August 14, 1938 – May 24, 2016
Don was born on August 14, 1938, to Rolland A. and Emelene (Thurston) Powles in Ashby, Nebraska. He lived his entire life in the Bingham area on the family ranch. He and his sister Carol Ann were the last graduating class from Bingham High School in 1956. He served a brief term in the Army, returning home to marry Gretchen Pisel on June 3, 1962. To this union 3 children were born: Tena, Jana and Bryon.
Don grew up raising Horned Hereford Cattle with his Dad. They participated in the Cow Town Hereford Bull Sale along with the Westover family and many others for years. Don then began a new venture in the early 70’s breeding Gelbvieh cattle with his longtime friend Phil VanDervort. Gelbvieh cattle were known as “Golden Cattle” but Don felt in his beloved Sandhills black cattle would be more popular so he began crossing Gelbvieh cattle with Angus to eventually breed Black Imprint, the first Homozygous Black, Homozygous Polled Gelbvieh bull. Other herdsires – Buster, Polled Midnight, Black Velvet and Jetstream put the Powles Gelbvieh Ranch on the map both nationally and internationally. Powles’ sold Gelbvieh bulls for over 20 years and Don enjoyed personally delivering the bulls to his customers. He was active on the ranch with the seasonal routine ranch work until a sudden heart attack in 2016 took his life.
Don won numerous awards as a youth in 4-H including the most prestigious award in their county, Sheridan County 4-H King. Don loved to judge livestock and excelled in judging and showing. Don’s Gelbvieh cattle won awards at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, the Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City, Nebraska State Fair and neighboring state fairs. Tena, Jana and Bryon all participated in 4-H, rodeo and cattle show competitions under Don and Gretchen’s guidance. He was an active member of various cattle and breed organizations throughout his ranching career and gave several herd starting heifers to many youth.
Don’s father Rolland raised horses and Don was the rider on many a matched horse race at the Alliance track when he was a young boy. When Rolland found a bargain at a horse sale, Don got to “test it out” before anyone else. Don competed in calf roping as a young man and then participated in team roping with various partners but especially Bill Shrewsbury. They placed at the Nebraska State Rodeo finals for many years. He won numerous buckles throughout his rodeo and roping career.
Don served as a Bingham school board member for 27 years, a lifetime member of the Bingham church, member of the Cowboy Chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and was active in Gideon’s International. He was a huge supporter of 4-H and FFA and ran the Hyannis FFA cowherd for years. He was honored to receive the Ak-sar-ben Good Neighbor Award in 2003 and was a board member of the Nebraska Cowboy Hall of Fame at the time of his passing.
Don loved to hunt and fish, especially fishing after retirement. He had no greater joy than sharing a fishing trip with a family member or a good friend. His delight and joy was so obvious in the experience itself and if you caught fish that was a bonus! Many people enjoyed a great community fish fry because of the hours Don and his friends spent fishing for the catch, however, it was usually paired with a great beef steak from the Powles herd.