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Bill Hamann, Stockman

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William “Bill” Hamann was a mover and shaker in the western North Dakota cattle industry. He was born near Richardton in 1904 and began working with livestock in the late 1920s. Along with his associates, he established the Western Livestock Company in Dickinson in 1948. It grew to become the largest cattle auction in North Dakota.

Hamann is remembered as an honest and trustworthy businessman. And he was known to help young ranchers when the banks wouldn’t lone them money to get started. Medora rancher Adolph Burkhardt said, “We didn’t have much money for livestock so Bill furnished us with 300 Hereford cows on shares. We’d sell in the fall and split the check. Bill was real good to us.”

Hamann liked to tell a story about a bachelor living down near the South Dakota border. When the man asked Hamann to come look at his hogs, Bill complied. Expecting to see hog pens, he was surprised when the guy asked him to drive a horse and wagon filled with corn. The fellow led the way on a saddle horse, and after a mile or so, the farmer started calling his hogs – they were loose on the range!

“Hogs come out of every draw,” Hamann had reported. “Old ones, young ones, good ones, crippled ones!”

With his wagonload of corn as his flute, Bill became a sort of Pied Piper leading more than a thousand hogs to a nearby stockyard. And Bill bought every one of those pigs, although he had no idea what to do with them. He ended up loading them into stock cars and sending them east. Then, he called a Minnesota feeder to tell him he should expect a rather large shipment of hogs.“What am I going to do with them?” the buyer asked.

Bill said, “I don’t know. That’s why you got ‘em.” It turned out the buyer was happy with the shipment and wanted more. Bill told him, “I don’t think there’s any more like that in the world!”

Bill and his wife, Viola, raised 10 children over the years. He never retired, but he was seriously slowed down by a stroke when he was 74; he died six months later – on this date in 1979.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

Ed. Knutson-Gjermundson, Colette. “William ‘Bill’ Hamann.” The Cowboy Chronicle Extra. Medora, ND: North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. 2004 special edition.

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