Belle Vietnam veteran, farmer inducted into Missouri Hereford Association Hall of Fame

by Cassie Dorran, Rural Route Creations
Posted 9/20/23

Garry Mistler was graciously surprised to be inducted into the Missouri Hereford Association (MHA) Hall of Fame at the 2022 banquet last December. Garry and his wife Sundra own and operate Hatchee …

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Belle Vietnam veteran, farmer inducted into Missouri Hereford Association Hall of Fame


Garry Mistler was graciously surprised to be inducted into the Missouri Hereford Association (MHA) Hall of Fame at the 2022 banquet last December. Garry and his wife Sundra own and operate Hatchee Creek Farm in Belle, Missouri, with predominately registered Polled Hereford cattle.

Friends with Eddie Watson, Watson Polled Hereford Ranch, and family, Garry was convinced that attending the annual MHA banquet was to award his good friend his Hall of Fame award. Little did Garry know both friends would be receiving dueling honors. After Garry helped present Eddie with his award, he was quite shocked for the tables to turn and be presented with his award in front of more than 200 members and guests in Sedalia, Missouri.

Having been friends for decades, both Garry and Eddie have recollections of one another at the Central Missouri Polled Hereford Breeder’s Association (CMPHBA) sales and events. “Eddie is my very, very good friend,” said Garry. “In fact, we are almost like brothers really.”

Years ago Eddie bought a bull from Garry at the CMPHBA sale and many fond memories have been created since. Over the years the two along with their wives went out many times for supper and fellowship.

Garry laughed recalling how difficult it was to make sure both him and Eddie were present at the banquet to receive their honors.

“Our families ran into some obstacles getting us to the banquet,” he said. “But, it [Hall of Fame award] was a surprise. I never dreamed I would get that honor.”

You don’t have to step into the Mistler household but for a short second to see the years of dedication to the Hereford breed. Aligning the walls in the utility room are shelves of more than 65 plaques and ribbons from local fairs and the Missouri State Fair. For 37 years, Garry and family have exhibited at numerous local county fairs, showcasing the Hereford breed. Hatchee Creek Farm has historically shown registered Polled Hereford bulls, using the exhibitions as a way to market their bull sales. The family has sold bulls privately but also in the CMPHBA sale and Missouri Opportunity Sale.

“We’ve had several top-selling bulls over the years,” said Garry humbly.

In 2006 the farm won the E.H. Gregory Award for their champion 2-year-old bull at the Missouri State Fair. They have been awarded senior bull champion twice, intermediate champion and a few divisions also at the state fair. At local fairs, they have had the champion bull numerous times. Fairs exhibited at over the years include: Belle Community Fair, Gasconade County Fair, Montgomery County Fair, Boone County Fair, Cole County Fair, Crawford County Fair and the Missouri State Fair.

Showing bulls has been important to the family as they would often sell females to local 4-H and FFA youth. Garry recognizes the importance of junior involvement in production agriculture and supported numerous juniors over the years in effectively preparing their show projects. Often he would help youth find avenues for breeding their seedstock or even making suitable trades on heifers that would age out of showing, so that the junior could have a young animal to show again the following year.

“Many of these youth we sold show heifers to over the years still come up and hug me when they see me at events,” Garry said.

By listening to Garry’s voice talking about the youth he’s been able to help, it clearly means a great deal to him. He pointed out how his own family has made good friends with these families they have sold heifers to, and through word of mouth, the list of buyers keeps growing.

The Early Years

Hatchee Creek Farms didn’t get a traditional start. While Garry and Sundra met in high school, it wasn’t until more than 20 years later that the farm was born. During their first two decades of marriage, Garry was in the U.S. army, serving two tours in Vietnam, one tour in Thailand and three years in Germany. As a special services member, he was assigned to both the aviation maintenance and crew chief.

In Vietnam, Garry recalls the special forces camps he would help by flying in livestock.

“We would fly down real low to the ground and drop cattle, pigs, and chickens by parachute,” he said.

Garry saw his fair share of new things while flying planes back and forth in support of the Vietnam War including elephants, monkeys and poisonous snakes.

Agriculture looked much different in the three countries he served in. Most livestock were indoors. A majority of the crops he saw in Germany were sugar beets and many cattle operations included veal production.

Near the end of his army career, the couple purchased the family farm, which originally belonged to Sundra’s parents. He retired as an E8 – Master Sergeant. In 1983 Garry eliminated the commercial herd his father-in-law had and replaced them by investing in four registered Polled Hereford heifers and a young bull from Willard Kottwitz, Bland, MO, who was also a MHA Hall of Fame inductee.

Garry and Sundra have three children – Brian, Garry Marlan Jr. and Denise. The youngest daughter, Denise, was anxious to show cattle and enjoyed the fun and social aspects of attending various fairs. One of the family’s best memories was grilling and serving hamburgers to many of the youth around the barns on show day.

Having lived most of his childhood life with his grandmother, Garry was always interested in some form of livestock. In the early days that included pigs and chickens. His first encounter with a Hereford was at the local community fair when he was a freshman in high school. The fair always had a calf scramble where the local farmers would bring in weaned calves and put them in a pen. The FFA students would have a contest to see who could catch, halter, and tie the calf to a post in the middle of the pen. Garry won the contest and had a few rope burns to prove he was the winner.

Next, Garry had to take his winning heifer home to halter break her and prepare for the next year’s fair. He did well with that Hereford heifer and won a blue ribbon. The local supermarket owner bought her and his next advertisement read “Blue Ribbon Beef – locally raised, sold here.”

During his time in the army, Garry recalls a conversation with his father-in-law. Garry had purchased an Angus bull for his in-laws, but the bull had horrible disposition and kept trying to tear up his father-in-law’s truck. Garry said to sell him, and a Hereford bull was chosen as the replacement.

With two good introductions to Hereford cattle both with his father-in-law’s bull and the calf scramble heifer, Hatchee Creek Farm chose Herefords as their breed of choice.

Becoming members of the CMPHBA lead the farm to consign to annual sales, only missing two over the years for grandsons’ weddings. Garry is also a lifetime member of the American Hereford Association and has sold and bought over the years at the Missouri Opportunity Sale.

For a number of years the farm included around 35 production females. The couple has downsized with 17 females currently in the herd. Garry still enjoys breaking cattle for shows, leaving the actual leading now to Brian and his son Patrick. With six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, the family farm is in good hands.

To this day, Garry is happy to have chosen the Hereford breed, pointing out there is no better suited breed around young children for docility. If commercial cattle are your interests, he points out that having a Hereford bull on a black set of cows gets you that highly-demanded black baldy calf. Money wise, that’s where you want to be, he says.

One of the highlights of Garry’s Hereford career is receiving the MHA Hall of Fame induction and presenting the award to his good friend, Eddie. Lifelong friends and the joy of being with the cattle and working with them are equally considered highlights to Garry.

“We have met so many great people, enjoyed so many wonderful animals, and have so many great memories all because of the Hereford breed,” said Garry. “I and my family are honored to be Hereford owners and supporters. For all the opportunities, blessings and memories, we are thankful to God.”

Editors Note: Printed with permission from Rural Route Creations.