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At a Crossroads | December 2022

by Cheryl Kepes

Photos courtesy Cheryl Linthicum

Cheryl Linthicum shares about her life apart from the cattle industry and why she came back.

For most of her childhood Cheryl Linthicum stood in the shadow of a giant in the cattle industry. Starting at the age of 11, Cheryl served as the voice of her father, Jimmy Linthicum, who was deaf, conveying his livestock judging reasons to audiences at cattle shows across the country and world. But it wasn’t long before Cheryl stepped out of her father’s shadow and into a spotlight of her own.

By the time she was 18, fairs and breed associations were paying her to judge. Through the years, Cheryl has independently judged more than 400 cattle shows; including the steer show at the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE), the national Simmental and Scottish Highlander shows at the National Western Stock Show (NWSS), junior national Hereford, Brangus, and Charolais shows, as well as the Canadian Western Agribition National Simmental Show. Additionally, she has judged more than 500 cattle shows with her dad. Along the way, Cheryl has built the reputation of a venerable cattlewoman and livestock judge.

Most recently, Cheryl has emerged as the captain of JCL Red Angus. Her father’s passing in March, placed her solely in the driver’s seat of the cattle operation. But Cheryl was implicitly involved in JCL Red Angus long before she lost her father to cancer. In fact, the father-daughter duo decided to start the herd together seven years ago, as a sort of nod to the days they worked side-by-side during Cheryl’s younger years.

Cowboy Boots and High Heels

Though well-known for her deep roots in agriculture, there is a side to Cheryl unknown to many people in the cattle industry. A side that wears a tailored business suit, three-inch heels, and travels the United States and overseas training and advising companies and government entities on U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and international accounting matters. The same Cheryl who rises before the sun to feed cattle, also rises before the sun to journey from a New York City high-rise to an office skyscraper blocks away.

As comfortable and well-versed as she is giving reasons at hundreds of cattle shows through the years, she’s as equally at ease training people from all over the world on SEC reporting and international accounting guidelines. She’s a certified public accountant, holds a master’s degree in business, and a doctorate in international accounting, with minors in finance and econometrics.

Her non-agriculture career has led her to jobs with the SEC in Washington D.C., KPMG accounting firm in New York City, and to a decades long teaching career as an accounting professor and eventually associate dean at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Additionally, Cheryl has worked as a consultant and facilitated international accounting training for clients in the United States, England, Germany, and Switzerland. Today, she serves on the SEC Institute Advisory Board, based in New York.

Her educational and career pursuits charted a course that sailed her far from the family ranch in Welch, Oklahoma. Since graduating from high school she’s lived in California, Colorado, Texas, and New York.

Two Worlds Meld

The demanding nature of SEC work and international accounting required a copious amount of time and travel forcing Cheryl to take a 15-year, nearly complete hiatus from judging, raising, and showing cattle. Nonetheless, during the time apart from the cattle industry, lessons deeply woven into her character from life on the ranch still emerged. Cheryl and her dad wrote, then texted nearly every day.

The countless early mornings and late nights working without complaint at the SEC and KPMG caught the attention of her coworkers. “The work ethic was something I was often complimented on, and I would look at people and think to myself, ‘You really don’t know my dad, do you? Because these are holiday hours compared to what I was doing with him,’” Cheryl Linthicum chuckled.

Return to the Cattle Business

No matter where her travels carried her, Cheryl’s heart never left the ranch in Welch. “What I have learned is that cattle are part of my DNA, they are a part of who I am. Cattle and the people in the livestock industry help keep me grounded in a way that nothing else has,” Cheryl explained.

In 2015, Cheryl returned to the ranch for Christmas and the conversation with her dad landed on the two of them working together to develop a herd of cattle from scratch. Jimmy had held on to a few Limousin after his dispersal years earlier, but that was all the cattle he had.

Cheryl remembers their conversation like it was yesterday. “I will never forget this; it was Christmas and Dad and I were talking. And he said, ‘I love Limousin cattle, but the kids (Cheryl’s niece and nephew) eventually want to sell their cattle and I would really like to get into another breed.’ And I said, ‘What breed are you thinking about Dad?’ And we talked about several breeds. Dad said, ‘You know the breed that I really think would work on this country that we are in is Red Angus.’ I said, ‘Well, let’s buy a few.’”

Over the next six months, Cheryl carved out time to scout the country for their first Red Angus purchase. “Our deal was that I would buy the first set of cattle and embryos and he would do the work,” Cheryl recalled. “It was a blast. I told Dad I will pay for everything for two years and then the cattle have to pay for themselves. That is virtually unheard of in a purebred business. He just looked at me and said, ‘I think we can do it.’ So, we worked really hard together.”

