Joe Lents was first attracted to Hereford cattle as a small boy while riding in a buggy with his father in the hills east of Ninnekah, Oklahoma in August 1913. "Where the wagon ruts of the Chisholm trail pass through", he saw some red and white cattle of a kind he'd never seen before that commanded his attention. His father told him these were Herefords. Totally enamored by what he'd seen, he declared, "someday I'm going to have me some Herefords like these". Joe always said his dream of being a Hereford breeder was born that day in the buggy. The cattle he'd seen belonged to D.K. Shaw who'd moved from upstate New York to the vicinity of Ninnekah, Indian Territory, and was a regular purchaser of Anxiety 4th bulls from Gudgell & Simpson from 1886 until their herd was dispersed in 1916, a space of 40 years. Thus it was Anxiety 4th Herefords that grabbed the attention of a 5 year-old boy, and held it with a firm grip for the next 91 years.
Joe's dream was on hold while he grew to manhood, and patiently saved "Hereford money" in a coffee can for two decades. Then early in 1942 he purchased 7 grade Hereford heifers and Prince Domino 36th a young registered bull. But dissatisfaction soon mounted as he yearned for a better class of stock. A 1943 purchase of 5 registered Hereford cows of mixed bloodlines shifted his focus to seed-stock, but soon they too failed to satisfy his yearnings. His sights were set high; he was determined to breed and own the very best.
By chance, he heard about a magazine called The American Hereford Journal. With the help of the local postmaster, he located an address, subscribed and became a regular reader. From an ad in the "Journal" he purchased History and Handbook of Hereford Cattle and Herd Bull Index, and History of Linebred Anxiety 4th Herefords of Straight Gudgell & Simpson Breeding. Both books were authored by John M. Hazelton, arguably the greatest of the American Hereford historians. A close study of these volumes, and his regular reading of the American Hereford Journal convinced Joe of three things: (1) Herefords were the best beef cattle in America, (2) linebred Anxiety 4th Herefords of Straight Gudgell & Simpson breeding were the best Herefords in America, and (3) Mousel Brothers at Cambridge, Nebraska had the best Anxiety 4th Herefords of straight G&S breeding in existence.
With his compass now pointing towards Nebraska, Joe sent a letter of inquiry. Henry Mousel answered and invited him to visit. He arrived in late January, 1944 and got an in-depth look at the Mousel herd. Never before had he seen such deep, smooth and thickly fleshed beef cows of such uniformity, consistency and high quality. He often said that when he saw Mousel's cowherd, and their two principle herd sires, Advance Mixture and Imperial Lamplighter, he knew he'd come to the right place, that the search was over. Structurally, functionally and quality-wise they were unmatched in American beef cattle. Of Imperial Lamplighter, he said, "Instinct, and abundant visible evidence convinced me that a herd built on this bull's blood would stand the test of time. I'd never have to start over". The die was cast! He bought his first Mousel bred animal, a heifer by Imperial Lamplighter, and hauled her to Oklahoma in a snow storm.
In his Anxiety 4th Hereford history volume previously mentioned, John Hazelton devoted significant space to the female side of the breeding equation, and to the revelation that Gudgell & Simpson had established a system of cow families within the Anxiety 4th gene pool. Joe observed these were not just random groups of females from diverse genetic backgrounds, with each group given different and often frivolous names as is common today; but rather each were distinct families of females, with every member of each cow family descending exclusively from the same choice quality female ancestor common to the bottom lines of their pedigrees. Some were further fine-sorted if/or as needed into sub-groups, i.e., additional cow families based on shared characteristics, commonly held qualities and unique strengths.
Perhaps the greatest value flowing from the cow family structure in the Line-bred Anxiety 4th family of American Herefords is the ability of an observant breeder to identify familial sources of unique or extraordinary genetic strength for various characteristics from among the several cow families as dependable aides in mating decisions. It's true science in action: careful, accurate and repetitive observations leading to conclusions, which in turn drive actions. But Charles Gudgell and T.A. Simpson both were very pragmatic men focused on visible and tangible evidence; human emotions weren't a factor in their decisions.
For simplicity, members of a cow family share the same name followed by an individual identifying number (33rd, 34th, etc.). Also for simplicity, and with few exceptions, those names begin with the same letter of the alphabet as the name of the cow from which they descend, thus creating a mental tie. The G&S cow family concept is in reality an extension of the female tribal concept prevalent among the old English breeders who built the breed. But cow families, as envisioned and established by Gudgell & Simpson is a more orderly and meaningful system of mental organization for use at the herd or gene pool level. In the truest sense, the Anxiety cow families are lines of identity preserved maternal genetics, a quick, handy and simple way to track mitochondrial DNA over time, for use when planning mating's. They're also a system for tracking the merits of the various female genetic lines relative to one another, they enhance the quality of mating decisions and can greatly assist in improving outcome in reproduction. Clearly, they reflect the credence of the heavy emphasis having been placed on female lines by animal breeders of previous centuries who recognized the great value of superior females in the art of animal breeding, centuries before the discovery of DNA.
