We are privileged to celebrate with John J Chrisman his Lifetime Membership into the GRVCA. The Chrisman name has been associated with this association since at least 1910, when John’s grandfather James W. Chrisman served on the Green River Valley Cattle and Horse Growers Association transportation committee. This committee was “formed which was supposed to oversee that all members of the association received railroad cars promptly with good service. They would see that quick runs were provided for the cattle being shipped to market.”
Then in 1987, John N. and Nadine Chrisman were honored with a Lifetime Membership to the Green River Valley Cattlemen’s Association.
John J Chrisman is the son of John N. and Nadine Chrisman and the grandson of James W. and Inger Miller Chrisman of Opal, Wyoming.
John presently lives on the ranch he grew up on. Located on South Piney Creek, formerly Flying W Land & Livestock, now Chrisman Land Co./ Rocking Chair Cattle Co. James W. Chrisman had purchased the South Piney ranch in 1907 from Jim and Chris Jensen.
John J spent his early years as a young ranch kid. He enjoyed riding, moving cattle, irrigating and participating in any duties the other ranch hands were assigned. He was driving a Cub International tractor and a sweep rake in the hayfield at the age of 8. That means he has been working in the hayfield for close to 65 years. He really enjoyed being a part of the yearly trail drive, moving cattle from Opal to Pomeroy Basin, with several nights of camping along the way.
He attended his 12 years of school in Big Piney. He participated in band with Mr. Gallemore, football with Coach Lewis, 4-H livestock projects, rodeo and team roping with his buddies.
After graduation in 1966, John attended Utah State University in Logan, Utah. He received a four-year degree in Agriculture Economics in 1971. He made many lasting friendships and a good time was had by all.
At an early age, his dream was to live, work and manage the home ranch. He headed home after college with big expectations and hired on full time at $400/ month to start his career. He enjoyed working alongside his dad and often explains to the family “how we used to do it.”
He was (still is) always reading and looking at the latest in innovative ways to produce a better beef product for consumers. Always visiting intensely with feed and equipment salesmen, listening to the latest research and daily checking the cattle market. He was always interested in ways to improve soil conditions and grow as much quality grass and hay as possible.
Any out-of-town trips were planned around a bull sale, livestock auction, feedlot or to Big R for supplies. In 1975 he traveled to Riverton to pick up some purchased bulls, driving the 1966 1-ton stock truck, cruising over South Pass at 45 mph. He had invited his girlfriend Penny to accompany him on the trip. He maneuvered the stock truck downtown and parked in front of Guthrie Jewelry. They picked out an engagement ring and then back to the business of loading up bulls. John and Penny were married in the late fall of 1975 after the fall gathering and before shipping.
John served on the then Big Piney Conservation Board from 1976 to 1985. He helped develop guidelines for conservation practices for the Big Piney area. He received the Big Piney Conservation “Distinguished Service” award in 1980. He is a supporter of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Sublette County Farm Bureau.
In the spring of 1981, during calving, his first son, fourth-generation Cody was born. In the spring of 1984 during calving, his second son, fourth-generation Kyle joined them. John was delighted having his own haying crew, branding crew, fencing crew, etc.
In 1990 he was awarded “Commercial Producer of the Year’ by the Wyoming Beef Cattle Improvement Association. He was always taking the next step in herd genetics and testing the results.
John is always aware of the latest cattle vaccines and the effects. He researches the ingredients on any feed supplements he buys and knows if there is a lack of vitamins or minerals in his cattle. Cattle conditioning and health are a priority on his herd program. He can doctor a dead calf back to life with only $300 worth of medicine, or whatever it takes!
With John’s concerns for the challenge of declining land productivity, increasing costs of production, pressures from government regulations and extreme weather, he was introduced to the holistic resource management decision-making process in 1990. He developed a more efficient grazing system on the ranch, learned the Bud Williams stockmanship livestock-handling approach, which he has taught his family, and developed amore conscientious plan to be a steward of the land. He has spent countless hours helping with solutions to assist fellow permittees with public-grazing issues. This includes multiple BLM meetings and tours. Quote: “Thank God it’ll be over by 4:00; those government guys clock out on the dot!”
His land base grew in 1987 when he purchased the major portion of the Bob O’Neil Ranch just east of the Big Piney Cemetery. After several low water years and several years of drought, he was determined to find alternative water solutions. As of today there are three center-pivot sprinklers installed on the O’Neil Ranch.
John credits with pride his son Cody for initiating the pivot projects and the time and effort he puts into growing top quality feed. He is still amazed at how Cody can turn the pivots on and off and check water flow with his cell phone.
He doesn’t care for technology gadgets and the first expense he wants cut from his budget is his hand-me-down cell phone. Quote: “That darn thing is always ringing,” but he does check the weather on the computer morning and night.
John loves being horseback, moving cows. You can always find him with a pack of border collie dogs running along, beside, behind and in front of him as he exclaims, “God dammit George, get behind.”
In 2008 just after the fall gathering and before shipping, Cactus the farmer was born, the first of the fifth generation. Then in 2010, after the cows were on summer pasture and before haying, Carsen appeared with a rainbow of colors. Good things always come in threes, and in 2012, during winter feeding, the “cowboss” Eli rode in. It just took grandkids to refresh a rancher’s perspective on life – “more ranch hands.”
Like other cattlemen and ranchers, as the years pass by, the chores don’t change, but goals do. John has always wanted to provide a sustainable ranch for the next generations if they have the desire to ranch.
John feels blessed to have grown up and lived the ranching lifestyle. His family love and appreciate him and the sacrifices he has made to put beef on the table.
And John, just for your information, you can take a vacation – the ranch won’t burn down; if the cows get out we’ll get them back in; if the barn door’s left open, we’ll shut it; believe it or not, we can run the feeder, and the swather, and the baler. And we won’t let anything die!! Congratulations!