Past and present Ownership Identification Inc. management and staff gathered in Williams Lake on Dec. 15

Past and present Ownership Identification Inc. management and staff gathered in Williams Lake on Dec. 15

Chute gate closes on long career

The first cattle auction sale of the new year takes place today, Feb. 23 at the B.C. Livestock Co-op yards in Williams Lake.

The first cattle auction sale of the new year takes place today, Feb. 23 at the B.C. Livestock Co-op yards in Williams Lake.

For most, it will seem like business as usual; however, there have been some notable changes in the back pens at the yards that will be quite obvious to any regular contributor bringing in sale-cattle to the auction yards this week.

Every single animal entering the yards must be brand inspected — a process through which the person selling the livestock is verified as the legal owner by a B.C. government brand inspector (Ownership Identification Inc.) working on-duty at the yards to ensure that the cattle brand(s) on the animal and the paperwork presented by the seller match up and establish ownership. For the last 43 years one of the primary brand inspectors who you could expect to see checking the brands and paperwork at the “brand shack” on sale day at the Williams Lake Stockyards was Jon Herrick.

If you were looking to see Jon today, yesterday or on any sale day in the near future, disappointment awaits you, as Jon, who began his stint as a brand inspector at the youthful age of 22, and spent the next 43 years on-call, never exactly knowing from one day to the next where and when his services might be required next, is no longer on duty.

On Dec. 15, 2011, at the final BC Livestock Co-op cattle auction of the year, Jon’s retirement was publicly announced. He has decided, upon reaching the age of retirement, that it was time for a change so he submitted a letter of resignation from his position as a provincial brand inspector and supervisor for the Cariboo region with Ownership Identification Inc. (OII).

Although his official last day on the job wouldn’t be until Dec. 31, for all intents and purposes a long, distinguished career was at its end when the chute gate swung closed on the final animal destined for the Dec. 15 cattle sale.

On that day, a large crowd of family, friends, cattle industry members, cattle buyers, past and present brand inspection co-workers/staff (OII staff) and others gathered to recognize his long service, presenting Jon and his wife, Marjory, with numerous mementos and gifts in honour and appreciation of a job well done.

The occasion was MCd by Jon’s good friend, Harvey Kozinski. Numerous co-workers, friends and ranchers took a turn at the microphone, speaking in appreciation of Jon’s years of work as a brand inspector.

A quiet unassuming fellow by nature, Jon was visibly surprised at the scope of the celebration and the number of people who turned up to commemorate his long commitment. The party was hosted by Wilf Smith, the staff at B.C. Livestock and Bob Miller and the OII crew from head office in Kamloops.

The afternoon and early evening also included a Christmas dinner, cake and beverages with many reminisces and good old stories recalled, ensuing in much laughter over the afternoon, lasting well into the evening.

From Bob Miller, OII general manager from head office, Kamloops, B.C.: “On behalf of the staff, board of directors and fellow brand inspectors, we wish to thank Jon Herrick for the many years of loyalty, dedication and commitment he has provided for the 43 years that he served as a livestock brand inspector and area supervisor in the Cariboo region.

“We must also extend our appreciation to Jon’s wife Marjory for the patience and support she has provided through the years, allowing Jon to fulfill his duties.

“In this day and age, it is virtually unheard of for someone to serve in the same position for that amount of time. This alone speaks for itself as to what type of employee and person Jon Herrick is. We thank him and wish him and his family the best of success.”

Jon was born Dec. 14, 1946 in Duluth, Minnesota. In 1955, his family (Jon was age nine) moved northward after purchasing a cattle ranch near Springhouse (Pablo Mountain Cattle Company).

Jon attended school/high school in Williams Lake. After graduation he accepted a full-time job at the Royal Bank in Williams Lake, working off-hours and weekends on the family ranch, where he worked for about a year before deciding to return full time to the family-ranching operation.

At that time Jon also began working part time at the local stockyards on sale days to supplement to his ranch income.

In 1968, while working at a livestock sale, the young rancher was approached by Bob Turnbull who asked him if he had any interest in becoming a B.C. brand inspector. Jon thought it over and decided it would be interesting, another part-time job that would provide an additional source of off-ranch income, but wouldn’t require him to be away from the ranch for too many hours (days) at a time.

He easily recalls the first brand inspection of his new career: “I had to travel out to the Sun Cattle Company’s Pigeon Ranch corrals to inspect a load of cattle they had ready to ship. I was a little nervous but I got the job done. Eric Reay was the ranch manager at that time.”

And so began a lengthy career that included long hours with huge cattle sales at stockyards. There were unpredictable hours waiting for the trucks to finally show up and travel on roads that ranged from “glorified goat trails” to pock-marked pavement, but never as a rule, any of the best highways in B.C.

He went out in all types of weather, travelling in good, bad and nightmarish road conditions. His vehicle always contained an assortment of footwear, warm clothing and rain gear as he had to be well-prepared for whatever conditions he was confronted with upon arrival at the inspection place.

He worked in many facilities where the job was simple, and in some places where the action was a little less predictable as he attempted to count and inspect every type and breed of cattle.

It wasn’t always a safe or easy task.

Jon still remembers his first pay raise: “In the early 1970s (hired in 1968) my pay increased to $4.25 per hour.”

In 1969 Jon met Marjory Simister, whom he married in 1970. The couple continued to ranch alongside Jon’s parents Mickey and Ward Herrick, while adding three children to the family tree over the next few years with the birth of Aaron in 1971, Melanie in 1973 and Marlane in 1980.

All the children have families of their own now and they have given Jon and Marjory six grandchildren to enjoy. Aaron (wife, Krystal and children, Jessi, Zach and Kassi) live on the family ranch, although Aaron works in town, while Melanie (husband, Darren and son, Nick) and Marlane (husband, Shane and  stepsons Josh and Cole), all reside in Alberta.

Jon’s retirement will give the couple a little more freedom to travel and to enjoy more time with their grandchildren.

It will also give Marjory a break from her years of unpaid secretarial duties as she was generally the person fielding all the phone calls, from 1970 to 2011, from those requiring Jon’s brand inspection services, often at odd hours or inconvenient times, day and night.

Quite often during calving time on their own ranch, Marjory was literally left “holding the bag” when Jon was called out unexpectedly to brand inspect some cattle elsewhere.

Jon offered some thoughts at the conclusion of the presentation: “It was a long career with many varied and interesting days, as well as some long, tiring tedious days but it was the people that I dealt with that made the job what it was.

“They were probably the reason that I stayed so long; most ranchers (cattle producers) are 100 per cent  genuine, down-to-earth, friendly folks who I enjoyed being in contact with.

 

“Many, with whom I became acquainted with over many years of annual brand inspection trips to their ranch, have now become personal friends. So it was a great run, mainly because of the people. That includes many fellow brand-inspectors and auction yard staff-members. I’d like to thank everyone here, on behalf of myself and my wife Marjory.”

 

 

The ranching community will miss this knowledgeable cattleman. He was the right type of person in a position where an individual’s temperament and cattle knowledge (the quirks of bovine behaviour) can make all the difference between a smoothly handled cattle count and inspection, or alternatively, a disruption where the cattle are seriously riled up by over-handling or unwelcome human intrusion at all the wrong junctures.

 

Jon’s boots (gumboots — insulated Mucks or Bogs these days because cattle pens are not normally dry or poop-free) won’t be easily filled.