Livestock weighman celebrates milestones on Saturday

Charles "Henry" Dyke works the scales at the Farmers Livestock Exchange Inc. in Winchester. On Saturday he celebrates his 81st birthday and his 60th year with the company. Kevin Green/Daily

WINCHESTER – For more than 59 years, valley native Charles “Henry” Dyke has been a fixture at Farmers Livestock Exchange Inc.  – working mostly as a weighman.

On Saturday, Dyke will celebrate his 81st birthday and will have reached a milestone of 60 years working at the exchange. In his 59 years with the company, Dyke has spent the better part of 40 years working part time as the exchange’s weighman.

Dyke is the man ensuring that the weight of the livestock sold is as accurate as possible. These days, the task has been made simpler, where the scales can be balanced with the push of a button – as opposed to the crank of a lever.

When asked why he enjoys his job, he explained that it was a lifestyle that he grew up with, working on the Toms Brook farm owned by his father Robert Dyke.

Charles Dyke began working at the exchange on his 21st birthday in 1955, and said he has performed every job there, from working the auction ring to weighing the livestock.

As a licensed weighman for the company, Dyke weighs each and every animal that is sold at the weekly livestock auctions by people from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

“(Livestock) is a big business,” Dyke said. “You got a lot of buyers, and you got a lot of sellers. You got a lot of people raising a lot of cattle … some of them make a living doing it.”

Dyke’s job provides vital information that the buyers, sellers and auctioneers will need for the livestock auction — the weight and information of the cattle as well as who is selling.

As the cattle are being weighed, Dyke is watching the scale to make sure that it is balanced.

“Before anything comes on that scale, a zero’s got to come back (on the screen),” he said, adding that resetting the scale is as simple as pushing a yellow button on a panel in front of him.

At the time of the interview, Dyke’s day was just about wrapping up as the exchange was gearing up for the Wednesday livestock auction.

“On Mondays we sell everything: bull calves, pounds cows and everything,” he said. “Today, the only thing we sell are steers and heifers. Today is a feeder sale.”

On the much busier Monday sale, Dyke said, more than 1,400 livestock are bought and sold, compared to the 300 or 500 that are sold on Wednesdays.

“It’s a lot rougher on me on Mondays, but I love it,” Dyke said with a chuckle, adding that he enjoys seeing “all of the cattle and all of the people” while he is working at what his wife calls his second home.

In fact, Dyke said that he met his wife of 54 years, Joy, at the exchange in 1959. Charles and Joy Dyke have called Mt. Olive home for the past 54 years.

Dyke also served two years in the military, and traveled throughout much of the United States – and in Germany – as well. While he said that he enjoyed his traveling, he always came back home to his house on a hill near Mt. Olive.

“I got a beautiful view of the mountains, the fields and everything,” he said.

In 1999, Dyke retired from full-time work in the poultry egg industry as a deliveryman, but remained a part-time weighman at the exchange because of his love of the work.

Even as he reaches 81 years of age, Dyke said he still looks forward to waking up and weighing the cattle prior to the auction.

“I just like showing up at work and seeing everybody and talking and laughing,” Dyke said. “Makes you feel ten times better.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com