Some People’s Kids…

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The last year has been a struggle starting a new business, but as things have gotten busier, it’s self supportive and I found myself needing a new work rig.  I gave it some time and one day, it just happened and the problem was solved.  Now I had my old pick-up and no real reason to own four rigs, so I decided to sell it.  It’s just a 1989 Ford F-250 with a Diesel engine, but she’s a good old rig and I took plenty of time writing the ad to make sure it was accurate and noting anything I could think of, including all the work I’d done to it.

A little time went by and I got a call from a young guy who wanted to see it, so we set up a time for later that day.  I got home from work and shortly after he pulled in and we shook hands.  Immediately I could tell he was trying to seem like a bit of a know-it-all and tough guy, but I didn’t let it bother me and proceeded to show him the old Ford.  I held out the key and stated that I hadn’t started it in about two days, which was the truth, so he could see how it started and ran.  I suppose my first clue should have been that he didn’t know about the glow plugs, but I have many years as a training instructor under my belt, so I explained it to him and told him when to crank it.  Well, he tapped the key and let go.  I don’t know how many of you have ever cranked a 20+ year old Diesel engine, but it didn’t start like that, it takes a little more turning over.  So, I told him to just do it again.  Apparently he didn’t think he needed to ask if he didn’t know something so he turned the key back, not realizing there is a release lever on the column.  So at that point, he just twisted it back harder and I heard a pop.

He tried cycling the ignition again and now it wouldn’t work.  “Hmm, seems like something is wrong with it.” He said casually.  I traded places with him and sure enough, now you couldn’t turn the key far enough to crank the motor.  I got agitated but kept my head as I started working on figuring it out.  “Wellll, if you get it running, let me know and maybe I’ll come back out.” He said nonchalantly as he headed for his pick-up.  He high tailed it, and after it was all said and done, I can start and drive my old rig, but to fix it, the easiest thing to do is replace the steering column.  WHAT??  Yes, that’s what I said too.  I found one a buddy has, but that’s over an hour away.  I messaged this kid again offering that if he paid $40 for fuel so I could get the part, we’d call it square.  His answer?  “It’s not my problem your rig broke.  Find another buyer.”  And nothing since.

Now I know there may be people out there who would accuse someone of breaking things just for a free fix, but the fact of the matter is I take care of my stuff and make a living by my reputation.  Lying to sell an old pick-up sure wouldn’t help that along in a small community.  But how someone thinks that breaking something and then playing tough guy and not taking responsibility is alright is in for a rude awakening.  It’s true what they say, what goes around, comes around.  I for one, sure hope that when it does he remembers it and actually learns a lesson from it.  What I take from this is that stuff is only stuff, it works, it breaks, that’s just life.  It’s the human element that’ll really mess you over, and while I got the short end of the stick this time, it’s fixable, and life goes on.  I’m not going to search high and low for the guy and pistol whip $40 out of him.  That wouldn’t really solve anything.  It’s just another day, there will be more- some good, some bad, but always worth waking up for.

The trouble with a kitten is that…

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I adopted a kitten this winter.  She was just a handful of trembling fuzz when I brought her home.  She perched on my shoulder on the drive home in my pick-up eventually working down my arm to the steering wheel where she promptly got tangled up and nearly turned us off the road.  Apparently they do make kitty car seats according to my search engine results- so I suppose I can’t make a bad joke about that…  So, I get her home and she was litter box trained (thank God!).  That would have been quite an experience seeing as I had never done it before.  I sat on the couch and poked at her like a monkey with a new toy; I hadn’t had a cat in years because I’m a “dog person” I tell myself.  Well I got bored with that and she got tired so she curled up on my chest and we both fell asleep. Awww!  Yes, I have been wrapped around her furry little paw ever since.

Well, here we are 4 months, 3 rolls of toilet paper, one glass carafe, and many magazine covers later.  She is definitely the woman of my house, she slaps me if I hit snooze more than twice, yells at me if I get noisy when a buddy stops by, and lets me know I didn’t put my stuff away by throwing it on the floor.  Matilda, I had aptly named her, has grown into quite a calico character, but then she realized she has claws.  Dang it.  Nothing is safe, curtains, couch, puppy, coats on the coat rack, or me!  So I’d had enough.  One morning, as I was sipping coffee from a coffee cup cup boldly stating a local church name, I lost my temper and let a nice juicy swear out in her direction.  I looked at the cup in my hand then considered what I had just said.  “I’m going to Hell!” I said out loud.   Strike 1.  Obviously that hadn’t worked and it turns out she is the only cat I know who would probably join me in the shower if I let her so she just sneered at the squirt bottle and squinted her eyes against the fury of the water stream.  Strike 2!

