TEXARKANA, Ark. - After being closed for 13 years, the Texarkana Stockyard is beefing back up again for cattle and livestock trade.
The stockyard reopened June 14 and is teeming with the familiar back-and-forth between auctioneers and bidders.
"We processed about 400 cattle the first week," said Joe Littleton, who, along with his son, Jason, now owns the business. "I just wanted to start a family business, selling cattle and serving the community."
Born in 1957, Joe Littleton said his father, who owned a 100-acre farm and ranch operation in Fouke, Ark., bought and sold cattle for many years at the stockyard.
"It will be a Christian-oriented business," Littleton told the Texarkana Gazette (http://is.gd/4SZ9q4 ). He pastors a church in New Boston. "We opened the business with prayer. We bring cattle here locally and ship them all over the U.S."
Texarkana Stockyard initially opened in about 1940 with six commission companies that conducted the buying and selling operations. It operated on 10 acres of land in the 1000 block of Lelia Street.
Joe Harold Dawson, 71, who now works as the stockyard's ring manager and auction price setter, said he remembers going to the stockyard as a small child with his father, who worked in livestock selling during the late 1940s.
"Dad made about $35 a week," Dawson said. "I remember running up and down the passageways when I was a kid. I lived for it, and I thought I was really doing something special just by being out there."
By the time Dawson, born in October 1941, started working there when he was 23 years old, he helped load and offload cattle on trucks.
"When I started work there (from about 1964 to 1970) you would make about a $1.50 a hour and take home about a $40 to $45 each week," Dawson said.
"The stockyard was a booming place in the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Some of the cattle were sold and put on rail and shipped from here to St. Louis."
The stockyard was open for five and a half days a week, and Dawson said it wasn't unusual to see as many as 600 to 1,000 head of cattle being processed through each day.
The hours were 8 a.m. to at least 4 p.m.
Cattle would be shipped to meat packing plants in places as far away as Dallas, Fort Worth and Shreveport, but also to packing plants in Texarkana.
"There would be as many as 3,600 head of cattle processed through here each week," Dawson said. "Back then (the 1940s), cattle sold for about 10 cents to 15 cents a pound, and the sales records had to be kept for at least five years."
Eventually, in about 1962, the operations took on an auction format, and from then on, each commission company took turns auctioning livestock.
While beef, dairy and replacement cattle were and still are the primary commodities, the stockyard also dealt and still deals in horses, goats and hogs.
Cookie Coleman, a local businessman who worked as a livestock handler at the stockyard about the same time Dawson did, became the stockyard's owner in 1984.
However, after getting involved in operating other businesses, Coleman decided to close the stockyard in 2000.
During Coleman's ownership, the stockyard processed about 700 cattle a week, or about 26,000 to 35,000 annually.
"We got the first computers installed for our record-keeping," Coleman said. "We made the transition from paper records to computers pretty smoothly."
Texarkana Stockyard now has its own restaurant, where livestock buyers, sellers and bidders can go for breakfast, lunch or both.
The stockyard now employs about 30 people, including a ticket writer, kitchen staff, office managers, livestock handlers, a ring manager and an auctioneer.
Cattle and other livestock are usually brought there Wednesdays and Thursdays and auctioned Fridays.