By Barry Eberling
RIO VISTA - This past year was just a little atypical for local rancher Burrows Hamilton.
He usually can be found in the hills west of Rio Vista taking care of sheep and livestock. His grandparents began ranching in the area in the late 1800s.
But, on the evening of Oct. 29, the spotlight shone on him. He received the 2004 Livestock Man of the Year award.
The presentation came during the Grand National Rodeo, Horse and Stock Show at the Cow Palace. This multi-day event featured everything from bullriding to concerts by such artists as the Charles Daniels Band.
The California Chamber of Commerce has presented the Livestock Man of the Year award since 1950. Ranchers choose winners based on their involvement in the industry on the local, state and national levels, according to the American Sheep Industry Association.
But now the hoopla has died down and Hamilton is doing what he always does, year after year.
"We're right in the middle of lambing," Hamilton said. "We lamb from October to the first part of March. You've got to make sure everything is right."
Hamilton, his brother and his son run an operation that includes 4,000 ewes, more than 200 head of cows, dry land grain production, irrigated crops and orchards.
Though eastern Solano County's hills are somewhat remote, they have been the site of some notable chapters in local history. Hamilton can recall some of these.
He remembers the days when electric trains ran through eastern Solano County. Trains with names such as the Comet took people from Sacramento to Oakland from 1913 into the 1940s.
Hamilton rode on the train to Oakland a few times as a child. It crossed the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers on the "Ramon," a box-like, steel-hulled ferry with a 600-horsepower gasoline engine.
Today, the Western Railway Museum runs electric trains over a portion of the historic rail route. And the Hamiltons are still raising livestock in the nearby hills.
"I'm kind of semi-retired," Hamilton said. "I'm not really pushing as hard as I used to."
But he's doing enough to be the 2004 Livestock Man of the Year.
Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or email@example.com.
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