That, I said, was enough of that.  No more scratching allowed.  I furiously logged onto Ebay and bought a fancy emery scratching board.  I rubbed my hands together like an evil villain as I completed my purchase and anticipated it’s arrival.  The big day came and I hastily parked my pick-up and marched in the house like a man on a mission.  Hmm.  The fuzzy tailed thing with the bell goes in which hole?  Oh wait, it only cost $22.95 so it doesn’t really fit in any of them.  Why did I buy the cheap one?!  Don’t panic, she still likes it.  YES!  She is on the scratch board now, playing but this is how it works, right?  Oh no..  Now the fuzzy thing broke and its halfway across the kitchen with my cat right behind it completely ignoring the scratching apparatus.  This amazing thing had come with a little baggie of catnip as well, so with my beat up, callused hands I gently urged the bag open and it promptly exploded.  Matilda was in heaven!  I was on my hands and knees, dirty cowboy boots splayed out, desperately trying to sweep up the magic recipe to the emery boards success as my cat rolled and purred oblivious that she was thwarting my efforts.

About that time one of my good friends came to the door and looked down at my pathetic pose and the little pile of catnip at my fingertips.  “What are you doing?”  he sputtered at me.  Strike 3…  As I write this I look at that cat emery board sitting on the floor.  I hear the refillable pads are pretty cheap to get- except that mine is in like-new condition (except where my dog licked a hole in it, but that’s a whole other story..).  Oh, that reminds me, I need to give her her first shots- but before I do I had better trim her claws…

Back in the saddle!

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Howdy everyone!  I have decided that I have time once again in my busy life to ease back into blogging.  I took the last 9 months or so and started my own business, and I tell you, that boss of mine is a real… Oh wait a minute!  But seriously, I have missed writing and seeing so many of my blogger friends continue on has been a constant reminder and motivation.  Now, as always, the views mentioned herein are my own humble opinions and you will probably see a few repeated topics that I hold near and dear, but mostly it boils down to one hard-working, straightforward, country gentleman’s point of view.  Please feel free to comment on any of the topics as your feedback is appreciated (and it helps fuel my next online tirade!).  Thanks for reading the Back 40!

Headin’ for Summer!

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Ah my favorite time of year, but let’s not forget the gettin’ here!  Moving cattle, branding, farmers pushing their equipment to their limits to get crops in, and all the other organized chaos after the snow melts and Spring sets in.  I love life in rural America, no question about it, the sounds, smells, and the people.  So I made up my mind that I wanted a new career and get back out of the office to the places I love.

I have a good job at the Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab, and even a second job as a hand working with the university cattle as well as helping out my buddies with stock and anything else when needed, but, what rewards are there without a little risk?  Anyone who follows my blog probably thinks I fell off Planet Earth in mid-February, but no, between work and setting up plans for my business, there just hasn’t been time.  I decided to follow my life-long interest in farrier science and horses in general.  I’ve trimmed and shod a few along the way, but by no means am I any expert, so I am off to school across the state next month for two months.  I am very excited, and finding that I fit the needs of small business operation well – especially when I have an interest in what I am doing, coincidentally.  I plan to ranch on the side probably starting next Fall or Spring, but that’s not on a large scale…yet.

There is a larger scale, long term plan for my business, but I won’t go into detail here.  I have discussed the topic at length with retired and active farriers, veterinarians, and random horse owners, and know that it is indeed one of those “dying” trades that is not being filled as most retire-  much like large animal vets that I have mentioned in past articles.  It is unfortunate, but true, the technology field has absorbed such a large majority of my generation and those younger that we are going to be lacking in a lot of ways in many professions just like the lack of farriers we see today.

So, like always, it takes awhile for me to get there, but I do have a point!  Is there something you’ve been itching to do?  A new opportunity to follow that may benefit you or your family?  Maybe this is the year for you to do it like it is for me.  Remember the old saying “Make hay while the sun shines”?  Well, it’s true, so pull your hat down tight, nod you head and take that leap out of the chute!  Thanks for reading!

If you are interested in seeing more, please visit www.facebook.com/highcountryhorseshoeing.  Thanks!

Here in the Real World…

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I was browsing the online classifieds one evening after another weekday at work and three college classes when I stumbled across a job for a ranch manager in Eastern Montana.  “Look, at this!  Wouldn’t that be awesome?” I exclaimed as I read the ad aloud.  Every bit qualified, and always ready to run off and cowboy somewhere other than where I am at the present time, it sounded worthwhile to load our lives into the Ford pick-up and brave the icy northwest winter roads.  Of course that’d mean dropping out of a semester of classes and leaving a job with a pending promotion in the dust, but it was MONTANA!  Something about the Montana cattle country has called to me since my last deployment in the Middle East prior to leaving active duty a year and a half ago.  I slept on it, mulled it over the next day and came to the realization (as I had last summer when I had the chance to run a pack string in the Idaho mountains) that no matter where you are or what you are doing, there is a pretty likely chance that somewhere, somehow, the grass will always be greener on the other side of the fence.

