By: Dave Nichols, Nichols Farms
Seventeen years and thousands of feeder calves ago, Nichols Farms and the Creston Livestock Auction started selling genetic source verified feeder calves. A few weeks before the sale, owner Dick Myers passed away at the age of 49. Because this sale was a dream of Dick’s, his wife, Carole, agreed to host the first Nichols Genetic Source sale. It was a great success.
Shortly thereafter, she sold the business to Tom and Leisa Frey. We were the first potential clients they called on. And the first words out of Tom’s mouth were, "We want to continue the Nichols Genetic Source Sales."
I regretted missing the recent sale because of my commitment to speak at the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association’s Annual meeting. I didn’t want to miss seeing the record-setting prices.
Orv and Liz Hetzler’s calves set the pace again with their 906 lb. steers (calved in March) selling for $15700 cwt. Their 796 lb. steers weren’t far behind at $16650. Their pot load of 768 lb. heifers fetched $16075.
The rest of the story is a tragic one. I was alone at the office when my cell phone rang. It was Ross. His message was short. "I’ve terrible news! Tom and Leisa’s sons, T.J. (11) and Nathan (9), drowned when they fell through the ice on a farm pond last night."
Neither of us spoke for a full minute, then I said, "We’ll wait and do what’s best for Tom and Leisa."
At our Monday morning breakfast/staff meeting, Ross said "they’re going ahead with the sale, because several area sale barns (who are in direct competition) with Creston Livestock Auction are going to manage the sale, recruit auctioneers, and furnish their staff to get it done."
Sale barns from Kentucky, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Iowa participated. Plus two World Champion Auctioneers, and the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), were there when a steer entered the ring.
But this was no ordinary calf. He was donated by the Unionville Livestock Market and 100 percent of the sale proceeds would go to the T. J. and Nathan Frey Memorial Fund for the St. Malachy school where the Frey lads were students.
The calf sold for $3500 and was donated back to be sold again. Over and over, the calf was sold, donated back and resold. Eventually the folks on the seats just called out their name and the amount of their contribution. Bids started coming in by cell phones pledging to the roll-over calf auction. Ross called me on my cell phone and we added Nichols Farms to the list. Phyllis said "This was one of the easiest checks I’ve ever written." When the fund-raising portion of the sale was over, $53,000 had been raised.
The best part— when good people suffer adversity, there are lots of ordinary cowpokes who will open their pocketbooks to help those who are suffering.
The Freys have done much more than open their pocketbooks to help troubled youth in their community. They opened both their hearts and home to unfortunate children. It started when a friend of their daughter wanted Tom and Leisa to adopt her. Before the bureaucratic paper work was completed, she was adopted by another family. So they adopted three young boys; T. J. (five), Nathan (four), and Corey, (one).
Tom and Leisa Frey are ordinary extraordinary human beings. Without a doubt— there will be a special place in heaven for them.