Romance is in the…wood chips | TSLN.com

Romance is in the…wood chips

It's said that love can find people anywhere, and a western South Dakota stock show held in the midst of February's reputation for romance is no exception. For three couples, the Black Hills Stock Show (BHSS) is where their path's crossed for the first time, leading to lasting marriages and families that often return to the event on an annual basis.

Brad and Trixie Grill, Sonny and Mary Booth and Brandon and Sasha Burch are all involved in the stock show today, but began attending the event, "back in their single days." Each couple met while showing, auctioneering, clipping or judging at the stock show. From first glances across the livestock barn, to the Vea Bea Thomas family introducing two of the couples, and being jokingly called the best matchmakers of the BHSS, their stories speak to the ability of finding lasting love in unexpected places.

"When I saw Brad while we were both walking through the show barn, I was really in awe of how handsome he was. I had never seen anyone as good-looking as him, nor have I since. He caught my eye for sure, and I wanted to meet him, but wasn't sure how. Then I realized I knew the person he was with from somewhere, so I turned around and went back to start talking to the friend, then introduced myself to him. It went from there," began Trixie Grill of how she and husband Brad met in 1999 while she was helping the Thomas family with their cattle and he was showing Red Angus cattle.

During the conversation, Brad invited Trixie to attend a social function being hosted by the BHSS the same day, and she agreed. They went on to attend the weekend dance together, and the next morning Brad tracked Trixie down to give her his number.

"In case she ever wanted to get back ahold of me again," he explained.

She did call, and the two stayed in touch from that point on as Brad finished college and moved to Hot Springs, S.D., to work for a rancher and Trixie continued traveling the country, clipping bulls and helping at various livestock shows.

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"It was the next year at BHSS that we decided we wanted to keep the relationship going, so I made the decision to keep clipping, but moved out here that spring," noted Trixie.

She arrived just in time for the big spring blizzard of 2001, resulting in Brad's boss hiring her to help fence the following summer.

"We ended up working together on the same ranch, and by that November we were getting engaged. The following May we got married," said Brad.

Today the couple own and operate the B Lazy T Ranch near Hot Springs, raising registered Red Angus cattle. Attending the BHSS is an annual affair for the couple, who also pull their kids Braden and Brylee out of school each year to make it a family event while they show their own cattle and Brad fulfills his role as the Red Angus breed representative.

"It's like hanging out with family for the week, and the education our children receive through attending and visiting with other people within the Red Angus breed is irreplaceable. Just being around the people in agriculture and learning the values of our industry is a key part – it would be hard to come up with a better group of people than those we see at the BHSS," said Brad.

Looking forward, the couple continues striving toward a goal that was shared during their first encounter.

"I remember sitting with him at the dance that first week we met, and asking him something to the affect of what he wanted to do – was he planning to raise Red Angus cattle in the future, or was that just a stepping stone to something else in life. He turned to me and said, 'I want to make a difference in the Red Angus breed.' That's one thing I'll never forget, and while it's a slow process we are trying to make that happen together," stated Trixie.

Sonny Booth will be seen auctioneering four of the 2014 BHSS purebred cattle sales in addition to announcing the Supreme Row Champion at the weekend rodeo. He said his involvement with the BHSS spans more than two decades. It was during one of his earlier shows that he met wife Mary, and the two connected immediately.

"Mary was the livestock judging coach for South Dakota State University for 10 years, and got her PhD in animal nutrition, so she judged a lot of shows at the BHSS years ago. We met somewhere along the line and just hit it off," he said.

Both Sonny and Mary came from livestock backgrounds, making their shared enthusiasm for stock shows and cattle a cornerstone of the relationship.

"If we had not both been involved like we were, we probably would have never met. It's been a great marriage and we also have a 17-year old daughter that is now very involved in showing at stock shows across the country," noted Sonny.

He continued, stating there is no better life than one spent showing and raising livestock, particularly when it can be done as a family.

"You get to be your own boss and do it on your own out here in the ranching world, raising the cattle you've selected for. It's great to produce some who do well, and compete with them as a family, which we primarily do through junior shows. Just a couple weeks ago my daughter had the grand champion bull at the National Western Stock Show, and what she learned through that experience has been great," he said.

From first meeting at a stock show to raising their daughter in the same environment, Sonny says it has been "a great run."

Vea Bea Thomas was there to help another couple get off on the right foot in 2010 along with Kim Coudron, Cally Thomas, Jordan Mack and Jim Scheel, when they introduced Brandon Bertsche to Sasha Yackley while out to supper during the BHSS.

"I had come from Illinois to the BHSS with my family's cattle, and we all went out to supper one night for pizza. They had this friend from back home promoting an energy drink upstairs, and it ended up being Sasha. We had each known our mutual friends for a long time, and she had been attending the stock show every year I had been there, but we had never run into each other before," began Brandon of how he and Sasha met in 2010.

The two spent much of the next week together, and met whenever their schedules allowed at later sales and shows in 2010.

"Then I moved out here and we got married in August of 2011. I now farm with her family near Onida, S.D. And still try to help my family at various shows whenever time permits," explained Brandon.

This year the couple will show two Charolais bulls of their own at the BHSS, in addition to helping Brandon's family with their Charolais and Simmental cattle.

"Another big change for us is last year we went with no babies, and this year we will go with two, and they're not twins," added Sasha of the couple's 10-month-old son Briggston and newborn daughter Bevin, who arrived Jan 16.

The couple agree they are excited to have their children grow up attending and showing at the BHSS, where they describe the atmosphere as that of one big cattle family.

"Looking at agriculture in general and seeing kids that grow up through that, there is a big difference in responsibility, work ethic and a variety of other things. We're looking forward to raising our kids in the same atmosphere we experienced growing up. And, who knows, maybe someday they'll meet someone at a show from four states away and get married," concluded Brandon with a chuckle. F