Sunday, August 23, 2015

Leadership and Mangement on the d1

When I am driving down the road in my truck with my stock trailer in tow and my three dogs tied up in the back of my truck, I look like a pretty punchy dude who could ride 10,000 acres gathering any long eared calves that came into view. Well, looks can be deceiving. I have a nice truck, trailer, and horse but my dogs are far from winning any stock dog competitions. On the driver’s side of the truck Mojo leans over the bed, filling the side mirror of my truck. On the passenger side, Roo peaks his nose over the side of the bed cowering as if we were driving through the back streets of Baghdad.  And then there is Sammy, who sits in the middle starring up into the sky pissed off that she is not riding in the front seat. We all look good driving down the road, but when the tailgate drops the bullshit stops.

I have been working a long time on creating some dog power, but instead, I have resorted to studying the astrology of my dogs before I gather cows.  Every time I move or gather cows I wake up in the morning thinking maybe today is the day my dogs will work great. Once, on September 14, 2014 at 9:00AM they worked well together for a while.  It was a great day. Mars and Juniper were aligned and it was a half-moon, but unfortunately, I will not see that alignment again until 2030. The other day I ran into a neighbor and he said “I knew you were ups there the other day gathern, cuz when you are yellin at them dawgs  it sounds like you want to take their mothers to Fuddruckers.” I am just glad his hearing is not that good and he just thinks I am weird for yelling “Ducking Ditches” every time I am moving cows.
Let me introduce you to my pack. Roo is a 10 year old male Border Collie who suffers from bipolar disorder. I diagnosed his bipolar disorder when his horoscopes were not matching.  Roo is a Gemini. So one morning before going out to work cows I read his horoscope:
Volunteer to take on an extra task today. When someone declares that there is a bit of extra work to be done, don't be afraid to jump on it. Doing so will put you in good favor with your superiors and will lead to big opportunities down the road.
Well none of this came true, in fact he thought it would be better to run back to the truck so he could spend the rest of the day decompressing.
Mojo is an 8 year old male McNab. He has great athletic ability, very muscular, and has the ability to cover a lot ground and never get tired. The only problem is that he has no herding instincts. My wife really likes Mojo, and she constantly makes excuses for him and thinks that he is just a late bloomer. Every time we go out to gather cows, I tell my wife if Mojo gets a head of the cows, he can sit at the dinner table and eat a steak. It was always a confident bet for me, but one day on September 14, 2014 he got a head of the cows. I debated the incident and insisted that a ground squirrel had lead him to the front of the cows. Well he did not like sitting at the table but he sure liked that steak.
Sammy is a 4 year old female Catahoula cross. Sammy is the best cattle dog I have and she is very good at stopping cattle but after that, she does not understand the phrase “that will do” or “get behind.” Sammy is ok most of the time, but not very consistent, which brings me to why I think cows can communicate between one another. If cows could talk I think there conversation would go like this: “ok number 120, you stay back 3rd from the lead, when they send the dogs, and that tri colored dog comes by you…start a fight with her and that will start carnage and confusion…then it will give the rest of us time to run into the brush, split up and then we will all meet back here tonight.”  Even though I like Sammy, my horse hates her because he usually has to run up and down hills to fix the carnage she starts.
I am a true believer in that there is no such thing as a bad team only a bad leader. So I will continue to study the moon and stars, anticipate the cows’ strategy, and continue to help my dogs succeed at their job.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Damn Sod Busters

Marijuana is now legal in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and very lenient medical marijuana laws in California.   Much like the old western films the marijuana sod busters are expanding into rural communities of the Northwest, unfortunately we don’t have the villainous Rancher destroying their crops.  Ranchers and weed growers have coexisted for many years and even some of them have dual agriculture roles.  Recently a marijuana grower purchased 160 acres next to one of my pasture leases in the Southern Oregon Cascades.  He is currently growing 90 plants in one area, and possible more in other areas, but my recon skills are lacking to gather anymore intel. Please  don’t think that I am some goody two shoes against drugs, in fact I grew up in Humboldt County California in the 1980s, so I am very familiar with the Chronic, The KGB*, and The Icky Sticky.

