a Legacy,
    Johnny Smith was one of those.

    By Brenda Thornsberry

  3. Johnny`s life work has come to an end
    But his legacy will never end

    The standard he set for independence was very high
    And fearless determination for all to comply

    One never had to wonder what Johnny thought
    And you knew when he talked he could not be bought

    Johnny was an advocate for youth and cowboys for sure
    He was maybe bigger than the life he had to endure

    We don`t honor the man, but the work he did best
    His God given talents for us to do the rest

    We will miss his Saturday radio voice
    But remember his legacy, we have a choice

    Ernie Mertz

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