NORMAN — Mud covered the boots of visitors as they entered the sale barn. Outside, a heavy shower muddied the grounds of OKC West Stockyards. While rain in late July is out of the ordinary, it’s a welcome sight to cattlemen, as is seeing things are back to business at OKC West.
Just 53 days ago, OKC West was destroyed by the EF-5 tornado that tore through El Reno. Now, the facility has reopened and is back to selling cattle.
The new permanent sale barn is the same blueprint as before but had to be completely rebuilt. Aside from one shed, all of the buildings were destroyed in the storm. A majority of the pens were in good shape, while the rest needed repair. Only about 160 cattle were on the property when the tornado moved through.
While the storm left the stockyards unable to conduct business, OKC West Manager Bill Barnhart knew his customers still needed to sell their cattle. One of his first calls after the storm was to his good friend, Jerry Nine, who is manager of the Woodward Livestock Auction in Woodward.
Barnhart and Nine worked out a deal for cattle bound for OKC West to be redirected to the Woodward Livestock Auction until repairs were made.
“I told Jerry I’d send him my crew and to be sure to take care of my customers,” Barnhart said.
Nine not only took care of Barnhart’s customers but also returned the commission from the sale of OKC West cattle.
“I did it for one reason only; when your heart tells you to do something, you do it,” Nine said.
While the sales were held in conjunction with one another, OKC West sellers were allowed to represent their cattle. Nine is quick to identify the positive in an otherwise challenging situation.
“It (the arrangement) was good for both of us,” Nine said. “We’ve renewed some old friendships and made some new ones.”
While Nine describes the two sale barns as somewhat of competitors, he said he and his crew were happy to help, are glad OKC West is back on their feet and wish them the best.
Each Wednesday OKC West sells around 7,000 head of cattle. Last week’s sale had reached 6,300 head by late afternoon, with cattle still coming in.