Like A Typical Ozarks Farm
What does owning a beautiful piece of land in the Ozark hills, raising cattle and hunting rattlesnakes have in common? Just ask Don Sisco and his wife Mildred or “Mil” of Christian County area near Chadwick, Mo. After a career of working at Hiland Dairy and also serving as the Chief of the Chadwick Volunteer Fire District and several years in the area of law enforcement Don now has the time to enjoy some farm life.
In the beginning Don had little interest in farming. It was Mil’s love of farm life that led them to the purchase of their first piece of farm land. They acquired their first 80-acre tract of land around 1960. Over the next 45-plus years they have continued to add and build up the farm little by little. Although with the Mark Twain National forest on three sides of their farm, further expansion is limited. The Sisco family cites recent changes, government policies and regulations as an obstacle to continuing how they carry out their livelihood. For example, boundary lines, fence lines and road access adjacent to their property are now in question due to recent land surveys. This troubles land owners since these boundaries have been in place for decades. Mil commented, “At one time the government gave land away or you might pay one to two dollars per acre. But the land was so rugged some people let it revert back to the government because they didn’t want to pay the taxes on it.” The Siscos are working with State and Federal officials to try to resolve boundaries in question.
While many people may know Chadwick for its 80 miles of ATV, motorcycle and mountain bike trail, the Sisco family knows it as home as they have for over five generations.
Today Don and Mil, along with their son-in-law Mark Loveland, who recently retired from Associated Wholesale Grocers in Springfield, plus with the help of Don’s grandchildren, they are able to pursue a life of maintaining their land and a commercial cow herd. A crossbred mix of Charolais and Simmental cows and calves dot the hillsides and valleys near where they live. Don and Mil said, “It keeps us active and involved in doing what we enjoy.”
Besides hunting and fishing another endeavor that the Sisco family has been involved with is very interesting. They participated in the annual “Rattlesnake Roundup," as a local FFA chapter fundraiser. In the past many community members took part in catching venomous snakes common to the area. Diamondback and Timber Rattlesnakes, Copperheads plus the occasional Cottonmouth were rounded up. When asked if they were caught for their skins or a trophy to have them displayed on the wall a quick reply came.
“What we did with them was to sell the snakes to a “handler” in Arkansas," Don said. “The Company that we dealt with uses the snakes to produce anti-venom remedies in medication and in the care of a snakebite situation.”
Mark went on to add, “I have caught a couple of Cottonmouths but I don’t think that I want to do that again. They’re territorial and aggressive.”
How does one catch a rattlesnake or copperhead? Don and Mark said that it is pretty easy. “All I ever used was a garden rake and a sack to bag them up,” Don explained. They both agreed this method was very efficient. (Editor's Note: Please don't try this at home.)
Don Sisco and Mark Loveland make snake wrangling sound so simple that anyone could do it, but it’s just a memory now. The tradition of Rattlesnake Roundup has waned in recent years due to conservation rules and regulations.
Still, though, the family utilizes their land the way they can best. They have worked hard to build their farm and they all enjoy the bounty of their labor from wild blackberries, gooseberries, black walnuts, and good, developed pasture land for their cattle to graze.