Preface by Jerry McPeak
The greatest sacrifices in my life and for any success people may perceive as being mine, isn’t. My family, my wife and four kids made much greater sacrifices than I did.
Days and weeks gone, missing birthdays, ball games, injuries, catastrophes with livestock and the household; My sons were pushing cattle through chutes, giving vaccinations and gathering wild yearlings off brushy hillsides at ages 6 and 9 years old. Two daughters who had to feed cows and work like real hands because Dad was not there and the boys had gone to college.
A wife who worked to hold it all together, love and discipline the kids, make all the ball games and stock shows and make them all feel special. I was a school teacher. One salary family. You did not read about my kids winning anything big. We bought bargains. Overlooked, under fed, and too often, crazy and available because other families had given up on them.
Mostly though, they showed what we raised and what Mr. Joe Ogle raised. Mr. Ogle was my high school coach and principal. I am 73 and Mr. Ogle is still helping me.
The wife, Veda, sons Jeff and Jason, daughters Jinger and Jori are still making sacrifices to help Dad look good.
The boys recently came over to patch some sorry, patched together fence a cow had crossed. Jinger, the president of an international company was called and tonight the president is writing this article. Jori the youngest, is going over to my house to help do chores while I participate in an Oklahoma public policy organization event for 3 days.
My Connors State College kids, our Be A Champ kids, they all make me better than I am capable of. I expect a lot out of them and I have to live up to what they expect of me.
Loyalty! One last thing, the most scarce personal trait in this world. The McPeak kids and wife have it! My college kids (some in their upper 50’s) have it. My camp kids, many now second generation Be A Champers have it!! Forty volunteers showed up to help at the first ever held World Champion Showmanship organized by Jerry and Jake Scott. All weekend, volunteers paid their own expenses and were happy to be there, even one couple of Be A Champ Alums came all the way from Florida to help.
I don’t know that I was very good at anything but God sure has put a bunch of really good people in my life.
My life path has been long and a bit meandering. However, I have never really worked a day in my life because I have loved everything I have done. High School, College, Navy, OSU Extension Agent, HyPlains Dressed Beef, Dodge City Feeders, Cole Grain Company, Loomix Liquid Feed, Connors State College, KTUL-TV Ag Reporter, Oklahoma State Legislature, Creek Nation.
My college kids said, “Coach looks like you can’t hold down a job.”
“If having long term goals are necessary for success, looks like I must have been a failure. But every job I learned from. Every job prepared me for the next one.”
In 1978, Connors State College President, Dr. Carl Westbrook hired Jerry to start a Livestock Judging Team. The first year he went over to the enrollment center and any student who enrolled in Agriculture he recruited for the Judging Team. Jerry taught Agriculture and Psychology courses and coached the judging team for 27 years along with the title of Dean of Men in his latter CSC years.
Now, best known in the livestock world as “Coach” for his National Champion Livestock Judging Teams at Connors State College, and for originating McPeak’s BE A CHAMP Show Cattle and Lamb Camp.
His judging teams won every major contest in the country at some juncture and many multiple times. On November 10, 2016 The McPeak Agriculture Hall of Fame building at Connors State College was dedicated in Jerry’s honor. We could list all of McPeak’s CSC Livestock Judging Team’s accolades but I think today’s current national judges who called Jerry “Coach” speaks volumes. Nationally known judges today who are CSC alums: Brandon Callis, Jason Elmore, Jake Franke, Phillip Hofschulte, Todd Kennedy, Jeff Nemecek, Ryan Rathmann, Jake Scott, Mike Zamudio and Blake Nelson.
Nelson, now Executive Vice President of the Maine Anjou Association had this to say “Coach taught us so much more than how to evaluate livestock. The majority of the time he believed in us more than we believed in ourselves and he pushed us to be our best. He instilled in his teams the importance of loyalty, integrity, discipline, and to take care of each other. Don’t get me wrong we didn’t just show up, we played to win but the life lessons and values are irreplaceable”.
McPeak founded the Be A Champ Camps in 1982 and it has always been a family run event with wife, Veda and all adult McPeak children teaching and working at some time. It was born out of necessity really. As mentioned earlier, Jerry was always helping other kids and families and over the years this help overtook all of his time at livestock shows, until his own children were walking into the ring without groomed animals because he had not yet gotten around to helping them at show time. As Jerry likes to say, “the good Lord takes care of the ignorant” and he sure did in this case. The camp is the first of its kind and celebrates 38 years of kids from 39 states and Canada. “Working with good cattle and great kids. It just doesn’t get any better than that.” McPeak said. Positive thinking, motivational speeches and posters with only one rule “Do What’s Right” encase the arena where camp is held. One of the camp’s sponsors, owner of Stone Manufacturing, Jack Rudnay, who is also a NFL Kansas City Chief’s Hall of Fame Center, stated after witnessing McPeak turn a butt chewing into a motivational speech, “McPeak, you are the Vince Lombardi of the cattle grooming business.”
And with the help of a lot of friends McPeak and Jake Scott (organizers of the event) were able to hold the first World Champion Showmanship this year. Over $20,000 in prize money was given out at the first show of its kind. During the event, Jake Scott speaking to the audience said, “Coach Jerry McPeak has trained more showmen and taught more positive thinking than anyone in the U.S. He and the BE A CHAMP staff train more kids in one summer than most folks do in a lifetime.” Remember that comment from earlier that McPeak is not known for his political correctness? McPeak noted about livestock shows, “this statement is probably one of those, but I sure believe it is correct. There are several thousand folks in the world that can do a pretty good job of judging a cattle show but just a few who realize, acknowledge, and will do a good job of judging showmanship.”
McPeak also served as State Legislator in Oklahoma for 12 years where he was known for not being too concerned about political correctness. He was known for “crossing the aisle” and “doing the right thing”. McPeak’s long time assistance Janice Stotts noted “as State Representative, we couldn't begin to count the times that visitors to the office would call Rep. Mc Peak "refreshing." In truth, there wasn't anything refreshing about the way Jerry treated people or reacted to problems. There was just truth, no speaking out of both sides of his mouth. No telling people what they wanted to hear. There was a simple honesty to his treatment of all. That was a rare way to do business in the State Capitol, but it served McPeak well in his 12 years of elected service”.
Karen Sneary, a member of one the Connors teams that won both The Royal and Louisville contests said, “Coach pushed us and pushed us hard. I don’t think he was so driven about winning as teaching us that producing to our maximum every day was really a responsibility. Our practices were so long and tough, contest day wasn’t pressure, it was a day off.”
Besides Coach said, ‘If you are prepared, there is no pressure, just opportunity.’
McPeak recruited and judged many young ladies. One year, Connors won The Arizona National contest with an all-girls team.
Another time at The Denver contest the coach of another team looked into the arena where the students were judging and asked, “McPeak, you judging an all-girls team?” Not paying any attention to whether he judged girls or boys, McPeak had to look into the arena to see who he judged. And sure enough there were 1,2,3,4 girls and then he saw his 5th member of the team, Brandon Callis. McPeak responded, “Nope 4 girls and Callis.” Callis after hearing the story, said “Coach you should have told them, you didn’t judge an all-girls team, you judged your affirmative action team.”
The student judgers and non-judgers, the Be A Champers-cattle and lamb leave their experience with “Coach” knowing he cares. He believes in them.
And it is not for a week, or a year or even two, Coach, the McPeak Family, and the Be A Champ staff will be there for you always. They have proven it!