The livestock industry lost a great mentor this morning when Bud Williams died of pancreatic cancer.
I first met Bud and Eunice Williams back in 1991. I was working then as assistant editor of the Oklahoma Farmer-Stockman magazine, a publication that is now morphed into a joint venture with the Texas version of the same name in the Farm Progress fleet of publications.
I think it was my friend Wally Olson at Vinita, Oklahoma, who introduced me to Bud's work, or maybe it was Beef Producer columnist Walt Davis, or maybe Waynoka, Oklahoma, rancher Kim Barker ... doesn't matter, I suppose.
I was astounded at what I learned and began to read extensively everything I could get from Bud and to watch the videos he and Eunice had shot and put together.
I contacted the Williamses and asked if they would work with me on a series of stories and a four-stop tour of one-day workshops centered in the four quadrants of Oklahoma. They agreed and we began the work.
All the while I kept going back to those videos and watching Bud do things with livestock I never imagined could be done.
It's been a long time now and I can't remember exactly how it worked out but I think we averaged about 50 people at each workshop. I had mixed feelings about that turnout. I could see immense value in what Bud was teaching and wrote passionately about it. I knew he was known to some degree and I couldn't understand why more people didn't attend.
On the other hand, I had recently done a stint in the Extension service and so figured any meeting with 50 people was a success.
Getting to spend four-plus days hearing Bud explain how to do these things and how to watch livestock and see what they would do instead of reacting to our own fear about what they might do was a revelation to me.
After that I could see others make mistakes and could stop my own mistakes, often before I made them or at least as I was making them.
I think one of the most important things I learned from Bud was to let the livestock teach you, just as he always said of stock dogs. Learn from them. Watch what they do and learn how to use that to your advantage.
This learning attitude is one of the greatest things Bud taught, it seems to me.
Fortunately, Bud's work has caught on with hundreds of people and is slowly working its way through the industry. More people are learning and hopefully many more of us will.
He's gone but I believe his legacy of knowledge and learning will live on in his many students.
If you want to learn more about Bud and Eunice Williams, go to their website.