Matfield Green - Our first years

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Celebrating the solstice

We're getting ready to celebrate the solstice tonight. Bill is gathering wood for a fire fit for any Pagan. I'm also posting a picture of the house so that you can see our newest addition, the greenhouse.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Sue Smith owns our local bar - the Hitchin' Post. Her sister, Markel Porter, is an opera singer. On Saturday night Markel sang at the Hitchin' Post. It was her third year in a row, so she knew what she was getting into. The stage is a riser back by the storage room. Her backdrop is a wall full of mounted dear heads. We all ate prime rib and baked potatoes. Sue served a lot of Bud Light and a handful of Cokes. The sign reminded us that there would be no smoking during the performance. (Apparently the first year there was no such sign and Markel had no voice in the days after the show.) The kitchen closed at 7:30 and the performance began.

Markel wore a long black skirt, a white satin shirt and a seductive purple lily corsage.

She sang in German and in Italian and in English, accompanied by a boom box. She sang traditional Christmas carols. We all joined in on Joy to the World. She did a sexy redition of Santa Baby. As she started that one Deb Zeiner rushed up to through a red feather boa around the diva's neck. Markel incorporated the prop perfectly. What Deb was doing with a red boa at the Hitchin Post none of us dared ask.

There were more women at the Hitchin Post than perhaps there would be on a typical Saturday, but there was also a good smattering of truckdrivers and cowhands. We all applauded. No one left at intermission.

At intermission the was a drawing for a 5-pound chocolate bar. Bill did the honors and drew the name of Jordan Crofoot, at 12 years old by far the youngest person in the place. She was thrilled. Good job, Bill!

Great night, Sue!

At intermission there

Friday, December 15, 2006


Bill has decided to replace the term "It's not rocket science," with a phrase Tom uses: "It ain't farming."

Deer hunting season ended on Sunday evening. I feel happy for the many deer I've seen in the fields this week.

In the "Dog's are stupid" category: Pepper drank a few laps of anti-freeze out of the toilet in the unfinished south unit of the bunkhouse yesterday. Luckily Bill was there to shoo her away. Pat gave her two big bowls of milk to drink. Apparently she is fine.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Quiet days

It's kind of quiet around here. I'm working hard. I suddenly have a full roster of coaching clients, plus classes starting in January that I need to prepare. Bill is running pipe for the septic tank and gray water from our new house. Pat is building the greenhouse, attached to the front of our house. Tom Armstong is in Nebraska visiting his daughter and I invited myself to lunch with Barb today at noon. (She graciously accepted my invitation!)

Saturday night was the town Christmas party at the old grade school. Clara Jo cooked the turkey. Phil and Kathy brought the ham. Barb brought mashed potatoes and the rest of us filled in around the edges. After dinner at least 60 of the 100 or so diners (locals and lots of out of town guests) crammed ourselves into the classroom with the woodburning stove and sang carols accompanied by an army of guitars, two fiddles, an accordian and harmonica. Shelby and Katie (cousins who are in the 5th and 4th grades, I think) sang a perfect rendition of Silent Night that brought down the house.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Interview with Tom Burton

I did this interview with Tom Burton, president of Rogler, Inc. for the Winter edition of the Matfield Green Newsletter. It is a 4-page quarterly printed publication by and for Matfield residents and friends. Let me know if you'd like to subscribe to future issues.

As President of Rogler, Inc., Tom Burton is the one who will sign the papers as each of seven parcels of the Rogler Ranch are officially sold and turned over to new owners. It is a major transition, not only for the Roglers, a family that has lived, farmed and ranched around Matfield Green since Charles Rogler staked his claim in 1859, but also for the whole community, and perhaps most of all for Tom and Linda Burton. The Burtons have made their lives and raised their children on the Ranch, and they bear a large responsibility for its success in the second half of the 20th century. Tom started work for Charles’ grandson Wayne in 1961, and became lead man on the ranch just a couple of years later.
Now on the verge of his 70th birthday, Tom came to work at Rogler’s on March 15, 1961. Just out of the service and on his way to Guymon, Oklahoma to take a job with Cities Service Gas Company, Tom only planned to stay at the ranch for two weeks—but a couple of arguments changed all that. Burton had been at the ranch for just a week when a cowhand quit after an argument with Wayne Rogler. “Wayne wanted to know if I could feed for a week,” said Tom. “And I fed for a week and lo and behold the gentleman who had cowboyed here for 37 years and Wayne got into a little set-to and he quit. So Wayne made me a deal: If I wanted to stay, instead of going to Guymon, he’d just hire me. Gosh, that’s what I really wanted to do. I’d much rather be cowboyin’ and on horseback than working on one of those engines down there at that gas company.”
Born at Bazaar and raised west of Matfield Green, where his father, too, was a gas company employee, Tom figures that it was his local roots that engendered Wayne Rogler’s trust and his quick rise through the ranks at Rogler Ranch.

