Stockyard Memories

By Allison Marlow
Posted 7/28/17

Jimmy Driver was just 10-years-old when he helped his father dig holes to build what would become one of the biggest cattle markets in the south.

Driver’s entire family, in fact, was a force in …

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Stockyard Memories

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Jimmy Driver was just 10-years-old when he helped his father dig holes to build what would become one of the biggest cattle markets in the south.

Driver’s entire family, in fact, was a force in helping raise the Robertsdale stockyard.

The auction was built and run as a cooperative beginning in 1949 and served as a hub of activity for local cattlemen for more than six decades. An original list of stockholders showed that money was tight among the farming community who came together to create the stockyard – most investors bought just a single share at $100 a share.

Driver’s father, William Horace Driver, helped organize the creation of the stockyard and then served as its first president and general manager until 1970. His mother worked in the office and often didn’t return home until after midnight when the final sale was finished.

But first, it had to be built. Driver, still in elementary school, remembers leaving class each day and heading straight to the stockyard to work. Many people in central Baldwin County did the same, including his school principal who he worked side by side with at the yard.

Once the building was raised, Driver, now 80-years-old, was out there every week to help maintain the building and check in the thousands of animals that were sold.

He distinctly remembers climbing onto the roof as a hurricane churned in the Gulf to tighten the nails. This was after he awoke at dawn to feed his own family’s cows, attended school and then came to work at the stockyard.

His own granddaughter, Sabrina Pulido, 9, a Rosinton Elementary school student, listened intently to his stories, and couldn’t imagine such a life.

“That is just terror,” she said.

But that was life working at one of the largest cattle markets in the south.

According to local newspapers at the time, just three years after opening its doors the stockyard sales hit $6 million for the year. The first year it was open, the stockyard recorded $3 million in sales.

Cattle and hogs were the biggest industry in the county as 70,797 head of cattle and 84,850 hogs moved through the auction ring those first three years. The success was attributed to south Alabama’s warmer climate and ability to allow animals to graze year-round.

After operating for nearly 65 years the auction was cut back to twice a month, but each sale saw barely 100 cattle, sometimes, not even that many. The final sale was held in May, 2014.

Driver, and many of the cattlemen who worked the stockyard, lament the disappearing industry in Baldwin County.

“Hogs disappeared when the local build up started,” he said. “Kids got away from FHA, FFA and 4-H.

It’s a shame. The housing development changed the perspective of Baldwin County.”