Joe Lents with Mr. Imperial in 1972. Ten years-old when when this picture was taken, Mr Imperial headed the herd until 1976 when he was 14 years of age.
On his first visit to Mousel Brother's, Joe took note of the several Anxiety 4th cow families in their herd. He recalled, " They were all very good, they were all very uniform, but they weren't all equal". Some cow families tended to regularly excel above others in the quality, consistency, uniformity and various other aspects found in their offspring. This observation prompted him to study the cow families created and developed by G&S, and the contributions made by each of them over time. The more dominant herd bull producing cow families were self evident by their own merit, the individual merit evidenced in their offspring, and that their sons had been forging American Herefords into the world's greatest beef animals for decades. Other great producing cow families stood on their own merit, enhanced perhaps by the consistent merit of their daughters. From Joe's observations and conclusions came a prioritized short-list of cow families, and in some cases individual cow family members, targeted for acquisition.
Mousel Brothers relied on this same historic knowledge when skimming the cream from the G&S herd in their historic April 1916 female purchase. As the work of building his own cowherd got underway, Joe resolved that in like manner, it would be built on the cream of Mousel breeding. So he followed the same plan, he used the same cattle/genetics, he applied the same principles and he achieved the same outcome. It was his patience, determination and acquired historical knowledge, including a well studied knowledge of the Anxiety cow families and their contributions, coupled to his rigid selection and perseverance that brought his plan to fruition.
By 1947 the female base was coming together nicely. Included were daughters and granddaughters of some of the most noted breeding and history making females of the breed, all sired by bulls of the same stature. The Anxiety cow family's that came into the herd early on were Blanche, Blanche Mischief, Bonny Lucy, Donna Agnes, Donna Anna, Dulcie Mischief and Mischief Maker. Others of the chosen cow families were added as availability, opportunity and/or circumstance permitted. As was the Mousel Brothers herd, the Joe Lents herd was also awash in the blood of Prince Domino Mischief, flowing through the veins of his greatest descendants, both male and female.
Lord Lamplighter 8th was purchased from Henry Mousel to establish the sire line, and head the herd. This son of Lord Lamplighter was out of Dulcie Mischief 31st, a full sister to Imperial Lamplighter. In 1953 Mousel Brothers wrote of this cow, "In our 55 years as Hereford breeders, we never owned a greater individual (female) than Dulcie Mischief 31st". She had an immense, and very positive impact on the Joe Lents herd with her physical form and substance being uniformly exhibited in the daughters of Lord Lamplighter 8th, who were seldom rivaled in form, function, quality and individuality. When offered for sale they always brought a snap to the bidding. Many knowledgeable breeders of the time ranked Lord Lamplighter 8th among the best female getters then in the breed. That he built a substantive, high quality, uniform and productive female base in the Joe Lents herd was the universal opinion of those who saw the herd in that era. That these things remain strongly evident today in the Jim Lents herd is but further evidence of the veracity of those past opinions .
Two sons and one double grandson of Lord Lamplighter 8th were used in the herd to one degree or another, but it was 3 Imperial Lamplighter 49th, gotten from Henry Mousel in 1954, who succeeded him as head of the breeding program. His sire, Imperial Lamplighter 3rd was a half brother through their sire to Lord Lamplighter 8th, and a more balanced breeder as between the two genders. This characteristic passed strongly to the 49th, who noticeably stepping up the game in the Joe Lents breeding program.
Four sons of 3 Imperial Lamplighter 49th were used in the herd to one degree or another. But it was Mr. Imperial and Prince Domino Imperial, who served into their teenage years. Of the two, Mr. Imperial most heavily and positively impacted future generations, and today's sire lines all descend from him through two of his sons, Mr. Imperial 25th who was bred by Joe Lents and owned by Jim Lents; and Zenith Mischief who was bred and owned by Joe Lents, and served out his life in his herd.
In 1995 Joe celebrated his 87th birthday, his 51st anniversary as an Anxiety Hereford Breeder and his retirement. He sold his land, cattle and equipment to Jim and Nancy Lents, yet remained intensely interested in the goings on in the Anxiety 4th gene pool, until his death in 2004 at the age of 96. Chapter three of this now 14+ decades long Hereford saga was complete.