Creating a 50-year legacy
Although he doesn’t own a horse or a cow and has never cashed a “calf check,” Morris Hallock has always held a passion for the cattle business that would rival most successful ranchers. “We don’t need any extremes out there in the country they (livestock producers) are happy, they are doing what they want to do and I love them for it. In spite of the government, the weather and tough markets, they are there.”
The massive economic impact of the cattle industry within the paper’s readership area has never escaped Hallock. “You’ve got to fight for your industry. You can’t do too much,” Hallock went on to say, talking about depressed prices and other challenges facing livestock producers of yesterday and today.
“I presided at the birth of Philip Livestock Auction,” said Hallock, who not only owned the local newspaper but also the town’s motel at the time. “So I know what a livestock market can do for a community.” Hallock also lamented the closure of the Sturgis auction market that ran uninterrupted for 60 years and said that “someone” should build a new facility and start fresh in that community.
Fifty years ago Hallock was presented with the need for a regional livestock publication and he confidently forged ahead with the concept, never once looking back. The industry demanded and quickly grew to require, he said, the up-to-date market reports from livestock barns as well as the news- worthy stories informing and educating the region’s producers.
The paper really was borne out of necessity, Hallock said, and he credits Jim Madden, then owner of Madden’s Livestock Market, with the publication’s start. “Jim Madden built the auction market in St. Onge,” Hallock said. “I did a lot of advertising for him. He always came in on Saturday mornings and we built his ad. Times weren’t good. Times weren’t good for anybody,” Hallock recalled. “Madden stopped in and teased, ‘I’m looking for a smart publisher but I don’t think I’m in the right place.’ I told him to come into the office and spill his guts.” Madden, who according to Hallock was “straight as an arrow,” was worried that, although he advertised with radio, eight or 10 newspapers and even television, that he still wasn’t reaching his customers.
“He said he’d buy a full page ad on the back page of every issue as long as he lived and then he said ‘and you don’t need any damn contract.’” Hallock went on to explain “that’s the way we did business back then.”
Hallock said he asked Madden what they should call the paper and was told “I don’t give a damn what you call it, just print it. When are you going to start?” Hallock responded, “Next week. Get your ad ready.”
Staff members threw their ideas for naming the paper in a hat and the name “Tri-State Livestock News” was pulled out, Hallock said, with the intention of representing South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming.
Upon the paper’s launch, Sturgis Livestock quickly saw the value of the paper and came aboard as the second auction barn to advertise.
Later, after some stern discussion, Hallock struck a deal with then owner of Belle Fourche Livestock and their ad was placed in a prominent location in the paper.
At one time, Hallock explained, over 40 auction markets regularly published their market reports in the paper.
Hallock enjoyed getting to know rural mail carriers and said he was always proud when the paper had several sections. The post office staff would tell him that they liked the papers with several sections because folks would come in while they were sorting mail and everyone would “tear it apart” and steal a section.
A one-time legislator, Hallock said that when he announced he would run for a seat, his competitor professed concern that, as the publisher of several newspapers, Hallock would “blow him out of the park” by running numerous large ads. Hallock promised the man that he would never run an ad any bigger than what that individual was willing to purchase. Walter Dale Miller and Hallock went on to develop a lasting friendship. Miller later served as South Dakota’s governor.
One March paper was over 200 pages, “just before that last bust in the 80s,” Hallock said.
Hallock was involved throughout the years in what is now called the Livestock Publications Council and his paper won awards “time after time after time,” for speaking up and out for the upper midwest’s cattle producers. But he never “wasted space” in the newspaper with his own personal opinions or agenda. “We’re not talking about me, we’re talking about a better newspaper for the people we want to reach,” said the man with an unmatched passion for publishing a high quality news product for the people he cherishes, the American cowman.
Utilizing the power of the paper, Hallock was able to help jump-start and grow the Black Hills Stock Show and was recognized with their “first and biggest” award in the early years.
In the beginning
In 1946, at the age of 20, after returning from the war, Hallock took on the responsibility of publishing the Kadoka Press. “Grandfather said, ‘let’s buy a little newspaper, and I’ll teach you to publish it.’” Under the tutelage of his grandfather, Hallock did just that.
Clark Briggs, Hallock’s grandfather had served as a homestead printer, following the immigrants staking claims. “Every time they opened up a new frontier, in come Clark Briggs. He brought his press with him.” There were a couple legal notices that had to be filed to prove up a deed, Hallock explained, in order for a potential homesteader to obtain deed to the land. When they “opened up the country” around Wewela, S.D., Grandpa Briggs was there, Hallock explained of the community south of Colome, S.D., along the Nebraska border.
Five or six years after taking over the Kadoka paper, Hallock purchased the Philip paper. He later owned the Sturgis, S.D., and Faith, S.D., newspapers before operating Tri-State Livestock News out of Sturgis.
Hallock’s business partner for many years was writer Bob Lee. The two “had the world by the tail,” Hallock explained. “He liked to work at night and me in the morning. If you stopped in, you could have a cup of coffee with me at 5:30 in the morning or have that same cup of coffee with him at 10 at night,” Hallock reminisced, going on to say that his family worked side by side with him, “just like farmers and ranchers.” Wife Miriam ran the mailing room and distribution and his three daughters all took part in different aspects of the family business.
Responding to a rumor that his old printing press was buried in concrete somewhere in the town of Sturgis, Hallock said, that he once threw an old press into a cistern outside of his office building after a remodel. “They enlarge my stories,” he laughed.
“I got to be 64 years of age and I got a crazy notion I should retire,” Hallock said, of selling the paper 25 years into it, a decision he has since regretted.
Hallock said he appreciates all the Tri-State’s readers and staff for the good maintenance of his pride and joy. “You look onto Main Street and a business closes up. A newspaper doesn’t close up.”
At the close of the interview, Hallock said, “I am very pleased with the stewardship of my old newspaper. The people who are running it are doing an excellent job of informing their customers and we wish them a long and prosperous future.”
Updated August 2018: Morris Gene Hallock is at peace and passed away Saturday, August 11, 2018, at the age of 92. Click here to read the full obituary.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News