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A Fine Farm Family

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By Moreland Jeff

 

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Randall Caulk grew up on his family farm on Finley Ridge Road in Taylor County, and he still calls that farm home today. His decades of hard work and dedication are what led the Taylor County Fair Board to present him and his wife, Linda Haydon Caulk, with the 2018 Finest Farm Family Award.

Randall said the award is special because he is a small farmer.

“I wasn’t expecting this, but it means a lot to me,” he said.

Growing up as the only boy in the family with four older sisters, Randall worked on the farm where they raised cattle, corn, tobacco and hay. After graduating from Taylor County High School, he worked for a few years on area farms, and then started a career with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture as a livestock enforcement officer, a position from which he retired before going to work at Bluegrass Stockyards. Initially, he worked four days a week at the stockyards, but has recently cut that back to two days a week, just working on sale days.

Randall said Linda works at Curtis Maruyasu in Lebanon, and although she’s getting close to retirement, she still gets up every day at 5 a.m. and goes to work, and if he asks, she will help on the farm with mowing and other things that need to be done.

A specialty for Caulk Farms has been Charolais beef cattle, which they raised for more than 20 years. Caulk said he got into the Charolais cattle in 1983.

“Mr. Herman Ratliff, the former state representative, had purebred Charolais cattle, and I went with him to sales and I started buying a few. From 1983 to 2006, I raised and sold bulls and heifers,” Randall said. He added that he later went to a cross bred he calls Star Fives, and he still used the Charolais bulls because he liked the growth in the breed.

Farm work has not only been special to the Caulk family, it has also brought them new friendships, like one they made nearly 30 years ago with Dennis Eggleston and his family.

“In 1990, they had a bull in South Dakota I wanted a sire out of, so me and my wife loaded up the trailer and truck and headed to South Dakota,” Randall said. “We got to Sioux City, Iowa, that night, and stuff started hitting my windshield that looked like chicken poop, but it was snow.

“We limped in behind a tractor-trailer to a truck stop and spent the night. The next morning, we headed up the road about two miles and there was no snow at all.”

Spending the night in a truck stop might not sound like the greatest thing in the world, but that’s how the Caulks met the Eggleston family.

“This family, we went to buy this bull at their sale, we just became good friends. They kind of captured us after that night at the truck stop, and this past April was my 27th bull sale, and I haven’t missed a bull sale in 27 years now in South Dakota,” Randall said. 

He added that he and his wife meet the Eggleston family each fall for a vacation in Branson, Missouri, to spend time together.

“We’re just the best of friends now; I don’t have any brothers, and he’s 10 years older than me, so I call him my big brother. I never had a brother, but me and him are like brothers 1,100 miles apart. And all from buying one bull.”

Randall Caulk is now 63 years old, and he said he still enjoys working on the farm where he grew up, even if he doesn’t do all of the things he once did.

“The older you get, the less work you want to do, and a purebred herd, if you do it right, is a lot of work,” he said. “It’s hard to make ends meet on a farm anymore, and even the bigger farmers are having a tough time now. All of the costs went up when things were high, but the prices you get out of stuff is not near what it was, but the cost will never come back down. It’s tough on all farmers right now. They’ve got to watch their dollars. On my operation here, I just hope I break even, but if you didn’t like doing it, you wouldn’t do it. It’s just a good life.”

That good life includes enjoying the farm his parents, Elbert and Marie Caulk, called home and where they raised Randall and his sisters.

“It ain’t as easy as it used to be. I sold one farm when I retired and kept this home place, and that grows on you. I don’t know how much longer I’ll do it,” he said. “I’d hate to ever have to sell this place because I go over there every day and there’s my mom and dad’s place. I’ve got some sisters that help mow the yard every week, and we have birthday parties and Christmas there every year. It’s sitting there just like Mom and Dad left it when they died.”

The farm still evokes memories for Randall, who recalled a time when he was about 10 or 12 years old, and his dad came home with a Farmall H tractor and two row cultivators.

“I thought we’d get to plow corn with these two row cultivators, but Dad said, ‘Son, you ain’t got nothing to do, so we’re going to hook them old mules to that cultivator and you’re going to plow that corn.’ I kinda frowned and said, ‘Well, what did you get that tractor for?’ When you’re young, you think you know everything, but you appreciate it later and realize your dad was right, and you see that,” he said with a smile.

Randall still keeps two mules on the farm, and their names are Mag and Maude. He calls them his pride and joy.

“After Dad passed away, I decided I was going to buy a motorcycle, and my mom said, ‘I think you need to buy mules. Don’t get a motorcycle,’” Randall said. “So I went to Manchester, Kentucky, and I bought a pair of mules and a wagon.”

Today Randall still uses those mules, which are now 20 years old, to pull a wagon and give his grandchildren rides on the family farm.

“And after Mom died, I went and bought me a motorcycle,” he added with a smile.

Randall and Linda have three daughters; Lindsay Greer and husband Travis, Courtney Spalding and husband, Ronnie, and Michala Caulk and fiancé Wil Price. They have two granddaughters, Abbie Howell and Sophie Spalding.