I will start this article with one of my favorite quotes: “The only way to live a better life is to love the life you’ve been given”. I, Brandon Callis of Minco, Ok, am currently the livestock judging coach at Redlands Community College in El Reno, OK. It all started for me in 1983 being born to Dwight and Lorena Callis of Needville, TX which is about 30 miles south west of Houston. My dad is a retired county agent who served for 33 years as a 4-H agent in two counties. My mother has served as an assistant principal at a middle school and has been in education for the past 23 years. I am in the middle of 3 children. My older brother Cornelius is a large equipment operator and my younger sister Ashley is a special education teacher back home. Education, serving God, and agriculture are 3 big areas we take seriously. Our family’s Ag roots stem from both sides, but my interest in the raising of livestock starts with my dad’s parents. For a couple decades my dad’s family owned and operated a small purebred Brahman herd in southern Texas. They exhibited and sold Brahman cattle through south Texas. Many of my early summers were spent at the family’s ranch feeding cows and cowboying anything I could on horseback in Edna, TX. Rodeo, that’s where my heart was early on. Thinking I would be the next Fred Whitfield, I practiced night after night roping a dummy calf 100 times every summer at my grandparent’s place. When I turned seven my parents decided rodeo was going to be too expensive, and they bought me a Dorset lamb instead. When I was younger we also spent lots of time at a neighbor’s barn where we kept my brother’s show steers. I grew to love cattle while visiting and assisting my brother. A gentleman by the name of Kent Herzog served as my daytime sitter and teacher while my dad checked 4-H projects and my mom was in school. Kenny, as we call him, became a lifelong influence for me. He was one of my dad’s most loyal friends. He introduced me to the world of show steers. We fed two local show steers and I won both years. I thought to myself, this is not that hard. After winning the local shows, we dove into the Texas major show steer scene. We had shown lambs and made the sale at the Houston Livestock Show, however, major steer shows were a beast of its own. A small jackpot in central Texas was my first show outside of our county. When we loaded up to leave this fast talking, hyper, athletic guy jumped in with us to help clip. I had to share a bed with this stranger later that night. We put 5 people in a double bed room. The room cost $25, so as you would expect the beds were more like cots than beds. I did not know this guy but there was something cool about him and we got along great. His name was Brandon Horn. Most people knew him then as a cattle fitting, pig selling specialist. Today everyone knows him, and if you are fortunate enough to know him, well you can image how fun my first show away from Fort Bend County was. We showed Red Angus steers mostly and a few crosses the next few years.
I always consider myself the most blessed person alive. However, when I was younger, I was very competitive and wanted to win each show. We never got the big one won, but along the way we were blessed with some breed champions and sale makers. My mother would always tell me when I got home and pouted about getting beat that “maybe God just has a bigger plan for you. Losing will happen, you just need to know how to handle it.” The great thing about the Texas junior show program is that there is opportunity to get some return on investments even if you don’t win the show. The support system, sales, and staffs down there are second to none.
When I was a 4-Her I had started to get interested in livestock judging. For those who aren’t from Texas, you might not know my dad. I can say with confidence that he is the most well respected multi-species judge in the state. I would follow my dad around from county fair to county fair to watch him judge. At this time my passion for sorting livestock started. I always noticed both then and now that no one has a negative comment to say about him after he judges a show, win or lose. Everyone says he is great with the kids and sees the stock. I always wondered that maybe I could be fortunate enough to get the opportunity to sort as many shows as he does. While at my first judging contest I met a new professor, Dr. Chris Skaggs, from Texas A&M who coordinated our district contest. Little did I know the role he would play in my college and adult life. My first college plan was to go to Blinn College, judge, and then transfer to A&M. The coach of Blinn College, Doug Pierce, didn’t have a scholarship program at the time. He told me to look at some other options, but if I still wanted to come judge I could. After our state contest my junior year I was recruited by a couple schools in Texas and one in Oklahoma. I choose to visit the Oklahoma school, Connors State College. I don’t think my parents were as keen on the area as I was, but they came along with me to visit. We liked the college and I enrolled there. My livestock judging coaches there were “The Jerry Mcpeak” and Mr. Blake Nelson.
My experience in the junior college system was one of the best times of my life. All through high school I would considered myself the driven and focused type that never had a girlfriend. If it wasn’t livestock or sports it didn’t matter to me in high school. My plan was to finish school with my PhD and go into extension or teach at a university and then focus on a family. God’s plans always trump ours. The first night at Connors I fortunately but unfortunately (there’s a story there but you had to be there) had a run in with a beautiful young lady on my team from Oklahoma. Two months later I had a girlfriend. I now call her my wife Kelly. I take one life changing revelation from my two years at Connors: God’s plan is better than yours, and she has been the biggest reason I’m where I’m at today. My parents raised me in a manner that God and love are very important in the lives of any successful individual.
I know that I’ve always been “different”. My parents also raised us to believe that God and love are also color blind. You will never find me blaming anything on race. I see it as a blessing. After all, my judging teams never have a problem finding their coach after a contest, unless the lights are off or someone tall is in front of me. But as I tell my judging kids, if you live by God’s rules it’s a them problem not a you problem. My next stop was Texas A&M where my heart had always been. Yes, I am a fighting Texas Aggie!! Kelly and I were both blessed to be a part of the 2004 national champion livestock judging team coached by a young Mr. Ryan Rathmann. There is an All American plaque that sits on a shelf in our house, but it’s not mine. Yes, she is that good. The next decision in life was do I step into the real world or keep schooling. I choose to continue my education and go to graduate school at Kansas State University. Most masters programs are two years. After two months of living in Manhattan, KS I was asked to go drive a van for the judging team. When we are young exhibitors we often look up to judges or place them on an, in my opinion now that I am blessed to judge a few, underserved pedestal. I was driving one of my judging idols around on a judging workout, Dr. Scott Schaake. This is why 2 years went to 4. I now got to travel the country and learn from him and hang out in his barn and work a little and soak up the Simmental breed. It seemed perfect that not only did he judge everywhere, but he also raised quality Simmental cattle. Life was good, except the fact that Kelly lived and worked in Dallas. I finally decided to grow up and get married. It was a great start for us and we are thankful for the lessons learned and people met in Kansas. The PHD thing was still a goal so I called Skaggs for more advice. After I received my masters, I returned to A&M to pursue a doctoral degree. When we moved back to Texas, our first child, Braedon was born, so I took a job coaching at Blinn College for four years. For those who don’t know, when you marry an Okie you most likely will end up back in Oklahoma. Texans might be the most boastful people around, but Okies are without a doubt the proudest. They love Oklahoma. So now we are happily living in Oklahoma. I work at Redlands, and we own and operate a diverse livestock operation where we raise Simmentals and club calves. We also sell a few sheep and goats every now and then. We are raising three children: Braedon (6), Kylie will be 4 in April, and Cambrie who will be 1 in March. Livestock and kids have been my family’s mission since I can remember.
My job allows me to meet and work with the most amazing people and our future leaders while looking at livestock. I have had so many great influences in my life and God has sent them to me in unexpected times and places but they have benefited me greatly. I am the most blessed person in the world and you can’t tell me otherwise.
I will part with this. To those fortunate enough to win the big ones, always remember to be thankful, because it isn’t easy. Those who were like me who don’t, God still has a plan for you. Keep pushing.
Thanks and God Bless. ▪