Centenarian Sells Farm

Hard Work Never Held Back 100-Year-Old Missouri Cattle Woman Wilda Cox

Wilda Cox says the family's Circle J cattle brand started with a calf named "Boots." (Photo by Linda Geist, University of Missouri Extension)

One of the hardest days Wilda Cox has endured in over 100 years of living took place Oct. 31 of this year when she sold the family's Missouri farm, known locally as the home of the Circle J cattle brand.

Her love of cattle started at 16 years of age, when her dad gave her a calf named Boots. She fed it cornmeal mush and milk, and it bore three heifer calves in a row. She recalled, "That put the kid in the cattle business."

The Angus calf became the backbone of the Circle J brand, which would later fetch top prices at local sale barns. Cox credited her late husband, James Olsen Cox, with a keen ability to spot a good bloodline of cattle.

"He didn't know sic'em about farming," she was quoted as saying. "What he learned, he learned from me. But he did know a good cow when he saw one."

The two were married 40 years before his death at age 67. Cox was 64 at the time.

The University of Missouri Extension service shared news of the sale of the Cox farm recently in a tribute to the woman who has built barns, lugged 110 cans of milk, picked and husked corn by hand, and bucked hay bales. Cox was born on the family place near Bogard in Carroll County, Missouri, on Sept. 17, 1922. She lived there 92 years.

The youngest of six, Cox started farming at age 11, when her father lost a leg to disease. She took over many of his farming duties, becoming the extra set of eyes, ears, hands and legs that allowed him to continue farming and take on other jobs such as setting poles for the local telephone exchange. He died when Cox was just 21.

After Cox's dad passed, she assumed the lease for the farm ground and helped her mother. At just 5 feet, 2 inches tall, Cox was gritty, cutting wood with an axe to heat the house and shooting squirrels for their meals. She cut corn in the mornings and wood in the afternoons, all to be ready for the coming winter by Thanksgiving.

Friend Randy Rodenberg recalls when he and his wife went to check on Cox one harsh, icy winter day in the 1980s. They worried when they couldn't find her inside her home and were relieved to find her in the cattle lot caring for her animals. She had made snow treads for her boots from horseshoes.

She liked to say she learned by doing, whether it was using a chain saw, shooting a gun, or climbing a telephone pole. Her formal farm training came from reading every farm magazine she could lay her hands on.

Cox shared some wisdom with others in farming, advising those new to it to find a mentor. And "When you plant, pray to the Lord to give you a good harvest."

To read the profile of Cox in its entirety, go to: https://extension.missouri.edu/….