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Jim Holloway: A lifetime of service to the industry, inspecting livestock

By Deanna Nelson-Licking for Tri-State Livestock News

Jim Holloway, of Faith, South Dakota recently retired from working for the South Dakota Brand Board. He was a brand inspector for 61 years.

Holloway was born in Eagle Butte, South Dakota and his father Jim was Chief Brand Inspector for the state. “By golly, at the time I was working for a rancher near Timber Lake and I wanted to be a brand inspector, my dad was chief brand inspector but he wouldn’t hire me,” Jim said.

A friend went directly to the brand board and was able to get the 21-year-old hired. “I got hired and they sent me to Sioux City, Iowa to be a brand inspector. The cattle came from all over and there were inspectors from South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming. The cattle from Montana and Wyoming all came on the train. A lot of the cattle came in on Sunday for the market on Monday. In the winter it was kind of tough, you can only inspect during daylight hours.”



Holloway spent about a year and a half in Iowa before being transferred to the Gettysburg and Mobridge, South Dakota area for a year. He was then transferred to Sturgis where he was the inspector for sale barns in Rapid City, Sturgis, Belle Fourche and St Onge. “In 1969 I was transferred to Faith and I’ve been here ever since.”

“I don’t remember very many bad times, it was all good. I liked the job and thought I did a good job. I’ve worked in a lot of sale barns over the years and I put in the most years of any brand inspector in South Dakota,” Jim said.



“He always had a big thick book of brands but most of the time he didn’t have to look, he is a walking brand book and I’m pretty proud of him,” said Ivy, Jim’s wife of 45 years.

“Every ranch around here I’ve been to, there wasn’t very many weeks I wasn’t at somebody’s place. Ever since I started I’ve always worked Sundays. With Monday sales, Sunday is the main day for inspecting. My day off was usually Thursday unless I had to work the Lemmon sale.”

“When I first came to Faith, there were a bunch of cattle loose in the borrow ditch. I figured out who’s they were, opened the gate and put them away, fifteen head or so. The rancher didn’t know I did it for a week,” Jim said. “I always helped everyone I could, always tried to make sure each group of cattle were the owner’s.”

While Jim inspected mainly cattle, he also worked horse sales. “Horse sales were always a pain, everyone always traded horses and never worried about the papers until it came time for a sale. They always claimed the papers were on the dashboard of the pickup. It’s very important to keep track of the ownership of your livestock.”

Jim traveled all over Western South Dakota and sometimes the call of duty led him farther afield. “A guy sent a thousand head to Texas to run on wheat fields. The guy taking in the cattle branded them all and then went to the bank and mortgaged them. So I got to go to Texas and worked a week with two Texas Rangers, we found all but one head. That guy got a ten year prison sentence.”

On one occasion Jim and another guy landed their small plane at a tiny airport in Texas to fuel up. They went into town and returned to find their plane surrounded by the police. “They thought we were drug dealers, I had a sucker or something and threw the stick in the back right as the cops came up and they wanted to know what I threw away. I came pretty close to being arrested.”

When Ivy was expecting their baby and felt that the time had come, she called the sale barn and told them to send Jim home, that she had to get to Sturgis. Jack Nelson, investigator for the brand board happened to come into the sale at the moment Jim got the message. “I threw the books at Jack and left,” Jim said.

Ivy said a neighbor saw Jim headed home and taking the corner on two wheels. “It’s an hour and half drive to Sturgis and we made it in under an hour. A cop stopped us and we told him what was going on and he said ‘I’ll lead the way.’ Five minutes after we got there our baby girl arrived.”

Jim went back to the sale barn that afternoon. “Jack said ‘Damn, I didn’t know you were going to be gone all day,’ And he left me the book work.”

“Around here we would have four or five thousand head of cattle for a sale and there would be three or four inspectors, and I would do all the book work. I like to keep the records, and it’s not so hard to do when you like it. It was work but I was glad to do it. I worked a lot of sale barns over the years, I can’t even remember them all but all the sale barns in the northern half of South Dakota,” Jim said.

“When you work with people you have some interesting things happen. It was a very interesting job and I met a lot of really good people,” Jim said. “I’ve been a lot of good places, I can’t think of any place I’ve been that I didn’t like some part of.”

“It was a lot of work but a lot of fun, ranchers in this country are good people, good workers and they try to make the job easier for you. They would buy me supper or a drink. A lot of appreciation goes a long ways,” Jim said.

The Holloways love the family atmosphere of Faith where everyone knows everyone and it’s a good community. The couple has three grandsons, their daughter Glenda’s boys. They feel very fortunate how well the kids have turned out.

Retirement was rather forced on Jim when a calf hit him and knocked him out, resulting in an ambulance ride to Eagle Butte. “But by the time we got there I was awake and ready to come home,” Jim said. “You have to be able to move and get away, I use to be able to take two steps and be half way to the top of the fence.”

Ivy has operated a beauty salon for 60 years and she has also recently retired. “This is the first time we don’t have something to do,” she said.

“Retirement, you don’t have nothing to do and we get tired of it pretty soon,” Jim said. “But my knees hurt and I can’t walk very well, you have to walk pretty good (to brand inspect).”

Faith Livestock and the South Dakota Brand Board threw the retirement party for Jim at the Faith VFW in late June. “I had good visits with old friends and mostly young brand inspectors, I was the old one. I’ve also heard from a lot of guys I used to work with. A lot of good experiences and I can’t think of a better place to work.”


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