Joyce Carlson is a 50-year member of the Kansas Livestock Association
Joyce Carlson of Lincolnville has been in the cattle-feeding business since he was a teenager. He helped his father feed cattle while growing up just one mile across the Marion County line in Morris County.
When Carlson got married, he and his father partnered to buy a farm just two miles south of the home place in Marion County. He developed his own cattle-feeding operation there, where he and his wife, Ruth Ann, lived for 65 years.
On Saturday, Carlson will be the grand marshal of the Lincolnville Octoberfest parade, just eight days before his 89th birthday.
Carlson was born Oct. 14, 1923, to Oscar and Anna Carlson. He had two older sisters. He was 8 years old in 1929 when his parents built a spacious two-story house. A new barn had been built earlier. His parents kept meticulous records of their farming operation. Because of the efforts of his sister, Myrtle Peterson, the farm eventually was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Carlson grew up during the Great Depression. Although the family had plenty of home-raised food, cash was scarce. Eggs and milk were sold to purchase necessities.
“If you got a nickel to buy an ice cream cone, you were pretty lucky,” he said.
Two banks in the nearby town of Burdick were closed in the 1930s economic bust. Carlson’s father had invested his money in the new house, so he didn’t have much to lose. Many farmers in the area lost their farms if they had land debts.
Carlson worked on the farm with his father and several uncles. He remembers cultivating fields with a team of horses, King and Queen, at age 10. He continued to farm with his father after graduating from Diamond Valley High School in Burdick in 1941.
Ruth Ann Meierhoff of Clements came to the area to teach school at Burdick in the fall of 1945. They began dating in February and it was love at first sight, according to Carlson.
“We fell for each other right away,” Carlson said.
In April, Ruth Ann had to tell the school board whether or not she would agree to another year of teaching.
“We decided we might as well get married,” Carlson said.
As the custom was at the time, that ended her public teaching career. He gave her an engagement ring, and they were married the following August in Clements.
Their farm house northeast of Lincolnville was a small house, but it had one advantage over his birthplace, it had electricity. It was one of the last rural houses in the area to get electricity before the U.S. entered World War II, which shut down installations for 10 years.
Carlson said his mother sometimes hitched horses to a wagon and brought her clothing to their house just to use an electric iron.
Carlson said it took some time for him to get used to living in a small house. The bedroom was barely large enough for a bed, a small built-in closet, and a crib when the babies started coming. They eventually enlarged the house.
The farm didn’t have facilities for feeding cattle. Carlson stored his grain at his parents’ farm. He had to grind it there and transport it by wagon to his farm. One winter, a big snowstorm prevented him from getting to his parents’ place, and he ran out of feed. After a couple of days, he decided to walk the two miles to grind the feed, harness the horses, and haul it to his place.
That’s when he began making some improvements. He built a large concrete water tank — large enough to hold a car — in the cattle-feeding pen and piped water to it from a windmill. A concrete hog tank built in the adjacent hog pen was filled with water from the cattle tank. The cattle tank is still in use, and the hog tank is still there, although not in use. Later, the pump was operated by an electric motor.
Carlson also built an upright silo for silage feed, which later was replaced with a trench silo. He then added a barn and feed-grinding facilities.
As Carlson’s three sons — Ronnie, Duane, and Marcus — came along, he expanded his cattle-feeding operation.
“A lot of people didn’t know how many cattle I had,” he said. “I always had a few at home, but I placed some in other feed yards.”
He said he bought cattle from several auction barns in the area.
“I was a familiar face to a lot of people,” he said, “but I couldn’t remember their names.”
Carlson was active in the Kansas Livestock Association for many years. At the annual convention of the KLA on Dec. 1, Carlson will receive an award as a 50-year member of the organization. Earlier, he received a belt buckle from the national association for his achievements in recruiting new members.
Carlson also was active in his community, serving on the board of directors for the Lincolnville Cooperative Association, the board of Tri-County Telephone Association, and in his church.
Carlson’s sons have followed in his footsteps. All three of them own their own farms east of Lincolnville and all three have cattle-feeding operations.
“I have to give a lot of credit to my boys,” he said. “I didn’t make them farm. They chose to be farmers.”
Carlson’s wife, Ruth Ann, was active in the community for many years, and they enjoyed traveling. Unfortunately, in February 2011, she suffered the first of two strokes and is living in a group home at Parkside Homes in Hillsboro. He visits her two times a week.
Carlson moved in with son Marcus and his wife, Peggy, about a year ago. His grandson, Eric Carlson and his wife, Bethany, moved into Carlson’s farm home in July.
Carlson said he goes to visit them from time to time, and it creates a lot of nostalgia.
“It’s hard to go back to your home after you’ve left it,” he said.
He is thankful for a supportive family. They transport him wherever he needs to go. He spends time at each of his children’s homes, including daughter Judy’s in Wichita. He takes in school events now and then.
The Carlsons have 11 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and another great-grandchild on the way.
Carlson acknowledged that his health is failing. He has poor eyesight and uses a cane to get around. However, he has a lot of satisfying memories when he looks back on his life.
“I’ve had a good life,” he said. “There have been some disappointments but not many.”