Needless to say, since I just took a math test this past Wednesday and did get that promotion at work, that I am not writing this from the house included with the job as a ranch foreman.  But I have been in this situation on a few occasions now and realize that it’s just life, and here in the real world, there are bills to pay, uncertain paths to future dreams and aspirations, and sometimes in order to get to where you want to be, you have to buckle down to the job at hand might not always get to do exactly what you want.  That being said, once I started thinking about it, I am lucky enough to have a drama-free lifestyle, a job that I don’t hate that pays the bills and helps put food in the cupboards, and a comfortable place to call home.  And that’s what it all comes down to, right?  The nuts and bolts that build the foundation for a happy, rewarding life regardless of where you are, where your headed, or what title you may hold.  Sometimes all we need to reflect on how good we really have it are moments like this.

Please Stand and Remove Your Hat…

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I love rodeos.  Something about being there on either side of the chutes that just really gets me going.  The smell, the sounds, hanging out swapping stories with the cowboys and the people who take so much time to organize the events is just about as American as it gets.  I was at a rodeo this weekend and had the opportunity to observe from the announcing booth area which is a great view.  Chatted with the folks there and as the very nice woman prepared to sing the National Anthem, the announcer stated the usual “Ladies and gentleman, please stand and remove your hat for the singing of our National Anthem!”.  I popped to attention (can’t be helped after serving for so many years) and covered my heart with my cowboy hat.  As she progressed through the Anthem, I observed the crowd in the stands and behind the gates from a vantage point I’d never had before.  I was appalled by the sheer number of people who didn’t budge or those who kept their hat on.  The worst part was there were many more behind the chutes than in the stands.  I don’t mean young people who don’t know better, bronc riders prepping their animals, or the guy nearly out of earshot stacking hay bales- I mean all the other people who live and breathe rodeo, ranchers, family members and friends who get the chance to watch the show from the best seats in the house.  Red-blooded American people who should know better!

There are things about this country’s politics and procedures that I may not personally agree with (and also a subject I will steer well clear of), but I also know how good we have it here.  We still have enough surplus that a cowboy can climb on a bull worth thousands of dollars that will never be anyone’s dinner and try to get paid for 8 seconds’ work, for crying out loud.  To me, removing your hat and standing up isn’t just paying homage to a song or a flag or the recently established national budget; it represents showing respect for everything we value and have accomplished, for our friends and family serving here and overseas, and it allows us to take a moment to do this when we may not otherwise.  If drinking your beer or that conversation with someone next to you is that important, maybe you have never served this country, your state, your county or city in any capacity, know anyone who has, or lost a friend in the line of duty.  But you don’t have to.  Because this is America, and you get that choice.  So, if you enjoy that ability, that freedom, to make independent choices like that, maybe the next time you hear the announcer says those words you’ll stop what you’re doing…

…And stand up, remove your hat if you’re wearing one, and cover your heart for 30 seconds.

Just Gettin’ Started…

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As I recently began using Twitter, I have learned what a useful tool it is and have made some great connections with folks all around the agricultural community.  I also realized that there is often times much more to say and share than 140 characters will allow, so I have begun this blog called “The Back 40”.  Those of you who see my updates on Twitter know I am active in following ag news and current events, but may not know why or what that’s based off of.

I was raised on a ranch 15 miles outside of Baker City, Oregon raising purebred Texas Longhorns and grew up wanting nothing but to continue being a cowboy when I grew up.  I don’t mind throwing bales, feeding when its -15 out, or mucking stalls.  All part of a usual days work as far as I’m concerned.  I still go back to those days when I smell fresh cut hay or a summer rain on sagebrush.  But, then my folks did like a lot of small American farmers and ranchers are forced to do these days and sold out.   Not too long after that at barely 17, I joined the US Navy and juggled that career with riding bulls in a regional semi-pro rodeo circuit until a bad rodeo accident ended my NFR Finals aspirations late in 2007.  So upon leaving the Navy in June of 2010 after 9 1/2 years on active duty I decided to follow my heart in the next go ’round and stay true to my roots.  I am currently attending classes at Washington State University for my B.S. in Beef Cattle Production & Management.  Hoping to come out the other side of college in the Beef Herd and Nutrition Consulting field.

I tend to be a little old fashioned – hence my balking at online tools like Twitter and blogging, but am learning it will be essential to be competitive in today’s market.  I grew up with advice from old cowhands all similar to an old John Wayne quote and have lived by many of those points.  (Except the one about never washing greasy pans and keeping them in the freezer until the next time you need them..  That one I left in the bunkhouse!)  For me, this blog will be a learning experience coupled with the hope of continually meeting people in the ag world while presenting valid views and reports from my neck of the woods about agriculture but primarily the beef cattle industry.  So if you have any comments, suggestions, or just want to say “Howdy” feel free to do so and I look forward to it!