Beef State: John Alsworth Sibbitt


It wasn't easy growing up to be John Sibbitt. Being the first grandchild to J.P. and Almedia Sibbitt, and the first son for Arthur and Ola Sibbitt, carried with it great responsibilities.  

From the photos of the time, it appears that no one could refrain from taking pictures of him, or resist carrying him around, or showering him with kisses. But if the attention for being heir apparent to Sibbitt Land and Cattle Co. wasn't burden enough, so was the fact that he was an unlikely rancher. He had bad hay fever and asthma. During hay season, he would come in from the field for dinner, exhausted, hot, unable to breathe or eat. But with determination he forced himself out into the fields. Today, he boasts that he can outlast anyone in 100-degree haying weather or the extreme cold of winter feedings.

Born on February 6, 1922, John Alsworth Sibbitt grew up in Hyannis in the big house of his parents, surrounded by playmates day and night. He was the ringleader, master prankster, sometime bully and great protector to a host of children. 
When his parents sent him to Kemper Military School in Missouri, he dutifully went. Pleading with his parents to not send him back after two years of military discipline, he attended Curtis Agriculture School and graduated in 1940.
When he went to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, John was more enterprising than studious. He sold liquor on Sundays, the “dry” day of the week. By the end of his first semester in 1941, John drove home with money in his pocket. Arriving home he explained to his father that he had “taught those professors and the folks in Lincoln about all I could.” Not another word was ever said about John's academic future.

In 1942, John’s father passed away. John partnered with his mother managing the ranching operations. Two years later, his mother died, leaving John at the age of twenty to run the ranch by himself, settle two estates and try to make a go of it. Bankers insisted on loaning money to him hoping to gain control of his ranch, but frugality, hard work, and sheer terror made John square away his finances as quickly as he could.
Nothing stopped him. He learned to fly an airplane and became a great pilot, even flying rescue flights for injured Sandhillers.  He participated in every phase of cattle production from rancher, feeder, cattle order buyer and auction house owner. At his busiest, he ran two sale barns and four ranches.  He served on the Grant County School Board and tried to persuade good teachers to come to the area. 

His proudest accomplishments are his children, John, Joan, Kem and Dina.
John is a genuine self-made man. His indifferent attitude to what others may think of him stands out as his strongest character trait. You will never hear John Sibbitt ask, "But what would people think?"

– by Margaret Sibbitt
[Used with permission of the author

All Video Extras with John Sibbitt:

Scenes from the Sibbitt, Monahan and Haythorn Ranches as they go about the annual branding ritual.
John Sibbitt had more than 3,500 cattle for sale the day President Kennedy was killed. The sale went on, but when it came time to... more››
John Sibbitt says he's always done business with a handshake. Melvin Nation and Jack Maddux agree that your word is your bond.