Cattleman has attended 66 Western Stock Shows
DENVER (AP)--Walter Douthit marveled at the weekend's shirt-sleeve weather in the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo stockyards, with the sun warm on his shoulders and the scent of green hay on the breeze.
"I've seen it 30-below out here," the 70-year-old cattleman from St. Francis, Kan., said Jan. 17. He hasn't missed a stock show in Denver in 66 years.
Things have changed a lot, and he's not talking about just the weather.
He remembers rolling into Denver in the early morning hours. The city lights were amazing to a young boy in the 1940s: Used-car lots lined Colfax Avenue in Aurora, selling acres and acres of Chryslers, Hudsons and Packards.
Today his daughter, Megan, and her husband, Chuck Downey, help sell the Hereford bulls that have made the Douthit family famous in the cattle business and the stockyards.
Just across the walkway, Walter's brother Steve sells cattle from a different business on the same family homestead that has been producing bulls for more than four generations.
Walter remembers sending cattle to Denver by train when the stockyards sold cattle year-round.
Now he is the last of the cattlemen who bring a herd and sell a herd at the stock show. Nearly all the rest have switched to "show" cows, meaning prize animals that attract buyers to the herd back home.
What you see is what you get when you deal with the Douthits.
"A lot of things have changed, but we still sell bulls the way we always have," Walter said, as his 29-year-old daughter talked to a potential customer.
His traditional approach reminds stockyard veterans of what the West, and the stock show, used to be like.
"Walter is a classic," said stock-show volunteer Keith Chamberlain. "He's the kind of guy you used to find down in the stockyards, but there aren't many left like him."
His other daughter, Teresa Slough, is a professor of equine sciences at Kansas State University. His son, Chad, is a production manager for the pork foods maker John Morrell & Co.
Downey said her father was a good example to follow into the cattle business, teaching her to always "be honest and always treat a customer the way you would want to be treated."
Walter remembers decades ago when he sold bulls for as little as $400. The current average price is about $7,500. But it's a far cry from the asking price for another of his bulls--$27,000 for the 6-foot-by-6-foot acrylic painting.
Rural America artist Don Coen snapped a photo of a Douthit Hereford at a stock show a few years ago and turned the image into a painting, which is on display in the Coors Western Art Exhibit and Sale on the top floor of the Hall of Education.
"Man, I'd love to sell a bull for that," lamented the chipper salesman.