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Reflections of the 79th Annual OCCA Convention

Flanking a full-equipped chuck wagon are from left to right, Osage County CattleWomen Debbie, Diane and Laura Reed, Georgeanna Cheves, OCCW President Chrystal (Clement) Themm, and OCCA Convention Coordinator Kathryn Chambers.
Flanking a full-equipped chuck wagon are from left to right, Osage County CattleWomen Debbie, Diane and Laura Reed, Georgeanna Cheves, OCCW President Chrystal (Clement) Themm, and OCCA Convention Coordinator Kathryn Chambers.

The Osage County Cattlemen’s Association packed a tremendous amount of activities and information into two short days for their 79th Annual Convention.

This year, organizers decided to veer from the decades old three-day convention that culminated with the annual Ben John Steer Roping on Father’s Day. These changes would allow the ropers, many who were second generation, an opportunity to spend time with their families. From the comments I’ve received, this new concept was well received by not only the ropers but convention attendees. Several of us have wondered, however, how many steer roping fans may have shown up Sunday to find an empty arena.

Dr. David Yates was the featured speaker for the Friday luncheon. He presented an informative program on “Sustainable Beef Production.” Tom Williams of Environmentally Friendly Drilling (EFD) spoke during the OCCA Oil & Gas Committee meeting. Chairman John Hurd, Jr. announced several O&G committee members were heading to Washington, D.C. to meet with key representatives on landowner issues.

The Osage County CattleWomen make significant contributions to the OCCA convention. In addition to decorating for the Friday luncheon, the Cattlewomen provide a hospitality booth throughout the convention. Led by President Crystal (Clement) Themm, they served up an incredible assortment of delectable desserts that complemented the fork-tender steaks served for lunch. This year the CattleWomen brought in a fully-equipped chuck wagon to serve hot and cold beverages while adding a touch of ambiance to the event.

The luncheon tables reflected simplicity with country elegance. Brown tablecloths were topped with hand-painted bandanas of current and historical Osage County brands. Gallon mason jars filled with wheat stalks served as centerpieces.

Throughout the day, trade show vendors provided attendees information about virtually every aspect of the ranching industry and an opportunity to shop for handmade jewelry, and unique rope bowls. The popular Cattlewomen’s booth was laden with samples of easy-to-make salsa, quick breads and more. CattleWomen products are available year-round at Pawhuska’s Spurs & Arrows on East Main.

CattleWoman and artist Cathi Ball is in the process of gathering material to create one of her stunning mosaic guitars. The guitar will represent the Osage County CattleWomen and will be raffled off as a fundraiser next year. Ball has become renown for her mosaic creations. She has designed guitars for celebrities Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Miranda Lambert, Shania Train, Lee Greenwood, Crystal Gayle, Martina McBride, and the Duck Dynasty, among others.

Ball is seeking items representative of Osage County that could be used for the guitar. Her work is a great example of up cycling and can include mismatched or broken pieces of jewelry, buttons, pictures, etc.

“Basically, I would like to have submissions of anything that has meaning to Osage County — particularly the cattle industry,” said Ball. “Donations can be dropped off at Spurs and Arrows.”

This was the 60th anniversary for the Ben Johnson Steer Roping. The event began as a tribute to Ben Johnson, Sr., who was loved and admired for his courage, integrity, and exceptional viewpoint towards life. Johnson excelled as a cowboy, had no peer as a steer roper, and was successful in his own business endeavors. He was a man with a multitude of friends, admirers and no enemies. The first Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping was hosted in 1954 by the Pawhuska Quarter Horse Futurity Racing Association. Officers were President John W. Tillman, Vice-President W.C. Row, Sr., Secretary/Treasurer Velma Duncan, Racing Secretary Ted Wells, Jr., Publicity Director H.H. Mundy, Directors S.A. Dellaplain, Floyd Truman, Ted Wells, Jr., J.V. (Bud) Frye, Dee Garrett, George Braden, and Maurice Martin. Johnson’s daughter, Helen, is an active Cattlewoman. She and husband Dale, Sr. are also members of the OCCA.

The OCCA Convention has changed dramatically since I began attending more than a few decades ago as a young bride. At that time, we were called “Cow Bells” and held a separate luncheon from the men. Ours was generally held at the Pawhuska Golf and Country. I recall this was a very social event and that the ladies would ponder the perfect luncheon attire for the better part of six months. After our luncheon, which typically featured some type of entertaining skit, we would hurry home to change for the BBQ and dance that would be held that evening. Today, the dress is much more casual. Several years ago, our named was changed to “CattleWomen” and we decided to join the men. Not only do we have an interest in this industry, but the Cattlemen’s luncheon feature mouth-watering steaks. Themed table decorations became the norm for the combined luncheon, along with our hospitality booth. Today, the ladies still look quite elegant but their styles reflect more of a western theme, especially with the vast popularity of cowboy boots – something many of us just took for granted.

It was a great convention, filled with an opportunity to renew old friendships and create forge new ones. I’m already looking forward to next year.

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