By JT Russell, Contributing Writer
Lebanon, Ill. – As the birds begin to chirp and the grass once again turns a vibrant green, college students can’t help but envision the imminent summer break. For most college kids, summer break means sleeping in until ten o’clock, road trips with your friends and consuming a few too many adult beverages in an activity that the music group Little Big Town characterizes as ‘Day Drinking.’
However, for 20-year-old Bradley Robert Wyss II, summer days consist of 5 A.M. alarms, immense amounts of Colombian dark roast coffee, Waylon Jennings radio on Pandora and a fair amount of cow excrement coating his Ariat work boots.
Brad, a Junior at McKendree, is currently studying marketing. In addition to his studies, he is a defensive end on the football team and a proud member of the bass fishing team.
Brad is a hard worker, however it is his kind and humble demeanor that impresses his peers and makes him a campus standout. Well, that and his signature red pickup truck and seemingly endless wardrobe of Wrangler blue jeans and insulated flannels.
Before his McKendree days, Brad attended Seneca High School in Seneca, Ill., where he was also a member of both the football and the bass fishing teams.
In the summer of his sophomore year, Brad purchased a dark green 1996 Ford Ranger. It didn’t take long for him to realize that in order to afford the gas to drive his newly prized 5-speed, he would have to work. “My dad emptied a gas can into my truck and he said, this is all you get, find you a job. A few days later, I was bailing hay for Scott Halpin on a 103 degree summer day.”
Brad bailed countless fifty-pound hay bails for Mr. Halpin for four blistering days. Having earned Mr. Halpin’s respect as a worker, he offered him more work taking care of his 80 plus cows, 42 of which were milking cows.
Unafraid of hard labor and still in need of more income, Brad jumped at the opportunity for full time work. At the time, it was simply a way for him to pay for gas for his truck and dinner for the ladies he was going to attract with his new whip. Little did Brad know, those cows were about to become his love and his passion.
As it turns out, taking care of cows was in his blood all along. “I don’t think I simply fell in love with the cows,” Brad says. “I think it was inherent. My great grandpa Drees owned the biggest stockyard in Wisconsin.”
While cow appreciation runs in the Drees/Wyss gene pool, Brad’s endearment for the four-legged beauties only grew, as he became their full-time summer caretaker on Mr. Halpin’s farm.
Brad’s duties are a never-ending cycle of moving, milking and feeding his furry friends. He down right loves it, but admits there have been some hard times on the farm. “I’ve had a calf die in my arms. It was really sad. It took me a while to get over that one. Oh, and I accidentally set a tractor on fire once. That wasn’t great either.”
Brad’s relationship with his cows is similar to that of a father and his kids. In fact, he even owns a photo album containing snapshots of some his favorite bovine companions.
“Even when they really frustrate me, I still love them,” he says. “I can’t stay mad at them. They’re 12 out of 13, docking one point solely due to the dirty look they sometimes give me.”
While Brad’s job leaves him with achy muscles and dirty fingernails, he’s not complaining. “It gives me something to be proud of I guess. There are no accolades for getting the most covered in shit or working the longest after dark, but it gives me a purpose.”