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Market's sculptures put favorable face on auction

YANKTON, S.D. -- Gail Sohler has owned Stockmen's Livestock Market in Yankton, S.D., since 1962, when he was 23 years old. His family was all in the livestock industry in ranching and cattle feeding in the South Dakota and Nebraska. Sohler has de...

YANKTON, S.D. -- Gail Sohler has owned Stockmen's Livestock Market in Yankton, S.D., since 1962, when he was 23 years old.

His family was all in the livestock industry in ranching and cattle feeding in the South Dakota and Nebraska. Sohler has developed the auction as an immaculate place, surrounded by artworks that depicts the cattle and livestock industry.

"I feel that it's something the community really appreciates. The sculptures I have are portraying the livestock industry. But still, even the townspeople and business people appreciate it because it's art, and it's part of life," he says.

Professing not to be an "artsy" individual himself, Sohler sees the sculptures as an investment.

"Yes, it is an investment," he says. "I think it shows my customers that I'm not just taking all my profits and running with it, but investing it for the good of the livestock industry."

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Besides being a center of commerce, the facility also is a center for artwork, in the western and cattle theme. Here are descriptions of the three most prominent pieces:

n 2001: Red, white and blue patriotic-colored fiberglass dairy cow. It was made in Wisconsin and painted to suit Sohler.

"The reason I chose a dairy cow is that it wouldn't offend anybody -- other breeders. Plus, the fact when this country was pioneered, if you look at old pictures with covered wagons when they were moving west, just about very wagon had a cow or two. This is what provided these people with milk and food. It's the dairy cow, the milk cow frontiersmen depended on."

n 2006: Acquired a life-sized bronze of the Bruce R. Greene sculpture, "An Old Dog and a New Trick." One of a dozen numbered cast sculptures by Greene, who lives near Clifton, Texas. This sculpture cost $45,000.

"These days, some old cowboys are being handed computers and being told by the boss to tally cattle in this new, efficient way," Sohler says.

The artist himself isn't a fan of e-mails. He gets inspiration from annual trips to work on the JA Ranch in the Palo Duro Canyon of north Texas.

n 2007: A 3,800-pound "kinetic" steel sculpture of a longhorn bull was placed on the west end of the livestock auction grounds. The sculpture is distinctive because its 500-pound head bobs in the wind. It was designed by Frederick Prescott, now of Santa Fe, N.M., and was made to suit Sohler. That one cost about $50,000, with the foundation and installation.

The artist, formerly of Palo Alto, Calif., has sculptures around the world. Sohler had seen a Prescott exhibit of other animals and commissioned the piece.

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Here, again, he tried to avoid partiality to different breeds of cattle. He says it depicts a longhorn. It

"doesn't offend Hereford or Angus or Charolais customers," he says. The Texas longhorn originated in Spain and brought up through Mexico.

"Longhorns aren't necessarily a great beef animal, but you look at a longhorn and -- that's cattle!" he says. Longhorns are the first ones that come into the United States and were crossed Aberdeen Angus bulls to start cross-breeding.

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