OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — He doesn’t really need to visit the stockyards auction floor any longer.
But Kenneth Madding can’t resist coming back to the auction block at the Oklahoma National Stockyards.
Too many old friends are still here, and there’s too much excitement these days.
“Pretty good price, eh John?” remarks Ken to an old friend during the weekly cattle auction.
Ken is the oldest of the old-timers around here who’s imaginations can’t keep up with the spiraling beef prices.
What he once dreamed of paying for a whole cow wouldn’t pay the price per 100 pounds now.
Madding says, “There’s nobody who ever thought it would do this, at no time.”
He lied about his age to get a job working the old wood pens at the stockyards in 1944.
Ken was only 15 at the time, but he thought he’d ‘arrived’.
“I was drawing 54 cents an hour,” he smiles. “I thought I was rich.”
A young Madding would work the Spring and Fall sales and then go back to high school near Durant, Oklahoma.
In 1948 he started working full time at what was then the largest stocker and feeder market in the world.
Before the official auction came in 1962, cattle were sold to commission men in private transactions.
Ken loaded hay into what is now the auction room before that.
Walking the catwalk above the cattle pens, a visitor remarks, “You’ve been up here a few times right?”
Ken smiles and says, “Yeah. Sometimes for 24 hours at time.”
Madding worked for a big commission company until 1969 when he and a partner bought a couple of cattle trucks.
People can still find him in the Exchange Building keeping in touch with longtime customers.
He still loves coming to work no matter what.
“I love this place,” he says. “I’m proud of this place. It’s the grandest place in the world. I’ve liked every day.”