One of my neighbors had been telling me for the past several months that he had in his possession, "something you will want to see." Finally, this past week, he remembered to put it in his truck, to bring it by, and leave it with me for a few days.
Through some fate, Larry had discovered a cache of old farm newspapers and brought me an issue of the Farmers' Dispatch, published in St. Paul, Minnesota, dated May 23, 1916. On the front page was the picture of a bull that had been named Grand Champion Bull at the Chicago International Livestock Exposition for an unprecedented third time. "What do you think of him?"
After examining the old, black and white photo, yellowed with age, I had to confess that the bull would be considered an outstanding animal in today's show ring as well, 99 years later. That is truly amazing, considering how the beef industry has gone through so many major changes in desired body types over the past century. Could beef production actually be turning back the clock to an earlier time? I took the old newspaper home with me and, later that evening, began to read the news stories and advertisements that were included in the rest of the 1916 periodical.
There were stories about the latest battles raging in the Great War (though it wasn't called WWI yet, because the U.S. was not officially involved), with familiar sounding names like Baghdad, Turkey and the Tigris River. Another story concerned the upcoming presidential election and I was appalled to see that politics were just as nasty and distasteful (if not more so) as they are now, complete with editorials condemning the candidates for being controlled by well-funded special interest groups.
The advertisements were crudely designed, but very similar to today's slicker versions with wagon-makers offering their new models made affordable by EZ financing; creams that had a money-back guarantee if they didn't immediately restore hair growth for balding men; elixirs that could bring back that "youthful zest" that men enjoyed in their younger days; and even a bottled spirit that could calm the nerves of the most nervous women. It appeared to be 80 proof.
Lastly, there was a lengthy article that described the ongoing congressional debate over a farm bill that could finally provide farmers with the financial stability they needed to survive and prosper. The newspaper encouraged both political parties to reach an agreement for the "future of the country." However, either the bill failed to pass or it failed in its intended consequence.
After spending the entire evening reading the journal from cover to cover, soaking in every word, picture and advertisement from a 99-year-old publication, I was reminded of a wise, old professor whom I once studied under. At least once (usually, more often) during every class, he would make the astute observation, "The more things change, the more they remain the same."
Crownover is cattle rancher from Missouri.