The father-daughter team knocked it out of the park. In just a handful of years, Cheryl and Jimmy built a championship Red Angus herd. Two years into their newly developed cattle operation they owned six Red Angus, the cow herd grew to 62 head by year four, and by year six they had bred a national champion Red Angus bull, JCL POLO, and been honored at the Fort Worth Stock Show and American Royal as premier exhibitor and premier breeder.

Unsuspecting Turn

A few years into their Red Angus venture Jimmy was diagnosed with cancer. Prior to his diagnosis Cheryl had already started falling back into some of the rhythms of the cattle operation. She purchased a 50-acre farm, two miles from the home ranch and poured hours into budgeting, planning matings, and other responsibilities.

After her dad’s diagnosis, Cheryl settled into her farm in Welch as her primary residence during the summer. “When Dad first got sick, three and a half years ago now, I remember it was May. I came back from New York City to Welch, I took off a nice suit and heels, soaked off my fake fingernails, and went to work that summer. That was the point that I realized there is a rhythm to this life that I miss,” Cheryl shared.

For a time, the chemotherapy worked, and Jimmy’s cancer stayed at bay. Cheryl and Jimmy’s collaboration forged ahead, and the Red Angus herd flourished. The two were having the time of their lives. But the ride came to a grinding halt last fall. “Dad found out that his cancer had come back in October and by the end of November he was in such bad shape he couldn’t go out to the barn, and most people don’t realize that,” Cheryl said.

Notes from Dad

Once again, during the period of COVID, Cheryl stayed at her farmhouse in Welch. She rolled up her sleeves and went back to taking care of the cows and her dad. On the days he felt up to it, Jimmy started coaching Cheryl on all the details of the operation. “It is very humbling, to think you know a lot and then to come back and Dad had to reteach me. I had to relearn and learn anew because a lot of things had changed,” Cheryl stated. Once COVID subsided and classes went back in session, Cheryl took a leave to stay in Welch with her father and the ranch.

She started writing down everything he told her, just like she had done as a kid taking notes on her small spiral memo pad when presenting his judging reasons at cattle shows. Jimmy documented his knowledge too. (Cheryl has three tabbed binders full.) He started leaving Cheryl notes around the show barn, feed bin, and office. “I still find notes everywhere. I opened a clipper box three weeks ago and Dad had left me a note deep in the box: ‘Cheryl, use blade 7112 or bevel edge comb when slicking heads and necks or slicking cows in the summer.’ He knew I wouldn’t know. And I found notes just like that at just the right place, at just the time I needed them for the last seven months,” Cheryl added.

JCL Red Angus

During some of her most difficult days, Cheryl found herself falling into her father’s tendencies. “The cattle have saved me in the last year. As sick as Dad was, and as hard as this has been, those cattle are my salvation,” Cheryl shared. “There were days that Dad was so sick, and after he passed away, that I would go out to the barn. Dad was notorious for walking in a pen with a comb and just combing on a heifer or one of his favorite bulls, and I found myself doing that with my favorites.”

Running the ranch and balancing her international accounting career has taken a toll. But she has found strength and growth in this journey that’s guided her to lean on others for support. Many people have stepped to help Cheryl at the ranch. Additionally, Cheryl hired Trycen King as a fulltime herdsman last spring to assist with daily operations at JCL Red Angus. “Trycen is with JCL because of Dad – the two had forged a strong bond before his passing,” Cheryl said.

Currently, 60 momma cows comprise the JCL Red Angus herd. JCL Red Angus continues with its original purpose of raising show calves for juniors and improving the quality of the Red Angus breed.

A Crossroads

But now Cheryl stands at a crossroads. Offers to buy part or all of JCL Red Angus continue to come her way. She knows her life will never be the same yet, she embraces the many avenues set before her. What path she will choose remains uncertain.

Though Cheryl is still mulling over what her future will look like, there is one thing she knows for sure. The choice she made to root herself in Welch these past few years was the best decision of her life. “I would not trade that solid year and a half that I had with my dad for anything. I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Cheryl shared. “And if somebody told me that this was my last day on earth and asked me what I was the most proud of, that I had the most satisfaction from doing, it’s not from getting a Ph.D., it’s not from working in New York, it’s not from traveling to London business class every two months for years, it’s coming back to Welch and spending that year and a half with Dad. Nothing else touches it.”

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