Buffalo what? -- A needed initiative
In contemplating responding to Dick Trails column about the concern expressed by a prominent agri-business cheerleader in Southwest Nebraska I asked myself why and can I present a message of relevance. I feel confident I can answer the first question of why to an appreciable degree. The second question will only be answered by those who read further.
Let me preface my comments by disclosing that Lt. Col. Dick Trail (USAF Ret.), his wife Ann and their family have been long and valued friends of my family. One of the best Thanksgivings I remember is when my dad and mom (Ron and Karen Meister) loaded four of us kids all in the station wagon two days prior to the 1976 or 1977 Thanksgiving Holiday and drove us down to Oklahoma City to spend the holiday with the Trail family. At the time Dick was stationed at Tinker Air Force Base. Obviously, this occasion made an impression on me that has stuck with me for over 40 years. To this date. I still consider them to be exemplary Americans and Nebraskans to the core.
Let me now answer the questions as to "why" someone that has been away from McCook since 1982 would want to be heard concerning McCook being branded the "Capital of the Buffalo Commons."
I attribute a significant degree my fortunate success in life to the values I learned being raised in McCook. In the '60s and '70s even though times were tough for my mom and dad he just entering the insurance business with the Marr Agency somehow they made it possible for mom to be a "professional homemaker" and on the side teach piano. Dad and mom were always there to support and encourage us. My brothers and I learned the value of work and team involvement by all having paper routes, mowing lawns, shoveling snow and participating in numerous sports and school activities. We learned to appreciate what Nebraska had to offer by fishing, hunting, boating, gardening and camping to name just a few of the activities.
These are the values and memories that have brought me back to the region to raise Bison with my partner Randy Woitaszewski.
Now to address the question of relevance.
Since purchasing the property in April of 2016 I have visited McCook seven times. Prior and during these visits I have interacted with many local folks including small business owners, area farmer / ranchers, the State of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, State Dept. of Road, Bureau of Reclamation, USDA NRCS, Red Willow Tourism Authority, Bellaire Oil Company and local media. Fortunately I have found most contacts receptive to the Bison project. Of course there will always be some less enthusiastic to change.
Change -- I believe is what this is all about.
The "Capital of the Buffalo Commons" of course does not include all the many components that makes Southwest Nebraska and McCook at this point a community that holds its own in a global and changing climatic environment. Ask the rancher/farmer that has seen their grain and cattle prices cut by 50% or more over the last 3 years or less.
What it does provide is a "Beacon of Hope" and acknowledgment that the area needs more than one dominate economic plow horse. McCook has done well in diversifying with emphasis on Health Care, Elderly Care, Light Industrial Components, MCC and the Kiplinger Arena events. But with 11 -- 14 percent of Red Willow County residents living in poverty according to USDA data more needs to be done.
The world is changing. The environment is changing. The practices of agriculture and area businesses that have provided significant returns to producers and area businesses can accept the fact and start changing now and be open to innovation or be force to survive. What makes the most sense?
Lt. Col. Dick Trail did not receive the Distinguished Flying Cross by going at it on his own in this mission over Vietnam. It took coordination, trust, confidence, team work and compromise for him and his flight crew to refuel those Navy fighter jets.
I believe the same sort of dedication and commitment is going to be required to keep McCook and the surrounding area an attractive place to do business, raise families, invest and prosper.
Darrell A. Meister
McCook High School Class of 1978