Folks with Chamberlain ties gather for a photo after tackling the 2016 Black Hills Veterans March on the Mickelson Trail near Deadwood. Pictured left to right: Courtney (Totton) & Jonathan Tyrrell of Rapid City who completed the full 26.2 miles; Sarah Pazour of Fort Pierre; Tanya Totton, Kodi Steckelberg, Charlie Totton, Lisha Bairey, all of Chamberlain; Phyllis Rogers (Tanya’s mother from Arizona), Barb (Bailey) Cannon of Hermosa, and Merissa Dominguez of Chamberlain.
Folks with Chamberlain ties gather for a photo after tackling the 2016 Black Hills Veterans March on the Mickelson Trail near Deadwood. Pictured left to right: Courtney (Totton) & Jonathan Tyrrell of Rapid City who completed the full 26.2 miles; Sarah Pazour of Fort Pierre; Tanya Totton, Kodi Steckelberg, Charlie Totton, Lisha Bairey, all of Chamberlain; Phyllis Rogers (Tanya’s mother from Arizona), Barb (Bailey) Cannon of Hermosa, and Merissa Dominguez of Chamberlain.

Charlie and Tanya Totton of Chamberlain are known for quality cattle and exceptional conservation efforts. Those who know them best say the Totton’s pride in US beef production is exceeded only by their pride in US servicemen and women.

On September 17, their patriotism was on display during the 13th Annual Black Hills Veterans March in Deadwood. Totton Angus not only co-sponsored Rest Stop #5 with 881st Troop Command, but also had the first place mixed co-ed team in the 16-mile mini march.

“It’s humbling to be part of this event,” Charlie said. “It’s not really about winning. It’s about showing your support for our veterans. They willingly put our freedoms before their own safety, and too many of them paid the ultimate price.”


Local Connection

The couple’s daughter Courtney Tyrrell is a full-time National Guardsman and chairman of the march’s sponsorship committee.

Courtney rallied her family to join the 2014 mini march. The team earned first place.

“I walked three miles every night trying to get ready,” Charlie recalled. “The trail is the old railroad track turned into a bike path. It’s picturesque with pine trees frequently lining both sides of the trail. The places with a granite wall on one side and a creek on the other get your attention.”

In 2015, Charlie and Tanya sponsored Lisha Bairey, Merissa Dominguez, and Nikki Ashley all of Chamberlain in the race and helped fund and run one of the six rest stops.

“I had never thought about running,” Bairey said. “But, I know Charlie from working with him at Farm Services of America. He and Tanya are such genuine, good-hearted people. When he asked me to put together a team, I didn’t hesitate to answer yes!”

At the rest stop, the crew rang cow bells and served beef chislic with other staples to keep participants fueled to the finish. 

Participants voted the Totton Angus beef stop the best of 2015.

“We had a lot of fun,” Charlie said. “We made a big deal of all the participants to help them push through the last few miles. It was pretty special to know they all enjoyed the effort.”


Growing Support

As the 2015 march ended, Charlie wondered why people were being served pork at the finish line. The answer to his question didn’t sit well.

“When I learned they served pork because it was cheaper, I got a little fired up,” Charlie said. “These men and women sacrifice for our freedoms every day. They have died fighting for us. I think they deserve the best not the cheapest.”

With help from Thrivent, the Tottons sponsored beef brisket for all participants in 2016.


Prepping for 2016

Bairey and Dominguez rallied four running friends for the 2016 team. Charlie didn’t intend to be part of the team. Then, injury and scheduling issues struck, and Charlie was needed to round out the group. 

“I had been walking four miles a night to get between rest stops,” Charlie said. “One of my friends said our team looked like a linebacker and four cheerleaders. They’re pretty tough cheerleaders if you ask me! I think Kodi and Merissa finished the 16 miles in about two and half hours with Lish and Sarah only 30 minutes behind them. I managed to cross in five.”


A Bigger Picture

While first place is special to the group, they agree the experience goes beyond winning.

“Without a doubt, this is my favorite race,” Dominguez said. “Everyone is so encouraging and supportive. The scenery is beautiful. The feeling of pride and camaraderie for our veterans is shared by everyone. It’s quite an honor to participate!”

Over 240 individuals from ages 12 to 78 and 14 states bonded during the march. They cheered each other on mile after mile, and they encouraged a strong ending for those finishing in the dark after eight hours conquering the trail. 

“There is so much about the march that we love,” Charlie said. “But, it’s mostly the people. If they are at this march, they are good people. I visit with everyone and appreciate the conversations I have along the way. A gal from Missouri even adopted me. After I explained I couldn’t go home without crossing the finish line before my neighbor’s 72-year-old sister [Barb (Bailey) Cannon], we moved right along!”

Plans are already in the works for Team Totton 2017.

Charlie and Tanya expect to continue fueling marchers with beef, while Dominguez and Bairey look forward to having an all-female team.

“The next march will be September 23, 2017, so I need to start working on beef at the finish line again,” Charlie said. “It’s important for us to show our support to our military men and women. I hope more people get involved.”

For details on the Black Hills Veterans March, visit http://blackhillsveteranmarch.com/.