Since he had worked with farm animals growing up, Donnie Everetts figured a job at Highland Producers Stockyards might work out well for him. Little did he know when he started he would still be working there 60 years later.
April 1, 2017 will mark the 60th anniversary since that rainy day in 1957 when Producers held its first hog auction and Everetts first stepped on the grounds beside the Dairy Queen in Hillsboro as an employee.
“Never, even ever, did I think I’d work this long,” the 1955 Belfast High School graduate who grew up on a farm near Folsom, the son of Ora and Loretta Everetts, said Monday. “They’ve been good to me, and I’ve really been blessed that the Lord has given me the health where I could work for 60 years.”
It was a spring day in 1957 and Everetts said his dad was likely selling some hogs when he inquired about a job at Producers. At first, Everetts said Bill Cornelius, the stockyard manager, told him he had already hired everyone he needed. But later Cornelius stopped Everetts in uptown Hillsboro and told the youngster he could use him.
“I owe a lot of credit to him because he took me on and kind of pushed me on and upward. I guess he saw something in me,” Everetts said.
During his first three years at Producers, Everetts said he worked part-time, averaging about two days a week. Then he went into the Air Force Reserves for six months. Part of that time Everetts was stationed at the Air Force base in Wilmington, so when he could get leave he worked at the stockyards – all the time letting Cornelius know that if a regular job became available, he was interested.
Not long after he got out of the Reserves, Everetts said he was getting ready to apply for a job a Moore Drop Forge, which was just opening in Hillsboro. But about that same time an elderly employee at the stockyards decided he could no longer work and on Dec. 15, 1960, Everetts landed his first full-time job at Producers.
Everetts’ first title was assistant hog salesman. In 1966, he was promoted to head hog salesman and in 1983 he took over management of the stockyards. He retired in 2006, but has continued to work part-time at Producers since, mostly on Mondays and half a day on Tuesday.
“I was offered other jobs, but I was satisfied with what I was doing,” Everetts said. “The grass always looks greener on the other side, but until you get there you never know whether it is or not. I must have had a lot fun where I was at because it has went awfully quick.”
Most employees that worked with Everetts when he started at Producers have passed on. He said the only one he can remember that’s still around is John Dodds, who was Everetts’ classmate at Belfast.
Over the years Everetts said he’s saw lots of changes in his profession of choice. He said there are a lot less farmers, and a lot more large corporations in the farming business. When he started, Everetts said just about everyone had a few hogs and they might sell some once a year or so. Now, he said, it’s nothing to have 2,500 hogs in an operation and they’re sold continuously. He also said that in his younger days what is now United Producers might sell one or two goats a month, but now it sells 50 to 100 week.
Although the business changed, Everetts said he never felt a desire to leave.
“I enjoy what I’m doing. I get to see the people I work with and talk to them, I see customers I’ve had down through the years, and I see people my age, their children, and now their children’s children. If I wasn’t enjoying what I’m doing I wouldn’t be out there on Monday mornings in 0-degree weather,” Everetts said, adding that the recent warm winter was a nice change of pace.
Through the years Everetts and his wife, Seaman High School graduate Evelyn (Wallace) Everetts, raised three daughters who all became teachers. The oldest, Donita Everetts, is retired from the Hillsboro schools. The next, Linda Chaney, works at the Bright Local Schools, and the youngest, Cheryl Ison, is a teacher at Fairfield Local. Their mother babysat when they were growing up so she could stay home with her girls.
All three girls graduated from Wilmington College.
“They used to ask me why I didn’t go to college,” Everetts said. “We didn’t have the money and there weren’t the resources there are today like grants and loans and things.”
Everetts said he never gave much thought to doing anything else. And as long as his health holds out, he doesn’t see himself quitting anytime soon.
“I was raised on a farm around animals and I always liked working with animals. The fit was perfect for me,” Everetts said. “I probably would not have changed a thing. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, and I still do.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.