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2023 Stockman and Cowbelle of the Year named at annual banquet

Jimmy Johnson, right, receives the Stockman of the Year award from Wayne Rogers during the Southwest Colorado Livestock Association's annual banquet Saturday night. (Bailey Duran/Special to The Journal)
Jimmy Johnson and Debra Miller are the 2023 Stockman and Cowbelle of the Year

At the 2023 Southwest Colorado Livestock Association banquet on Saturday, Jimmy Johnson and Debra Miller were named Stockman and Cowbelle of the Year for their efforts within the community and in agriculture.

Johnson is a third-generation farmer and rancher. His father was a previous Stockman of the Year, and his mother was a previous Cowbelle of the Year.

“I was wondering why my wife wanted me to get a haircut,” Johnson said Saturday night when he received the award.

Miller, who grew up in northwest New Mexico and graduated from Farmington High School, had held a wide range of positions in the area since moving to Cortez.

“I absolutely did not see this coming,” Miller said Saturday night. “Thank you. It’s an honor.”

Stockman of the Year: Jimmy Johnson

Jimmy Johnson, named Stockman of the Year, was born in spring 1952 in Cortez. He is a third-generation farmer and rancher, and his father was a previous Stockman of the Year, while his mother was a previous Cowbelle of the Year.

“He lives his life for God, family and country,“ said a news release from the association.

Growing up, he helped his father grow dryland beans and hay on the farm that his grandfather homesteaded. He also helped with cattle at the East Pines in the summer, and while farming and ranching he developed a passion for the outdoors and the land. "My church is right in front of me,“ he would say. ”God’s country!“

Johnson was also active in the 4-H and Future Farmers of America. He enjoyed cowboying for ranches and made many friends along the way. After graduating high school, he went to Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction to study agriculture.

However, he missed the outdoors, and when he realized his school attendance was not paying the bills, he returned to the area and started working in oilfield construction. He hauled heavy equipment and was a heavy-equipment operator tasked with building oilfield locations. When work slowed down, he started working for a road construction company, running heavy equipment and eventually becoming a supervisor.

After leaving construction work he wanted to be of service to his community of Pleasant View. He joined the Pleasant View Fire Department in 1996 and served there for 24 years, spending 18 of them as assistant fire chief. He now serves as a board member for the fire district.

He later had the opportunity to buy more farmland and work construction in the winter. When he was in his 40s, his father became ill, and Johnson stayed home more to help on the farm. This is when he purchased the home place from his parents and started his own cattle operation.

A crowd fills the Elks Lodge for the annual banquet of the Southwest Colorado Livestock Association. (Bailey Duran/Special to The Journal)

Johnson’s cows were spoiled and fat. They knew they were going to be fed every day at 4:30 p.m. and would eagerly wait at the gate. One day he was a little late, and they pushed the gate down.

He is a steward of the land, managing his cows from summer pasture at Groundhog and decreasing his herd when needed because of drought or increasing his herd “if the Lord blessed us with plenty of rain,” the news release said.

He raised many of his horses and enjoyed working with them every chance he had.

His family members call on him frequently to help and call him their “senior adviser.” They call him first when it is time to brand, check pregnant cows or gather.

“He rides like he is in his 20s and is always the first one to the corral,” the news release said. “To keep up with him, you have to stay in a steady trot. He is dedicated to the cowboy way of life and is the true meaning of a cowboy!”

When he is called on, he drops everything to help a friend, stranger or fellow cowboy.

He has been married for 14 years. In this marriage, he gained a son, Randy; a daughter-in-law, Jenna, and the joy of his life, his granddaughter named Autumn.

LaVonne Heaton, left, and Andrea Lindus present the Cowbelle of the Year award to Debra Miller, center, during the Southwest Colorado Livestock Association banquet Saturday at the Elks Lodge. (Bailey Duran/Special to The Journal)
Cowbelle of the Year: Debra Miller

Debra Miller was named the Southwest Cowbelle of the Year. She grew up in northwest New Mexico where she graduated from Farmington High School in 1976.

Eventually she and her late husband moved to the Cortez area. She has spent her life following many career paths. When she and her husband first move to Cortez, they were instrumental in the construction of the Montelores Baptist Church, where they were members.

She has also worked as a secretary, bank teller, dental assistant and nurse. For 13 years she was employed by Crow Canyon Archaeological Site as supervisor of operations. The news release noted she is known to say, "I may not know how to do it, but I can learn.“

Upon retirement she has spent her time as a representative for Allison’s Pantry, remodeling her home and caring for her land and animals. She enjoys being able to spend time with her partner Dave as he hauls cattle. She has a large family and loves hosting gatherings and spending time with her loved ones.

With a genuine desire to help others, she recently assisted a coworker in her effort to develop an agritourism business to promote the agriculture industry.

“After joining the Southwest Cowbelles, she jumped in with both feet and has become an invaluable member,” the news release said. “For two years she has served as treasurer, handled membership, headed bereavement dinners and last year chaired the calendar committee. She has proven ready to help whenever needed.”

“With her strong belief in agriculture and her commitment to the beef industry she has proven an asset to the ranching community. We are pleased to name Debra Miller as the 2023 Cowbelle of the Year,” the news release finished.

This article was published on Feb. 21 to correctly identify LaVonne Heaton in a photo caption.