A Raw-Boned Man With a Heart of Gold

Post a Comment » Written on December 4th, 2003     
Filed under: News
TURLOCK, CA (December 4, 2003)  – Editor’s note: the following article, written  by Rowena Coetsee, originally appeared in the May 2002 issue of The  Covenant Companion. Coetsee writes about religion for the Antioch  Ledger-Dispatch and attends Hillside Covenant Church in Walnut  Creek, California.

By Rowena Coetsee

Wally Lindskoog talks as if he never left. And in some ways he hasn’t.

The tall, lanky man gazes with nostalgia around the small Central Valley  dairy farm where he grew up and worked all his life. “If I didn’t know  God wanted me to sell this place, this would be killing me,” Lindskoog says.

The sixty-five-acre spread in Turlock, California, is small as dairy  farms go, but it was his life’s passion until Lindskoog finally decided  to donate the property along with nearly 400 head of cattle last fall to  the Evangelical Covenant Church. Cows lined up along one side of a pen  for their mid-morning snack turn to cast a curious eye at Lindskoog as  he approaches. Nearby a handful of massive, mud-encrusted bulls with  brass nose rings slowly rise to their feet to get a better look at the  visitor.

Lindskoog maintains a running commentary on udders and bovine bone  structure as he surveys the herd with a practiced eye. “There’s a  sloping butt right there,” he says, pointing to a small heifer. “She’ll  calf pretty easy.”

God as a business partner

Lindskoog is a man with a head for business and a heart for God. Those  two characteristics have led to a successful career, which has enabled  him to express a remarkable generosity.

A farmer’s son, the eighty-five-year-old Lindskoog has made a name and a  comfortable living for himself with his Holsteins, known in breeding  circles around the world for his bulls’ genes and cows’ exceptional milk  production. And ever since he went into the business as a high-school  student, Lindskoog has tithed not the 10 percent of income the term  usually suggests, but half of whatever he cleared.

His estate became part of that equation, too – the farm and his herd  alone was a gift worth seven figures, which the denomination banked when  it sold the assets last fall. Lindskoog also has donated more than one  small airplane to the church, which kept them running with money from a  “semen fund” set up when Lindskoog gave the church a portion of the  royalties from the sale of his bulls’ semen.

LeRoy Johnson, former president and founder of Covenant Trust Company  and Covenant Estate Planning Services, laughs when asked about the  ‘semen fund.’  “That’s unique, right?” he says.

Johnson, who has known Lindskoog for years, says that his generosity is  “very unusual.”_He was particularly surprised that Lindskoog parted with  his farm and cattle, knowing how much it meant to him. “I’d just never  thought he’d do it,” Johnson says.

Sherrill Hillberg, Lindskoog’s accountant for the past 21 years, has  known him since she was a child – her father had a turkey ranch and  Wally incubated turkey eggs for him. “He’s the most generous man I’ve  ever met in my life,” Hillberg says. “If he has any faults, it’s that  he’s too kind and too giving.”

Employees always have been well paid, she says, and Lindskoog regularly  gave them gifts in addition to Christmas bonuses. Last December, he took  a handful of employees and their spouses out to lunch and presented them  with the usual perks even though they no longer were working for him.

Nor is he compliant when it comes to letting others pick up the check  after a meal, Hillberg says. “God forbid, he will never let you pay,”  she says.

Lindskoog’s giving ways began at fourteen after his best friend Stanley  died of complications following an appendectomy. The two boys lived in  Turlock, just a half-mile from each other, raising Jersey heifers  together in 4H and blowing taps to each other on their trumpets every  night before going to bed. When Stanley passed away, Lindskoog was so  disconsolate he never played the trumpet again.

“Boy that shook me – he was my closest friend,” he says.

Lindskoog became distraught when he learned shortly after Stanley’s  death that he needed the same surgery. Lying in his hospital bed, the  frightened teenager struck a bargain with God: “I don’t think you  created me to die at fourteen,” says Lindskoog, recalling that  conversation. “You make it clear to me (what you want) and I’ll do  anything you want me to do.” If that meant pursuing his goal of breeding  cattle, Lindskoog resolved to strive to have the most integrity of any  dairy farmer in the area.

No thunder or heavenly apparitions accompanied his surrender to God, but  as soon as Lindskoog recovered he started making good on his promise by  turning over half the net profits from his milk to Turlock Covenant  Church. From then on, the Lord was his business partner, which in  Lindskoog’s book meant that God was entitled to half of whatever he took  home.

Lest he forget his promise, the boy who once could “run like a rabbit”  was left with nerve damage that permanently limited his agility – his  “thorn in the flesh,” Lindskoog says.

Over the years he’s kept up his end of the bargain and says God has  proven faithful, too. Experience and the good Lord have taught him  everything he knows about animal husbandry – Lindskoog has little use  for fancy college degrees.