When Tom started work there were 16 employees, some of whom had been working for Rogler for as many as 30 or 35 years. “I’d been here about two years,” recalled Tom. “Anyway, [Wayne] and his lead man Jim Jackson got into a little fuss and Jim quit. So Wayne called me up one evening. He said he was going to Hawaii and he said, ‘Here’s the keys to the Buick and here’s the combination to the safe. Don’t let anyone else in that safe.’ And he said, ‘You’re going to run it.’ I said, ‘Oh this isn’t going to work.’ He said, ‘Yeah, you won’t have any trouble.’ I said, ‘I know some of them’s going to quit.’ He said, ‘That’s fine. You figure out how to do it. That’s your job.’”
Some cowboys did quit rather than work for a man so many years their junior. But many stayed, and Tom quickly proved to be a great choice as ranch manager. “I worked for several years just as the manager,” he said, “and then as time went on I took more of the responsibility of the office work, and Wayne took more vacations and just allowed me to run it. Finally it came to where I wrote all the checks and before his death he just made me the president of the company.”
In the early days of Tom Burton’s career, Rogler ran mostly Brahman cattle from Texas, a tougher breed than the Angus or Herefords of today. Other innovations have contributed to making the cowboy’s life somewhat easier now than it was in 1961. Tom spends about eight hours a week on horseback these days, compared to six full days each week 45 years ago.
“When I first got here everything was loaded on the railroad,” he said. “It came in on the railroad and went out on the railroad. Then you started getting these trucks that maybe would unload in the pastures but still you didn’t have a lot of these pens so you’d maybe have to bring them back to the railhead to load them out onto railroad cars. And when the Turnpike come through they built pens every so often, and we’d drive all the cattle to the Turnpike and you’d load out.
“Finally it got to where it seemed like there was a pen in every pasture, and you were just loading them onto trucks. So you didn’t spend nearly as much time on horseback.” Nowadays, said Tom, “we’re liable to just jump on that little Mule ATV and run out and check the cattle and let the horse stand and graze and eat hay or something.”
Tom says that the best cowboys (and there have been a few women among the ranks) are those that just know how to handle cattle. But even that has gotten easier over time. “We used to go out and round them up and drive ‘em places,” he recalled. “And now we use a feed truck so
much. You feed them for a couple of weeks before we bring them into the pens and you’d be amazed. They’ll just follow along by this truck. That’s something that when I started work here if you mentioned people’d think you were nuts. That’s not the cowboy way to do it! The cowboy way was to round them up and run them if you had to. But Wayne was always very careful. He realized that every pound you took off was bad for you if you were selling them.
“It’s changed a lot,” Tom continued. “It’s got a lot easier. But it’s still fun. It really is. It’s very rewarding to see one of those calves come in, spend the summer and see him go out and he’s put on a couple hundred pounds or 250 pounds of gain, and we’ve still got lots of grass left.
Tom has fond memories of the senior Roglers, Wayne’s parents Henry and Maud, who lived at Pioneer Bluffs until their deaths in 1972. Tom and his high school classmates hired themselves out to Henry and Maud from time to time to earn money for their senior class trip. He recalled, “There was two girls and three boys, and the girls would work in the house with Mrs. Rogler and Henry’d put the boys out cleaning sheds or as you got older and could drive a tractor he might put you on a tractor. But when it come time to settle up that evening, why you’d go in the house and Mrs. Rogler would say, ‘How many hours did you work?’ You’d tell her and she’d say like a dollar an hour or something. I think we were working for 75 cents an hour when we first started. So she’d start to get the check. Henry’d always say, ‘Oh, come on, Mama, give ‘em a little extra. They’re gonna need it.’ No, she wasn’t going to. ‘They could learn!’ she’d say. ‘That’s what they’re in school for, to learn how to manage their money.’ She was a business woman.
“So every time when you’d go outside, Henry’d be sitting at the windmill on that cement tank and he’d give you 20 dollars in cash. You know, that was a pretty good deal. He’d always give you some cash. He was just that kind of person.”
Although it was undeniably hard to see the Rogler Ranch sold at auction, Tom is optimistic about its future. “Before the sale I probably was more apprehensive than I am today. But I think the people that got it are going to take care of it.”
Tom’s son T.W. Burton and daughter-in-law Rachelle are among the new owners, purchasing a little over a section of the Ranch and securing its productivity for at least one more generation.
“Hopefully,” continued Tom, “I can stay friends with everybody that has got the land, so I can drive out on it and take a look at it. Always if I had a real rough day or things just piled up on you, I used to go right east of the Pioneer Bluffs, across the creek, and there’s a hill up there and you could see all the fields and you could see the countryside back to the west. I just thought that was the most peaceful place on earth.”

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A funny cattle family

I guess that technically it is a herd not a family. But it's such a small herd, just 14 cattle, that it strikes me as more of a family than a herd. Especially because there is one big one, kind of dad-like, one middle sized one, like a mom, and twelve babies. They are probably all steers but I haven't looked closely enough to tell. They have taken up residence in the pasture across from the bunkhouse.

I suspect they are Black Angus. One has a white face, the rest are pure black and shiny. The babies are about 3 feet tall - probaby not babies at al but adolescents. The dad is at least five feet tall and the "mom" is in between.

They followed me along the fence as I returned from my walk yesterday. Pepper had already raced ahead and was standing expectantly by her food bowl. So, the cattle accompanied me along the last hundred yards or so toward home and breakfast, as curious about me as I am about them.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Snow day

We got about 3-4 inches of snow yesterday. Not the 6-12 we were promised but enough to transform the world for awhile. It's melting now already as temperatures top out just above freezing. I learned a lesson about rural driving yesterday on my way home from Wichita. Go slowly. I slid of highway 177 and into the ditch at the side of the road. Luckily I was going slowly enough and there was noone else for miles around, so there was no damage to car or me. And luckily for my pride, my little Honda Civic Hybrid climbed right out of that ditch, with only a little bit of groaning and scraping.

The storm is hitting Chicago now, with more snow accumulating there. In a funny way it makes me feel connected to the folks back home.