By Elizabeth Smith
MANTI—After a year of waiting, the Sanpete County Cattlemen’s Association was finally able to crown Doug Willden of Mayfield as its latest King Cowboy.
Due to COVID-19, the group postponed their annual banquet, which is usually held in March. Nevertheless, President Russell Faatz decided to recognize Willden, who was supposed to have been given the honor last year.
“We wanted to give him the recognition he deserves,” Faatz said.
The cattlemen and their families gathered at the Sanpete County Fairgrounds Pavilion in Manti on June 17 to grill burgers and hotdogs and finally be back together.
Gerald Douglas Willden, 70, was born in the Gunnison Valley, has a long history with farming, ranching, and involvement in the Mayfield and Sanpete County community. Though he attended school in Sparks, Nev., Willden spent the summers of his teenage years working on different ranches in Utah.
From 1963-1966, he spent his summers with his grandparents, Ken and Orpha Whitlock, and uncle, Glen Whitlock, working with the cattle on the family farm in Mayfield. For a couple summers after that, Willden worked in western Utah on the Wah Wah ranch for Winch Livestock. He attended the University of Nevada, Reno for one year.
In 1973, Willden’s grandparents inquired about his interest in taking over the family farm in Mayfield. He has run the farm for the past 48 years.
“It was a dream to come back to Mayfield,” Willden said. And his love for the town is evident through the work he has done and continues to do in the town and the Gunnison Valley. Willden has served as the Mayfield-Gunnison Cattle Association president for about 20 years and is a nine-year member of the Sanpete County advisory board for the U.S. Farmers Home Administration.
Willden served as the president of Mayfield Irrigation Company for three years. He played a role in the installation of the gravity flow irrigation system in the town. He has been on the company’s board and served as the water master for 30 years.
Willden has always been a man that seeks to serve others, said his son, G.J. Willden at the banquet. He spent 24 years with the town’s Young Men’s/Scouting program and was recognized for his service with the Silver Beaver Award, one of scouting’s highest honors.
He worked with Gunnison Stake Young Men’s presidency for three years, and was a member of the Centerfield Community Care Center High Priests for four years. Willden currently serves as a member of the Sanpete Pantry Board of Directors.
His hard work in the community is testament to his hard work on his farm. He works from dawn until dusk, doing tasks on the farm. He finds joy in the small wonders of the farm, like sun rises on calm mornings, helping newborn calves take their first steps and herding cattle on horseback. Currently, Willden takes care of 350 acres of farmland and a herd of 160 mother cows.
Willden’s family came out in full force to support his accomplishment. When he isn’t working or serving the community, he loves to spend time with his three children and 10 grandchildren.
Willden said he was “blessed” to be able to be in the once place he wanted to live working an occupation he loved.
Lit by the glow of the summer sunset, the group enjoyed a live musician and chatted about the missing year. They even joked about Willden’s legacy as a two-year King Cowboy.
“I guess you could call him the COVID Cowboy,” G.J. Willden said.
Though the turnout was lighter than in past years, many were happy to finally be able to join together again.
“All dreams occasionally have nightmares, and this year is a nightmare,” Willden said, “but it will pass.”