All the cattle born on his farm have “Arlinda” as part of their name, a  composite of Lindskoog and Arlene, his wife of sixty years. One of  Lindskoog’s biggest money-makers was Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief, a bull  whose picture hangs in his office along with photos of other members of  his herd with valuable genes.

Lindskoog’s contrarian breeding philosophy earned him his share of  critics, Hillberg says, noting that he always has emphasized substance  over show – producing good milkers was more important than winning  trophies for their looks.

By contrast, the upper echelon of breeders in the Holstein Association  typically favored “glamour girls,” animals that were taller and pretty  but also higher maintenance, says Bill Hobby, a former Lindskoog  employee and a breeder himself for the past two decades.

Unable to duplicate his results, many were jealous of his success, Hobby  says. “He’s the Vince Lombardi, the John Wooten, the Michael Jordan,”  Hobby says. “There’s nobody like him. That’s the kind of guy he is in  dairy circles.”

Chief not only sired offspring that each produced about 2,000 more  pounds of milk per year than Lindskoog’s other cows, but he generated  almost $2 million in royalties from the sale of his semen. Shortly after  Chief  died, the price tag on his semen rose to $150 for half a cubic  centimeter (cc).

Chief was the crown jewel of Lindskoog’s herd and, he says, a reward for  faithful stewardship. “God gave me Chief, no doubt about it. He treated  me better than I deserved. I’m just a sinner saved by grace – no big shot.”

Lindskoog still gets choked-up recalling the time he received an urgent  summons from the breeding facility in Illinois with the news that Chief  appeared to be dying. Although the aging and arthritic bull refused to  get up for his handlers, he rose to his feet as soon as he heard  Lindskoog’s voice. “I didn’t know he loved me that much,” Lindskoog  says, dabbing at his eyes.

Obedience equals happiness

Despite his success, Lindskoog does not subscribe to any  health-and-wealth gospel and he doesn’t give to God in order to get  something in return. Rather, he says he follows the scriptural teaching  on tithing simply because obedience produces happiness.

In response to those who argue that they can’t afford to part with 10  percent of their paycheck, Lindskoog cites the book of Malachi where God  invites believers to test his bounty.

“If you trust God and do it you’ll find your 90 percent will go further  than the other,” he says.

Admittedly, a person might have to learn to live more simply, but “(God)   can make it up to you in all kinds of ways,” Lindskoog says. “If you  lean on him, he delivers.”

Lindskoog has developed his own rules for giving as well. Don’t lend  more than you’re willing to lose, he says, noting that more than once  someone has reneged on promises to repay a loan. Support more  missionaries by giving less to each – that way you end up praying for  more of those in the mission field. And don’t contribute too large a  percentage of your church’s budget because other members might be  tempted to slack off in their giving.

Lindskoog’s never bothered to calculate exactly how much he’s given away  – he says he can do without the temptation to become prideful. The  federal government was keeping track, however. Lindskoog was giving so  much that he attracted the attention of the Internal Revenue Service.

Suspecting Lindskoog of cheating on his taxes, the agency periodically  audited him, although it backed off when an indignant Lindskoog  threatened to take the agency to court on grounds of harassment.

“If you want to get my fire up, just accuse me of lying!” he says.  Lindskoog still fumes when he recalls the government’s efforts to take  what he insists was rightfully his.

“The Bible says I can’t hate a human being, but it doesn’t say I can’t  hate Internal Revenue!”

A smile goes a long way

Lindskoog is not only a cheerful giver – he’s just plain cheerful. He  greets strangers with a hearty embrace and a favorite riddle. (“Why are  hugs neat gifts? One size fits all and they’re so easy to exchange.”)

Quick with a joke, Lindskoog often has a mischievous twinkle in his eye.  When a first-time visitor dropped by his office recently, he disappeared  around the corner and returned with a varnished walking stick he had  removed from its display case.

“Any idea what this used to be?” Lindskoog asked, clearly relishing the  moment. It was one of Chief’s very personal effects, he confided when  the onlooker hesitated, explaining that a taxidermist friend surprised  him by preserving it for posterity after Chief died in 1976.

“He’s gotten a lot of mileage out of that one,” chuckles Hillberg, who  has seen Lindskoog raise plenty of eyebrows with the conversation piece  over the years. The same uninhibited joie de vivre has surfaced  at restaurants, where Lindskoog has been known to get up from his seat  and join employees in singing “Happy Birthday” to a total stranger.

He’s also unafraid of speaking his mind even if it means ruffling  feathers. “I grabbed all the mean genes,” Lindskoog says. “I’m a  raw-boned guy. People either love me or hate me – there’s no middle ground.”

True, Lindskoog isn’t shy about sharing his views on anything and  everything, Hillberg says. “He is very opinionated and has a hard time  accepting someone’s opinions if they’re different from his,” she says.  Although he steps on toes now and then, however, Hillberg knows  Lindskoog well enough to realize that he means no harm.

“That’s just Wally,” she says.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Report This Post

Leave a Reply

Report This Blog