Thursday, August 10, 2017

Interview with John Finn, Part II of II

In Part II of Tina Zakowsky’s interview with retired livestock transporter John Finn, she learns about a very unique set of Angus cows John transported to Georgia from Alberta, and how he unknowingly helped contribute to the downfall of a United States President.

Tina: Now you also mentioned something to me about the Carter administration. Could you tell me more about that?

John: There were 300 head of bred Angus cows sold by the Stampede Cattle Station to the first Vice-President of the Calhoun First National Bank of Georgia. A guy named Billy Lee Campbell bought them. My first load going down of 38 head, I get to the Stampede Cattle Station and Jim Mowbray is there, and while we were sorting out cattle I spot this one cow and I say to Jim, “That cow looks like she’s springing. When’s she due to calve?” And Jim goes, “Hopefully not until you get to Georgia.” She and one other cow looked close to calving, so I put them both near the back. We get on the Trans-Canada heading east to Winnipeg before turning down towards the border at Minnesota. Well I stop and check in on the cows in Brandon and everything’s normal. I check in Winnipeg, and I got a calf on the ground.

By the time I get to the border, I have papers showing I have 38 head of registered Black Angus cows, health and animals papers for 38 cows, and a trailer showing 38 cows and a calf. When the vet comes over to check everything out I have to get the calf, help weigh it so we can figure out how much duty it’s going to costI think it was something like 4 cents per pound at the time because she had no papers and so was therefore seen as a commercial animaland fill out all the necessary US health and animal papers. Once that’s all done, the vet looks at me and says “Don’t you ever arrive here at customs with a calf born en route.” I say I know, and that if I knew this calf was going to be born so quickly I wouldn’t have loaded it in the first place.

But the vet shook his head. “No, no, you don’t understand. If this ever happens again, you pull up  in front of customs, you walk in and you say ‘I got 38 cows on board, give me the papers,’ and you walk outside to check the cows then you walk back in and say, ‘while I was parked here in front of customs, on American soil, a calf was born.’ There’s no duty, no health and animal papers, no nothing.”

So that was my first load going down, and I do have a picture of the calf somewhere…

So we are now at the border of Minnesota and I got a newborn calf. I let it have a good first drink from the cow, but then I took the calf up in the cab of the truck with me. After that every once in a while I’d stop, let the calf and the cow out, then load them back up again. After we got down to Kentucky I left the calf in with the mother and just one other cow I thought she’d be safe with. I took a photo of the calf somewhere in Wisconsin, sometime around the second stop.

Well after that, every trip down there I had to check on that calf. Something like that gives you a personal connection, you know?

So these cows were going down to some Billy Lee Campbell’s place, eight loads all together. When I delivered them I thought I would never hear about these cattle, or Calhoun, Georgia, or Billy Lee Campbell ever again.
Well a few years later in 1977I think it was SeptemberI was getting on an airplane and the flight attendant comes over and gives me a Newsweek magazine. As I’m thumbing through it I notice there’s this big scandal in the U.S. about Bert Lance, the Director of the Office of Management and Budgets for the Jimmy Carter administration, being investigated. I’d sort of heard a little bit about it on the news prior to this, but not much. I remember reading this story and all of a sudden here’s Billy Lee Campbell being investigated for embezzling almost a million dollars to buy purebred Angus cattle from Canada, and over 1,500 cattle in total for his farm. So now it’s got my attention.

As it turned out, Burt Lance was the chairman of the board of the corporation that owned the Calhoun First National Bank of Georgia, and when Campbell was charged with embezzlement, he said, “I’m not going down alone” and started naming names. He told everyone about the corruption all through the Georgia banking system and Jimmy Carter’s supporters started calling for Burt Lance to step down. That scandal basically led to the Carter administration going on a downward spiral, and Jimmy Carter was the first president in a long time that was not re-elected for a second term.

So there. Canadian Angus were responsible for bringing down Jimmy Carter’s administration.

Tina: There’s the headline.

John: Yep, there’s the headline. I’m pretty sure it was a Newsweek article from either September 11th or the 17th, somewhere in there. 

Tina: Now tell me, did they name that calf after you? 

John: (laughing) I’m not sure, but it was a heifer calf so I sure hope they didn’t.

John Finn's Calf born en route to Georgia
Post by Kiani Evans