“Big grass, good fence and great bulls” were the Diamond Creek cowboy’s tools for success.
“Never be satisfied with your calf crop, and always work to make next year’s calves better.”
Big mischievous grin, Burton Buchman’s dedicated philosophy as a cow-calf producer who helped many others was widely recognized.
Never one to tout accomplishments, Buchman’s recent passing at 89-years-old brought work ethic praise from those who knew him.
Except for nearby tenant house when newly married, Buchman always lived in the same Chase County family home. Near Hymer on Diamond Creek, the operation has a Burdick address.
Hesitant calling theirs a “ranch,” the family through generations has reserved that title for vast Texas operations. Burton’s son Rex Buchman talked about his dad’s lifetime raising beef cattle.
The Buchman land was originally a part of the famed 101 Ranch. “Our home place was operated by the Burnett family and my grandpa Lou Buchman bought it in 1933,” Rex said.
Burton Buchman continued the cow-calf business with added Flint Hills acreages from cowherd profits throughout the decades.
While custom grazing other-owner’s yearling cattle for distant landowners is area tradition, Burton Buchman always had his own cowherd.
“Grandpa Lou told Dad he’d get $8 a day looking after another’s cattle, while losing $20 at home,” Rex remembered. “So, Dad raised cattle of his own, but always really enjoyed helping neighbors with their cattle roundups.
“When anybody needed help of any kind, Dad would generally stop what he was doing to assist them.” Rex said. “Lots of people came to Dad for advice in their operations.”
Behind every successful cowboy is a hardworking woman who was the neighbor cowboy Keith Davis’ daughter Mary.
“Dad and Mom grew up in the community and started dating as teenagers,” Rex noted. “They knew and appreciated life producing cattle in the Flint Hills and became a great team married 69 years. My sister Susie and I were raised knowing about and doing hard work involved in the cow business.”
Susie Harshman, Burton’s daughter now at nearby Cedar Point, verified “My daddy had a strong trust and faith in the Lord. He loved his life and would not have traded anyone else for his.
“Daddy always started his day with a prayer: ‘It’s a good day Lord. It’s a good life. I’m very thankful.’ He loved being a caretaker of the land, loved the Flint Hills, and especially Hymer.
“He loved his cattle and was always forward thinking and improving the quality of them. His one weakness was he could not turn down the purchase of another really good bull,” Susie pointed out.
“Daddy had a kindness and tenderness for anything living. He tended to the land his home and his family with great skill and tenderness,” Susie insisted. “Daddy had a heart for teaching young people how to grow, how to work, and how to treat others. He wanted everyone to succeed.
“Daddy was dedicated to starting the Diamond 4-H Club. He invested an entire season of his life to the next few generations,” Susie said. “Daddy wanted kids to develop socially, mentally, physically, and spiritually. He would give of his time and share his world with everyone.
“Daddy loved and adored my mom for 73 years,” Susie said. “He loved his family, prayed for them, and coached them constantly. He loved good cattle, good horses, Lawrence Welk music, his neighbors and most of all Jesus,” Susie continued. He was an active member and leader of the Wilsey Christian Church.
“His work was a gift from God. It was his livelihood, his hobby, his favorite blessing. He was devoted to pass on the joy of that to all of us,” Susie said. “One Bible verse best describes Daddy’s work ethic: ‘In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty.’
“The verse he quoted most to be his favorite was Philippians 4:8. ‘Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.’ Daddy lived in positivity.
“My favorite thing to be and will always be is ‘Daddy’s girl.’ There’s no greater mirror of my heavenly Father than the way my Daddy taught and loved me.
“Daddy was also the definition of fun and ornery. He had very little filter and excelled in being a prankster. His most famous characteristic was his wit and wisdom, and he was very free in sharing that,” Susie declared.
“Life was best with hard work, harvesting the results of that and finding joy in every moment. One of his favorite songs was ‘In His Time,’ and Daddy truly trusted God for his days.”
Burton and Mary both attended Kansas State University, where Burton, a fast runner played intramural football. “But Flint Hills work suited Dad more, so he came back to Chase County and raised cattle,” Rex said.
Foremost a cow man, Burton Buchman was a horseman, a cowboy with horses who earned their living in the Flint Hills.
“Dad broke horses in his younger years, starting colts riding bareback from the barn to the water tank,” Rex said. “It wasn’t an easy life being Dad’s horse. He rode them hard all day every day and the hair off their withers was the proof.”
Owning a number of good horses, Burton’s favorite was the gelding Stranger, fast and tough. However, Buchman later in life preferred mares to ride for their intelligence and endurance.
Live calves to sell at weaning time paid the bills. So, Burton Buchman went to all lengths making sure every cow weaned a calf every year. It was nothing for Buchman to check cows at all wee hours of the night and throughout the day.
“Dad claimed if a calf ever died at our place he wasn’t working hard enough,” Rex said. “A homebody all his life, Dad did go to bull sales sometimes. But it was hard to get Dad away from home, especially when cows were calving.”
Forever an entrepreneur and forward thinker, Burton sought advice from others but then made his own management decisions. “You must listen to yourself and the only one to blame is yourself Dad always said,” according to Rex.
Hay is a main cow herd feedstuff, but handling bales is no cowboy’s favorite job. “When big round balers came out, Dad bought one right off. It saved lots of work for all of us,” Rex noted.
Artificial insemination provided an opportunity to mate cows to the best bulls in the country. “Simmental cattle were one of the first exotic beef breeds around. Dad artificially bred cows to Simmental bulls which sure changed the look of his cowherd,” Rex noted.
