Woodworking again: I could have been famous

By Dave Wood
Posted 9/13/22

WOODWORKING Again BY DAVE WOOD Funny how events come back to bite you in the butt. Years ago, a week after I graduated from high school, I was drinking a cup of coffee at my parents’ cafe when …

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Woodworking again: I could have been famous


Funny how events come back to bite you in the butt. Years ago, a week after I graduated from high school, I was drinking a cup of coffee at my parents’ cafe when Goodwin Anderson, a big red-haired chap, sat down at the next stool, ordered coffee, stuck a sugar lump between his teeth and sucked the dark brew through it, licked his lips like everyone else did in our town and said, “Davey. I see you managed to graduate from high school. What’s up for you now?”

“They’ve let me into Eau Claire State, but only on probation because my high school grades were so low. I’ll start in September.”

“Tsk,” said Goodwin. “Maybe you need an alternate goal. Have you ever considered becoming an artificial inseminator? You’ve got very small hands for such a tubby lad….”

That’s right. Goodwin was the area’s Tri-County Breeders “Man with the Golden [well not exactly golden] Arm.” The guy you called when one of your cows was in heat. Goodwin was the Johnny on the spot who inserted a dose of refrigerated bull semen into the bossie’s innards, relieving most farmers from the option of having his own bull staked out in the cow yard, those fearsome beasts that sometimes broke loose.

Goodwin’s offer was kind indeed, but the prospect didn’t allow me to pursue my dreams of becoming an English teacher, and so I went on to Eau Claire, where I managed to survive.

Jump ahead 60 years and I arrived at my files with the purpose of finding something to write about, and what to my wandering eyes should appear, but a story written by a girl from Whitehall. A few years earlier, my wife and I sponsored a writing contest for juniors in a Wisconsin history course offered at Whitehall High School. One year the winner was a talented young lass named Mary Kate Speerstra, who wrote an essay about how her grandfather Peter Speerstra was a pioneer in the area of artificial insemination! He and two other Trempealeau County dairymen overcame great odds to start an insemination cooperative in my home area. Had I known that it would become one of the biggest artificial insemination companies in the world- it’s now called Accelerated Genetics-and had I gotten onto its ground floor (albeit next to the gutter), I’d now be famous, written about by admiring dairy students just like- you guessed it-Goodwin Anderson, rather than an ink-stained wretch cranking out stories like this.

When we began the writing contest, we hoped that the winners’ essays would be published in the hometown weekly, but alas, it was not to be as the new publishers preferred boiler plate provided by Madison news services and half-page letters to the editor about how a certain candidate stole the election from the candidate the writer preferred. So as somehow to repay to Mary Kate and other talented high school writers, I’ll let Mary Kate tell at least part of her story in a news- paper that will print it. (That’s the one you’re reading.)

“When Trempealeau County Breeders started in 1941, it had 110 members and six sires. 1686 cows were inseminated during its first year of operation… Dr. Hillstrom was its first artificial insemination technician … Goodwin Anderson was Trempealeau County Breeders’ first non-veterinarian insemination technician, who began his career in 1945, nine years before I drank coffee with him. In the early days we used to drive 200 miles on only eight calls, but gas was cheap and we were paid five cents a mile.

“On January 7, 1975 at the Steven Lamberson farm near Whitehall, Goodwin Anderson became the sixteenth man in the world to service 100,000 cows. By this time in his career he had driven an average of 45,000 miles a year and worn out twenty-two cars.

“After Trempealeau County became Tri-State, Tri-State in 1995 became Accelerated. Currently [2010] it sells almost five million units of semen annually in eighty-two countries around the world. Accelerated Genetics is one of the few artificial insemination cooperatives that continues to be producer-owned and controlled.”

Great research Mary Kate! Great story Goodwin! Sorry I didn’t make it into the story, because I worked as a hired man on the Lamberson farm the year the family bought an expensive bull from British Columbia. On his first romantic outing, “Romeo” slipped on a cow pie in the breeding stall and broke his leg. And then he was off to the White hall Packing Plant and that’s no bull. That’s baloney. And thanks to Goodwin, the Lamberson’s never had to buy another bull from British Columbia.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.

Dave Wood, column, opinion