Along life’s travels, it seems we run into some very interesting people. Most of the time we have no idea how they will impact our lives, but sometimes there is absolutely no doubt in your mind that you will never forget a particular person – or couple.

I have had many different people who have influenced me over the years; I can’t even begin to list them all. Usually, if we are lucky, our parents are the first to influence us, and if we are even luckier it will be in a positive way. After that, it’s often coaches, teachers, preachers and for me, 4-H leaders and even employers.

One of the favorite characters that came into my life was a man named Clayborne Campbell. He and his wife, Virginia, owned and operated Big Sinks Dairy from its humble beginnings in 1957 until they turned it over completely to their son-in-law and daughter in 1985.

Their farm was about 3 miles from my home. They were very hard-working people, and the results spoke for themselves. They had a registered Holstein herd, and when they sold cattle, they would always bring a premium. They almost always had one of the highest herd averages for production in the state.

Virginia was the extension homemaker for the county until her first child was born and she wanted to start a dairy. In her free time, she was a wedding photographer, and that helped pay some bills along the way.

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She took most of the wedding pictures in the area until she was well into her 80s. Clayborne was a vocational agriculture teacher at the local high school before retiring and becoming a full-time farmer, and my father was in the first class he taught when he moved to the area from Kentucky.

I always knew them as Mr. and Mrs. Campbell and thought it was odd when others called them by their first names. They went to the same church as my family, and they were a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

One day when I was around 13 years old, I asked Mr. Campbell if he needed any help on the farm. He said he did need help in the hayfield, and the hay would be ready to square bale by the time I got off the bus at their house.

Most of the time, Mrs. Campbell would have a snack ready for me when I got there; then we would head to the field. He would bale the hay onto the wagon and I would stack it. When the wagons were full, we hauled them to the barn, where it was stacked to be fed to the herd.

Mrs. Campbell would be in the parlor milking, and every half-hour or so I would hear her yelling out the door for her husband to bring her some cows. “Clayborne! Clayborne! Bring me some cows.”

If anyone was on the farm during milking, they had to hear those familiar words. It was a welcome sound to me because Mr. Campbell would have to stop putting hay on the elevator and get her some more cows to be milked.

Mr. Campbell must have been a wonderful teacher because he had a teacher’s heart. He was particular when he asked you to do something, but he was full of grace when you didn’t do it the way he asked.

On many occasions I remember him explaining something, and when he left me to the job, I really understood the way he wanted it done. I must have been going at things the hard way because he would quite often say to me to try and figure out a more efficient way of doing it and it wouldn’t be such a task the next time.

I worked for them for several years, and I must have heard “Clayborne! Clayborne! Bring me some cows!” 10,000 times. I never thought much about it until I started my hoof trimming career many years later. As you can imagine, cow flow is a necessity in my work, and little things make a huge difference.

Most clients or one of their employees stay with me while I am trimming and make sure to keep my alleyway full of cows so I don’t need to stop trimming in order to move cows. This speeds up the trimming process and gets cows back to their normal routine of eating and lying down as soon as possible. As we all know, keeping cows in their normal routine keeps production up and cows happier.

Some clients, however, put the whole herd or group in an area away from feed and water. Then they expect me to handle the whole group without help from anyone on the farm. This adds time to my day and keeps cows away from their daily routine much longer than necessary.

I understand that on every dairy things come up that need to be taken care of, but avoiding your trimmer and making your cows’ day more stressful should not be part of the plan for the day’s events.

The Campbells would have had a fit that the cows were not thought of first. The reason Mrs. Campbell was calling for more cows was not to be an aggravation but because she didn’t want the cows away from the most comfortable routine they could provide.

She didn’t want the cows standing in the hot sun all bunched up for the amount of time it took to milk the herd. She wanted the cows lying down or eating as much as possible. “Bring me small bunches and don’t run them away from water if they want to drink,” she would say.

They not only thought of their cows, but they also thought highly of their employees. They were generous people who thought of others and were willing to help them out whenever possible. When my wife and I were married, they had retired from farming and were in their later years.

They were invited to our wedding even though it was in Vermont, some 14 hours away from their West Virginia home. I really didn’t expect them to come considering their age and the distance, but they called and said they were coming if I could get them a ride to Vermont.

A dear friend of mine picked them up and drove them the full 14 hours. They not only came to the wedding, but Mrs. Campbell insisted on taking our pictures and would not take a dime for their efforts or our wedding pictures. That was our wedding gift, and there was no need to argue.

Mr. Campbell was not a big man in stature, but I have grown to think of him as a giant in my eyes. It took more than 20 years to forget about cutting down milkweed out of the cornfield when he needed something to occupy my time.

He taught me so much in the time I knew him, and some of it was about farming, but most of it was about life. Mrs. Campbell taught me to always do what was the best thing for the cows because they deserve it. Remember, great cow care pays off.

So today, when I am in need of more cows to trim at a farm and I start looking around for someone to get another group for me, I start yelling “Clayborne! Clayborne! Bring me some cows!” with a smile on my face.

As you can imagine, I get some strange looks from people that have no idea what I am talking about and wonder who in the world is Clayborne. This gives me a chance to relive my story and to share what good people Mr. and Mrs. Campbell were.

If you are lucky, you, too, have had good people who touched you in your past and you can share how they impacted you and to take care of those around you – whether people or bovine. PD

PHOTO
Virginia and Clayborne Campbell.

mark burwell

Mark Burwell
Hoof Trimmer and Owner
M&K Hoof Care

Director at large
Hoof Trimmers Assoc.