Gerald Schmidt was a good man. Really nothing else needs to be said. Gerald was also a man of few words and he would probably agree. Even though in his usual awe shucks, humbleness he might be a little embarrassed at the attention. But as I go on for a much longer and wordier tribute, he would also probably smile and say that was par for the course with me.
Last week Jennifer and I attended the memorial service for Gerald Schmidt at the Freeport Presbyterian Church. As I soaked in the wonderful service, I had many memories and thoughts of Gerald go through my head. Most of all I marveled at how someone who I had the privilege of being around for such a relatively short time could have had such a big impact on my life.
In November of 1995 Jennifer and I got married and we moved to Harper County where I was the Extension Ag Agent. Jennifer worked as a horse trainer before we got married and her old boss told her to look Gerald up when we got settled in. At first she did some day work for him but soon Gerald asked her to be his herdsman. Little did I know that her job would change me so profoundly.
Gerald Schmidt was like few men I had ever met. Without a doubt he was one of the most humble, hardest working, most unassuming people you could ever meet. He treated human and animal alike, with kind actions and deep respect. He had a calm, quiet demeanor that drew you in and made you feel good. Gerald made sure that the new, green County Agent attended all the right events and I looked forward to going to them with him.
The first thing most people noticed about Gerald was his honesty and integrity. Gerald had some of the best Angus cattle I have ever been around, but his sale catalogs were legendary and the descriptions of his cattle were one of a kind. I remember one bull in particular. Gerald described his best attributes very well, but at the end of the description he mentioned that if your fences were not very good you probably did not want this bull. I have never seen statements like that in any other sale catalog anywhere else, but Gerald did not want anyone thinking he was anything but straight forward and honest. We sure could use more people like that in this world.
I live each day trying to emulate that same honesty and integrity. However, the one lesson from Gerald that had the biggest impact on my life was the way he treated his livestock. Gerald treated his animals with a quiet respect and was always calm when handling them. I must admit that I am a bit of a hot head and very impatient when it comes to animals, so I marveled at how Gerald worked cattle. I was also impressed with how gentle his stock was and then the light went off in my head.
Livestock are a reflection of how they are treated. Treat them with gentleness and they will seldom get worked up. Then came my biggest revelation, be patient, quiet and move calmly and you will get done so much faster than “ramming and jamming”. The only stories I ever heard of Gerald showing any displeasure was when it came to someone mishandling his cattle. Hitting one of Gerald’s cows was not something you wanted to do.
He used the same approach when it came to dealing with people too. He drew others in because they knew they would be treated with kindness and respect. Gerald Schmidt was a man others wanted to be around because he made them feel good. You couldn’t spend a day around him without feeling better about yourself. That is a very rare quality.
There are very few days I do not think of Gerald, particularly when I am working with my cattle. I am absolutely convinced that the world would be a much better place if we had more people like Gerald in it. I just hope that I live my life each day with at least a small portion of the integrity, honesty, humbleness, humility and respect that Gerald showed each person and animal he came into contact with each day. In the end I must say I am a much better person for knowing Gerald and for that I am very grateful.