Remarkable Story Finds Life on Pages of New Book
Throughout history you probably wouldn't find a much more colorful or interesting individual than Ken Monfort
.That's only one of the reasons I decided to write a book about the man. Kenny
's Shoes: A Walk Through the Storied Life of the Remarkable Kenneth W. Monfort helps demonstrate how Kenny and his father Warren were key to the growth and modernization of the beef industry.
Those of you who knew Kenny Monfort
will agree the word "remarkable" fits him perfectly.I was lucky to have worked for him and his
company in the 1970s.It gave me a rare view of this truly unique individual.And I am pleased to share his
history and the memories and perspectives of more than seven dozen of his
family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances through Kenny's Shoes, which will be available beginning in September 2008. (Watch this magazine or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for ordering details.)
Of course, examining Kenny
is useless without knowing how the saga got started.
was not only many years too young to provide assistance, for a substantial time he
had a serious health problem that would require daily attention from Edith and influence Warren's concentration on the business.
By the time World War II had begun the number of animals in Warren's operation had risen to 3,000 head, which was enormous by the day's standards.In 1942 he
fed animals that produced about 5½ million pounds of beef; he
had increased that to 7 million pounds by 1943.
Warren had increased the size of his lot to about 4,500 by the time World War II ended, then nearly doubled the capacity of his Greeley lot to 8,000 by 1950, when his son Ken
joined him in the business.
The year was 1936 and Kenny
was in third grade.He
was responsible for feeding his
4-H calves before going off to school, and he
wasn't much up for it this time. He
rationalized that it was so cold there was no way the calves would eat that day.So he
stomped around in his
mother's chicken house for the appropriate amount of time, shivering violently, then went back into the house to have breakfast and finish getting ready for school.Did you feed the calves? his
father asked.Sure did, Kenny
said, and hurried out the door for the mile hike to the Buell School
Born in 1928, Kenny
was up with the chickens by the age of 10 to help milk the cows and feed the cattle.He went to school for eight years at the Buell School, about a mile northwest of their home, then continued his education at Greeley High School, on 14 th Avenue in Greeley.
As a youngster he
enjoyed reading, stamp-collecting and other private pursuits.He
was an easy-going child, and would carry that trait throughout his
Knowing that his
older brother would inherit management of the farm and feedlot, he
didn't always put his
full effort into the business."The ranch looked the right size for one son, and Richard was going to be the rancher," Ken
showed cattle at the county fairs and eventually at the National Western Stock Show, it was more at his
father's insistence than at his
own initiative.Often he
couldn't have cared less about showing cattle; it was Warren that demanded he
do the best he
could and put in the proper amount of effort to be successful at it.It was this paternal oversight, in fact, that contributed much to Kenny's
later dedication to work and his
ability to focus on tasks at hand.
It was the Weld County Fair, and time for the presentation of the animals.Participants were busily preparing their animals for the ring, and Kenny
was nowhere to be found.Warren Monfort was beside himself, as Kenny's
and Dick's friend and fellow competitor John Matsushima looked on in amusement.
It turned out Kenny
was good at doing manual labor; he
just wasn't that personally invested in it.He
would rather do something cerebral, like read.His
brother Dick, on the other hand, was a hard worker.He
won numerous local, regional and national awards for his
cattle feeding, including Reserve Champion and 2 nd Premium ribbons from the National Western Stock Show for his
carload fed animals in 1937.He
brother were prominent in the winners circles of these kinds of events, earning cattle feeding ribbons in 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1940, both at the National Western and the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo.
It was Kenny
, though, who took the spotlight.At the tender age of 12 he
took top honors with the grand champion Hereford steer at the 1941 National Western Stock Show in Denver.At that time he
was the youngest ever to get this award.For his
received a wristwatch from the Standard Oil Company of Indiana
and the proceeds from the sale of the steer, which went for the princely sum of $1 a pound, or $1,055, to K & B Packing Co. for the Melnick Bros. Market. He
would then spend all of his
prize money the next day when he
and Dick, then 18, bought a carload of Reserve Champion Feeder Herefords at the show for $21 a hundredweight.And in 1942 Dick and Kenny
would show the Grand Champion Carload of Fat Steers at the National Western, earning $18.25 a hundredweight for the animals -- $2 a hundredweight above the previous year's winners.
The year had been a good one for the young Kenny Monfort
on the cattle show circuit.He
had purchased the National Western calf at the 1940 Stock Show from the T.O. Ranch in Raton, N.M., with money from two other calves he
had owned that he
sold for $75, plus a $30.50 loan from his
had named the calf "Slit Ear."That calf had earlier won the blue ribbon at the 4-H club feeding contest and proved to be a wise purchase on the part of the young Monfort.He
had also won the champion 4-H heifer contest at the state fair in August 1940."Boy, am I happy," was all he
could muster upon accepting the Grand Champion ribbon and check in Denver.