James Thomas Mailander, husband, father, farmer, and friend, passed away on March 22, 2022. Born on August 24, 1937, the son of Beatrice Ellen Connor Mailander and Harold Henry Mailander, he was a lifelong resident of Wiota, Iowa.
Jim graduated from Wiota High School in 1955, noted for being particularly good at mathematics, adequate at basketball, and quick as a shortstop on the baseball team. He went on to Iowa State University, majoring in animal science. He worked in the university’s barns, mentored by a revered Scotsman named George who was the Iowa State herdsman and managed the experimental herds that grazed the bottoms where Hilton Coliseum and Jack Trice Stadium now stand. He was a member of the Iowa State livestock judging and meat judging teams, traveling to the Chicago International, Denver Livestock Show and American Royal shows, where in 1958 he was both the champion swine and lamb evaluator in the same year. He was a member of the Farmhouse Fraternity. He graduated from Iowa State University in 1959, with aspirations to eventually return to attend veterinary school. Following college, Jim served two years in the U.S. Army, based in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
From 1960 to 1965, Jim was a consistent competitor at national livestock shows. Beginning in 1960, he had a breed champion or reserve champion for four years running in Houston. His 1963 reserve champion also produced the champion carcass at the show. In 1962, he had the Grand Champion Steer at the Southwestern Expo & Livestock Show in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1964, he had the Grand Champion Steer at the American Royal in Kansas City, Missouri. The Angus steer sold for $5.86 per pound, which for the 985 lb. steer, would yield the equivalent of more than $55,000 in 2022 inflation-adjusted dollars. In 1965, he had both the Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion Shorthorn Steer at the Houston show. During this period, Jim sold breeding stock to President Eisenhower’s farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as well as the Rockefeller-owned Winrock Ranch in Arkansas. He often shared the stories of his experiences on the road. However, he never talked about the cattle or the winnings. Instead, his stories were always about who he was traveling with, including the friends from Wiota, Cass County, and Iowa State who had offered to help groom or show the cattle, riding together through the night in a red stock truck, lobbying county judges to let them exercise cattle in a small town’s fairgrounds in Oklahoma, spending the evenings drinking beer and peeling shrimp at favorite places in Houston, with Dan Waters entertaining cattlemen from dusty ranches around the country with wild stories about the adventures of Iowa farm boys.
In 1965, Jim met a girl at the Houston show, Kathie Rae Pollard. After five years on the show circuit, it was his biggest prize. Shortly thereafter, Jim’s father died unexpectedly. He was 28 years old. Life changed. He left the show circuit, took over the family farm, and began the next phase.
Jim and Kathie were married on June 25, 1966, at the Anita Catholic Church. He sold the 1963 black Corvette Stingray purchased with his prize winnings. He bought a tractor and a farm south of Wiota. Christopher James was born in 1967. Sara Kathryn was born in 1971. John Tyson was born in 1975.
Jim turned his energies to the changing nature of farming. Long an Angus breeder, he began cross-breeding his black cows to the larger breeds from continental Europe, including Charolais from France. He needed to scale the family farming operation, buying a second farm east of Anita and pouring his energies into improving its production by tiling the bottoms, terracing the hills, and working through new techniques to coax more productivity out of the land. He also focused on developing his children, coaching Little League baseball, and being a 4-H leader, introducing them to both the beauty and challenge of getting the best out of their steers, lambs, or horses. He was a member of the school board for the Anita Community School, helping the community shepherd the bond issue and construction of the new middle and high school in 1978 which is now the foundation of the CAM Community School District. He rarely missed one of Chris’ football games or wrestling meets, or Sara’s volleyball or basketball games.
Jim continued to find ways to compete. He began breeding and raising Thoroughbreds in the 1970s and 1980s, and for years kept a horse on the Nebraska race circuit, including Aksarben, Lincoln, Grand Island, Columbus, and Atokad. He had a few favorites, including Wikki Wikki, Whitsuntide, Princess Snowflake, and a Thoroughbred stud named Big Shooter he and Tom Reilly had found out in West Virginia and brought back to Cass County.
As his children began to head off to college, Jim began working with Kathie, traveling to arts and crafts shows around the Midwest and East Coast. Eventually, he began building and selling his own steel sculptures and won a sculpture contest in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where two of his sculptures are still showcased in front of City Hall.
Always a cattleman but also a sheepman, he began working on the genetics of his flock, building a brand known as ‘Lamb Meadows’ with a line of breeding he had developed for lambs that could ‘do well’ on the grass while having the size and delicate marbling prized by chefs in Omaha’s Old Market and Des Moines.
He and Kathie led the renovation in the early 2000s of a farmhouse built in the 1740s in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Known as ‘Stonewall Crossing’, the home was first established by settlers into the Valley and was the site of a crossing made by General Stonewall Jackson in his flight from a pursuing Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. Today, it is enjoyed by families from around the world seeking a weekend retreat along the Shenandoah River. Jim and Kathie then created the lodges at Buck Run and Antler Hill outside Anita, Iowa, which also host families from across the country and around the world.
When not working, Jim enjoyed doing a New York Times crossword, playing pitch or cribbage, and listening to Woody Guthrie. He also enjoyed a glass of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, debating its merits relative to competing for vintages from Gigondas and Vacqueyras, reminiscing about driving dangerously on the left-hand side of the road in England, Ireland, Scotland, or on the right-hand side in quaint villages of France, Italy or Spain, or simply being astounded by the profound natural beauty of Alaska and New Mexico.
Jim is survived by his wife, Kathie, who continues to manage the farms, as well as Buck Run and Antler Hill. He is survived by son Chris and daughter-in-law Elizabeth Mailander of Asheville, North Carolina; daughter Sara and son-in-law Jaime Capellá of Arlington, Virginia; and son John of New Hope Village in Carroll, Iowa. He is also survived by his grandsons, all of whom called him ‘Pa’, including Connor Mailander of Berkeley, California; Abraham Mailander of Asheville, North Carolina; Antonio Capellá of Arlington, Virginia; and Marcos Capellá of Arlington, Virginia.
A memorial service will be held for Jim at the United Methodist Church in Wiota at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 16, this service will also be live-streamed and may be located on the funeral home’s website on Jim’s tribute page. A celebration of life will be held at Buck Run Lodge (75401 Eastland Rd. Anita, IA 50020) from 12:00 noon until 3:00 pm on Sunday, July 17. Family and friends are invited to join. Interment will take place at the Atlantic Catholic Cemetery at a later date.
Memorials may be directed to New Hope Village in Carroll, IA in honor of Jim Mailander. They may be mailed to the Schmidt Family Funeral Home P.O. Box 523, Atlantic, IA 50022.
The staff of Schmidt Family Funeral Home is handling the arrangements for Jim and his family.