A few years back, we bought a heifer for our oldest daughter. Jenna named her Charlotte, and she was from Jim and Mary Bloomberg. Their farm is just a couple of towns north of us, maybe 30 miles. They’ve raised national champions, over and over, from that farm in a corner of western Illinois.
The truth is, Jenna got a heifer that year, but she also got a friend. Jim patted her on the back, gave her hugs, wished her luck, gave her advice, gave her another pat on the back. Year after year after year. Never missed a chance to talk to her, anytime, anywhere.
Jim died last week in a farm accident, killed beneath a fertilizer tender trailer. He was 66.
I can’t adequately put words to the degree of success and renown Jim had in the U.S. cattle industry as a breeder and a judge. His funeral was a who’s who of cattle producers. He judged everything from national cattle shows in Louisville, Ky., to a local hog show in Avon, Ill. Jim was a humble guy who wore the same dirty jeans and T-shirt and cap to town that he wore on the farm. He knew good cattle and he raised good cattle.
In recent years, Jim was the guy who lined cattle up to go in the ring at the Illinois Beef Expo and at the state fair. We’d stand there waiting our turn and watch him pat every kid on the back. Tell them good luck. When he judged, it was high fives and hugs. It was kneeling down to talk to a kid in the ring.
The world lost a kind man who loved kids and cattle. He leaves behind a wife who loved him, three children and six grandchildren he FaceTimed every night. A niece who thought he hung the moon. Some 3,000 people walked through his visitation.
In the days after his death, photos and tributes surfaced on social media from friends and from the young people he affected. What I’ve noticed time and again is that people remember the way he made them feel: important.
No matter where they placed.
We’ve all got our place in this world, and Jim lived his pretty well. Just live a good life.
And maybe pat people on the back more.
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