Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Business of the Year

Business of the Year

We came in from fencing early on this Saturday in November so we could get ready for the annual banquet jointly sponsored by the Crazy Mountain Stockgrower’s Association and the Sweet Grass County Wool Marketing Association. Montana Bunkhouse’s Working Ranch families are well represented in the local, state and national leadership of these groups that are the movers-and-shakers in the beef and sheep industries.

Imagine a gathering in your community where 10 or 15% of the population comes together with a common goal and enjoys a meal and celebrates the year. That’s what happens in Big Timber around Thanksgiving of each year. Cattle men donate beef and sheep men donate lamb. We all eat together and visit and then listen to the keynote speaker.

At the close of the meeting we honor The Business of the Year. This year it was Stephens Auto and the Stephens Family. As everyone knows, these folks are the rancher’s best friend when ever there is equipment in need of repair…they’ll get the part or they’ll build one for you. They give exceptional service…and that is the rule.

What brought the entire audience to its feet was the recognition of Mark Stephens: his dedication and hard work as Fire Chief for the County. This year’s fire season was so bad that Mark was sometimes fighting between 14 and 22 fires in one day going one direction and then another. Mark serves in a volunteer position in Sweet Grass County. And we salute the Stephens family for their support and for making it happen so that Mark could fight fires for all of us.

We’re all pretty proud of the Stephens outfit. Out here to be called “the ole man” is to be distinguished as an old timer. And Old Man Stephens started the business. His business is where the old Farmall tractor came from that we use to pound posts with. His wife is still alive and a good friend of Betty (Rick’s mom). Mark is 3rd generation Stephens in this business. Mark’s father Marv and his Uncle Jim took over the business from their father. And their young grandsons with mechanical aptitude are coming up through the ranks to hopefully carry on the tradition.

Quite a story. Another story about the strong community spirit we’ve come to expect from Big Timber and Sweet Grass County. It is “the community thing” that makes this place larger than life.