It's the first weekend in January at the Hyder-Burk Pavilion in Cookeville, Tennessee and a steady stream of folks are shuffling into a plain, institutional brown cement building a few miles outside of the city limits. Like most Saturdays in January on the Cumberland Plateau, it's cold, sloppy, and folks don't putter-around getting from the gravel parking lot, through the big steel doors, inside to the relative warmth blasting from the forced-air propane heaters hanging hanging above. Inside, there is the welcoming buzz commensurate with a gathering of a few hundred people, milling around and eating lunch on their feet.
However, this is no Lunch Rotary, these people are here for one of the most respected Angus Bull Sales in Tennessee and Kentucky. This is a true small-town USA cattle auction with big money on the line. Some folks might come to be seen, but most are there to talk business in one way or another, even if they aren't looking to buy cattle that day. The state agriculture commissioner is regular and state politicians, who know better than to forget their agrarian roots, are always working the crowd. The chili, cokes, coffee and homemade pies are free (and delicious), but make no mistake, folks are here to pick over and bid on over 300 of the best Angus bulls, cows and young-calves in the Southeast. Starting at noon and ending less than 2 hours later, well over 1/2 million dollars cash will trade hands in the mad flurry of jabbing, jockeying, and bulling that defines the American auction--it's confusing, strangely enthralling, and something everyone should see once.
Over the years, a few things have changed--cattle are no longer brought into the actual sale ring, it's all done via digital video and big screen television sets. Cows in the ring or not, the sound is something reminiscent of what one might expect at the Grundy County Auction. Check out the 2017 sales report, you will see the Curl and Lee names at the top of the list. Great beef is no accident, it takes a lifetime commitment to seek out the best genetics available, sometimes a lot of money and a whole, whole lot of hard work, to develop that potential into a fantastic end product. We believe that tasting is believing. Give us a try!
One of my earliest memories as a young boy involves a crisp Sunday afternoon when my family stopped by the Brandon's farm after church. The Brandon's had a litter of Blue Heeler puppies and they were a furious tornado of teeth and claws, a dozen pint-sized, rolly-poly terrors--I was elated. We had always had a couple of Blue Heelers around, but I don't seem to recall much of them until I had the opportunity to play with those boundless pups for the first time as a young boy. I haven't stopped loving dogs since and there has always been at least one Blue Heeler on the back of my father's truck.
My first "adult purchase," excepting a mountain of student-loan debt and a home-mortgage (those aren't real responsibilities), was Goldie. Goldie was a beautiful yellow Labrador that showed up on the family farm 10 years before. When she appeared, she was clearly abandoned on the nameless country road we lived on, emaciated, mangy and, as a 50-pound retriever incapable of resisting the need to fetch anything tossed in front of her, completely different from the heel-snipping cattle dogs on the farm. Not knowing much about Labradors, or having much use for them in pastures and hayfields, my father took Goldie to our friend Mr. Davis, an avid duck hunter, to see if Goldie could make a duck-dog.
In short, Goldie was a lousy duck-dog. The first time she heard a gun-shot, she bolted back to the truck. The next time she even saw a shotgun, she bolted, somewhere... She just didn't like loud noises. I've always imagined that it was a function of the circumstances that caused her to wind up in the middle of nowhere (i.e. Bell Buckle) in the first place. It wasn't just shotguns either. When thunderstorms hit, she had a remarkable ability to open doors, tear a path of destruction across Mr. Davis's hardwood floors, through the basement, up the stairs, into the bedroom, and annihilate the restful sleep of of Mr. an Mrs. Davis in an unstoppable march under the bedcovers. Despite all of this, Goldie stayed on the Davis farm for the next 10 years. After all, what farm doesn't have a few dogs with quirks and no one, not even a bleary-eyed, and understandably frustrated Mr. Davis, could resist Goldie's sweet brown eyes?
Back to 2014, I had moved back to Nashville from "out West," met my future wife and bought a home. Every weekend, then as now, I drove home to "help out" on the farm. I emphasize "help out" because it wasn't so much to help the farm, as to help me cope with the Monday through Friday grey-suit, white-shirt, red-tie, florescent light inducing hypoxia that is the inescapable result of the aforementioned mountain of student-loan debt. I needed a small piece of "home" to get back to ground, not to mention, illustrate to my future wife that I was demonstrably responsible enough to care for something. I figured that it might as be that sweet yellow lab that showed up on the farm one summer in college. I called Mr. Davis and he was generous enough to let Goldie come live with me on the weekdays in the city on the promise that Goldie and I always came home to the farm on the weekends.
Credit should always be given where it is due. In my case, I know that I was only capable of wooing/tricking/guilting my amazing now-wife in to marrying me, in significant measure, due to the charm of the farm and Goldie's infectious presence. My wife and I often joke how we hope to one day love each other, if only a fraction of the amount that Goldie loved us. One fall weekend, I asked my wife to marry me on the farm, of course, Goldie's approval was manifest with her presence and insatiable, metromic panting.
Because of Goldie, you will always find a yellow Labrador on Garrison Valley Farms, at least on the weekend. Regrettably, Goldie passed a bit ago, so now it's Maddie who makes the trip back to the farm on Saturdays and is usually in the truck when we make all of our Garrison Valley Farm deliveries. Give us a call today and let us come see you!
You are reading up on Garrison Valley Farms, so you probably already have some pretty discerning tastes about your beef. Our beef is dry-aged and we believe that this final step is what transforms something that's simply good, into something spectacular. Dry-aging allows naturally occurring enzymes to slowly tenderize the beef by breaking down tissue structures which makes for a more succinct and flavorful final product. Dry aging also means that when you pay by the pound, you aren't paying for excess moisture that is sometimes used in "wet aging" to artificially simulate what nature intended with the benefits of dry aging. Check out the Wall Street Journal's write-up with Alan Ashkinaze, executive chef of Gallaghers Steakhouse in New York City, on the topic and how to grill the perfect dry aged steak.