Burton Buchman produced a 15/16-Simmental bull called Extra Black owned jointly with the Kansas Artificial Breeding Service (KABSU), Manhattan.
“Working with KABSU manager Charles Michaels, Extra Black semen was sold throughout the country,” Rex said. “The black bull later sold to another breeding service unit, but Extra Black sure helped Dad build his operation too.”
Demand for club calves provided additional income for Burton Buchman. “Dad sold steers that won more county fairs than he could remember,” Rex said. “At least two of his steers won the Kansas Junior Livestock Show, plus other major competitions, even Houston one time.”
Although Diamond Creek is in the heart of the Chase County Flint Hills, the name Burton Buchman became known and respected over a wide area.
Seldom was there quitting time for Burton Buchman. “After supper, Dad often insisted there’s still work to be done. So, we’d go back out to work until near midnight sometimes,” Rex said.
Such unrelenting work ethic became somewhat uncommon in many locales. Thus, families in the area would ask Burton to hire their boys to work for him.
“Dad had at least 22 different boys come to help him with the cow operation,” Rex said. “They initially thought it was hard work, but Dad worked right with them, and they got to enjoying it.
“Those boys are men now and have fond memories of working for Dad. They became sought after for employment because they knew how to work if they’d been at Burton Buchman’s place.”
When he was in high school years ago, Jay Whitney, Strong City, worked for Burton Buchman.
“I was living with my grandma at Hymer when Burton stopped by one day. He asked me to go around to look at cattle with him,” Whitney said. “I later went to work for Burton and what a super guy, such a hard worker.
“Burton and Mary were pretty much like parents to me. They were like peas-in-a-pod relating stories about their life together.”
Pasture management was especially important to Burton Buchman. “He was very particular about his fences and keeping brush out of the pastures,” Whitney said. “Burton was so conscientious about his cows and their calves.
“There wasn’t anything Burton couldn’t fix. If something broke, he knew how to fix it,” Whitney insisted. “I couldn’t keep up with Burton when he was 70. let alone when he was 40 years old.”
Kim Reyer, now of Strong City, lived neighbors to Burton Buchman four decades. “We were tickled when Burton and Mary started the Diamond 4-H Club. I was a charter member in 1968,” Reyer said. “There were about two dozen club members from all along Diamond Creek even from Cottonwood Falls.”
A clubhouse was built by Diamond 4-H Club members from the old depot at Hymer. “We had monthly meetings with Burton and Mary Buchman serving as community leaders,” Reyer added.
An arena was constructed by Burton Buchman for aspiring young cowboys and cowgirls to practice. “It was for roping, but after the cattle had been roped, we’d get on and ride them,” Reyer said. “Burton also had goats for practice tying. Even some donkeys to practice roping at one time. He’d then take us to the junior and 4-H rodeos around.”
Good friend neighbor Dr. Rachael Barr, MD, Burdick, insisted “That Burton Buchman was quite the prankster. He loved flowers, loved music, loved his family, and loved the Lord. But I learned to always watch out for his practical jokes.
‘’I remember John Senne, a PhD chemist, saying that Burton was one of the smartest men he had ever met. Burton loved the Flint Hills, its beauty, loved his work, an appreciative and thankful man,” Rachael said. “Burton enjoyed singing his favorite song on horseback: ‘He Makes All Things Beautiful In His Time.’
“Burton was one-of-a-kind true friend, who will be missed by everyone in the community and over a wide area,” Rachael said.
Her husband Ben Barr insisted: “Burton was a man of a thousand postholes. He was always building fence. Burton liked his place to look nice and he kept it up well. He was always working and did things at a trot or on a run.
“Burton was a good neighbor, honest, hard-working, faithful friend who loved and was devoted to his family,” Ben summarized.
Ben’s dad Gene Barr, 93-years-old, said: “Burton was a great cowman, honest in everything, hard-working. Hardly ever went to town because he was too busy. No loafing about Burton.
“Once I met Burton on the road horseback, snow all over him, driving a critter,” Gene continued. “Should have been inside but was working. That’s why he was so successful; Burton never quit.”
John and Martha Senne moved to their farm at Burdick neighboring Burton Buchman in 1974. “I didn’t know much about the cattle business, and Burton helped me develop our operation,” John credited. “He’d go to sales with me and advise on which bulls to buy. Burton was a great neighbor.”
Martha Senne pointed out, “That Burton was a joker. He would sometimes introduce himself: ‘Hi. I’m George.’ Everybody loved Burton. He was a great storyteller. Burton and Mary were great conversationalists.”
John Senne recalled two of Burton’s frequent comments. “He’d always say: ‘It’s worth being poor just to live out here.’
“Burton also often said, ‘If I was having any more fun, I couldn’t stand it.’ Burton lived that way enjoying life, such a wonderful friend,” John Senne insisted.
While majority of the cowherd was black at one point, today two-thirds are red cows with the other one-third black. Despite heart ailment and a stroke, Burton Buchman continued to work through the past winter.
“It required Mom and some other help,” Rex said. “But Dad was out every day feeding and looking after his cows until becoming incapacitated.”
Mary Buchman said, “It is such a loss for me and all our family. I grew up neighbors to Burton, we took dancing lessons and were good friends before dating. We’ve worked together raising our family and handling the cattle operation. Burton was my best friend.”
The Bar U brand has been identifying Buchman cattle for about a century on Diamond Creek. With Burton Buchman’s wife Mary, two children, seven grandchildren, two step grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren, it will continue for generations to come.
Burton Buchman was a renowned cowman dedicated to his faith, family, cow herd, the Flint Hills and helping others. (Buchman family photo)