May 5, 1935
Earl Bestol, Jr. was born on May 5, 1935, in Alliance, NE, to Earl and Lila (Schaffner) Bestol. He celebrated his first birthday on a 100-mile cattle drive from north of Ellsworth to the Pearl Nutter ranch east of Thedford, when Earl, Sr. and Lila had to move cattle due to the drought.
Ear, Jr. grew up in the Bingham and Whitman areas, where his father leased different ranches. He graduated from high school at Bingham High School in 1953. He was valedictorian of his class (of two students), and was active in basketball, track, and drama.
In 1953, the Bestols purchased a ranch north of Burwell, and subsequently, in 1957, the current ranch seven miles northwest of Purdum. In October 1957, Earl, Jr. married Claudia Knag of Alliance, a move so brilliant it deserves mention in a Hall of Fame of its own. They celebrated their 50th anniversary, on the ranch, in October 2007.
Earl competed in amateur rodeos until his son, Wayne, was born in 1958. Shady James had earlier told Earl that a man could rodeo until he started a family, but then it had to end. He had previously competed in the bareback riding, but again broke out his riggin to go to the Old Timers Rodeo in Hyannis when he was 40, also competing in the team roping.
The Bestol ranch originally raised Hereford cattle, but began cross-breeding with Angus, building a herd of mostly black-white faced cattle. Over the five decades, different breeds have been crossed to try to find what worked best. Today the ranch has come back full circle with Hereford bred to some of the black heifers this past spring.
Earl has always been very active in conservation efforts, from tree planting to blowout reclamation to reseeding of sod disturbed by farming in earlier times. His efforts were recognized several times by the Upper Loup Natural Resource District, ultimately with the Upper Loup NRD conservation award in 1975. He has installed many miles of pipeline and a solar powered well in pursuit of his belief that a cow should never half to walk more than ½ mile to water.
Earl and Claudia started an auction business in the 70’s. Like the ranch, this was a family affair, his son learned to auction and Claudia and the girls clerked the sales. They do not do any official sales anymore, but Earl still does the Halsey community auction each year. Throughout the years, Earl has called many Calcutta’s, FFA labor auctions, benefit auctions and sold numerous wedding garters.
Earl has been a member of the Purdum United Church of Christ since 1959, and has held many church offices, including deacon and trustee in the 50 years since. He held many positions with the Purdum rural fire department and serves on the school boards of Cherry County Rural Schools Districts 35 and 136. He has been a member of the Elks for 53 years, currently belonging to the Ainsworth Lodge. He has also participated in the Nebraska Stockgrower’s Association, the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association, and the Sandhills Cattle Association.
Earl was a private pilot for many years, and thoroughly enjoyed flying. He loves ranching, particularly calving and branding, his family and his neighbors. Despite his insistence that he does not enjoy construction, he welded everything on the ranch that was metal and then started converting everything else to metal so it could be welded. He would prefer to construct everything so that it would last forever, and never need to be worked on again, but has not yet found a way to manage that with pasture fencing. He has never refused help to anyone who asked for it, and has volunteered help, without request more times than anyone can remember, as long as someone needed him to do something and not to talk about it.
Earl and Claudia have three children, Wayne of Minden; Kay Lynn of Cheyenne; and Brenda, who resides at the ranch by Purdum. They also have three grandchildren, Josh, Sara and Melissa, and a great-grandson, Ayden.
As several friends have said, “he is just one of those “good ole boys” that is well liked and respected by his family, friends and neighbors.” Although Earl is being inducted into the Hall of Fame, many know he will admit that the ranching operation is a family operation&helip;.and it takes everyone to keep the wheels turning.