I think that I am just jealous of marijuana growers, they get to live out in the mountains grow a product to sell and make a hell of a lot more money than me. For example my neighbor could possibly gross $250,000 from that 160 acres and I could maybe run 5 pairs on that 160 acres during the growing season and gross $7,500.  Believe it or not I did graduate from college, I just wish I would have taken more business courses. I have not yet had any problems with my neighbor but for some reason he has a problem shutting gates, I am not sure if he is constantly testing his product or he wants my cows to provide free fertilizer for his plants.

The marijuana industry has done a better job marketing their product than the beef Industry. The marijuana Industry came up with medical marijuana and they claim it cures everything, and all the beef industry could come up with was “Beef it’s what’s for dinner.” Agriculture producers should promote medical asparagus, medical milk, medical potatoes, and medical beef, or maybe if people consumed these products more often they would not need medicines.
This fall I will gather and ship my cattle to the market and my neighbor will cut, trim and ship his product to market. I will get a small check and he will get a bundle of cash, but I know my product will be much better for people and society.

*KGB: Killer Green Bud

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Big Loops and Thumb Throttles

Hello, my name is Don and I am a 4- wheeleraholic.  Yeah, that’s right, I said it! Yes my 4- wheeler is beat to shit and my horses are fat.  But, I would like to think that I am a traditional cowboy.  I often find myself in the 4- wheeler saddle instead of the traditional cowboy saddle.  Like most good addicts, I can justify my actions of why I choose a 4- wheeler over a horse. The main justification is time. I complain about how long it takes me to catch my horse, hook up my trailer, saddle up my horse, and then warming him up so he does not buck me off again. On Sundays during football season, I don’t have a lot of extra time.  I love to be home before 10:00AM to catch the NFL games. My Honda Rancher seems to enjoy the challenge of quickly running up and down the hills and across the creeks to make it home just in time to watch Tom Brady grasp that well- inflated football.

I am ashamed of my addiction so I try to keep it a secret. I have a small pasture that borders Interstate-5, and when it comes to checking cows there, I go into disguise on my 4- wheeler. I cannot bring myself to wear overalls, but I do wear a King Ropes baseball cap so that the traditional buckaroos traveling on I-5 just think that they are seeing a farmer who has a few cows.  I do have a few Junkie friends that also utilize their 4- wheelers more than their horses, one has even taken it to a dangerous level. This Junkie is able to pin 3rd gear roping calves while steering with his left hand and roping with his right hand. He has got in so deep that he has been able to rope coyotes while traveling at up to speeds up of 40mph.  While this may be a YouTube worthy moment, his contemporaries and counterparts, in his geographical area, struggle with this practice.  They believe that cowboy tradition, and a thumb throttle, do not necessarily co-exist!!   

The debate between tradition and technology in society is something that will go on forever. This is a healthy debate as long as we appreciate the long lasting cowboy tradition.  But, we should embrace new technologies to improve some of our lives.  That said, this has been a busy spring gathering, branding, and processing calves.  Some days I look back at my trailer, with a 4- wheeler tied up next to a horse, and wonder how I still was able to achieve my 30 day chip of being horseback? Nonetheless, I will continue to hide my tracks, and justify my habits, and only hope…for a full recovery.

Monday, April 20, 2015


                          The Stretcher, 5-7 clicks per strand good shoulder and tricep workout

I would like to think that I am in good physical shape. I work out at the gym five days a week, lifting weights, running, swimming and playing basketball.  But when it comes to doing ranch work, I am consistently weak, tired and sore.  I can bench-press 250 lbs., but I struggle taking down a 250-lb. sick calf. I can do 15 pull-ups, but I have to take a 5-minute break after pounding one T-post. On the basketball court I might be able to set a screen on a 6’3” 250lb defender, but when that mother cow comes at me to protect her calf you can find me quickly climbing the closest fence.

Cross Fit is the new fitness fad that will fade like Jazzercise.  Cross Fit gyms are opening everyday across the US. Cross Fit members use terms like WOD, which stands for Workout of the Day, and the Cross Fit gym is called the Box. If you work out at a Cross Fit gym, you are encouraged to video-record your clean and jerk max and then post it to Facebook for all your friends to watch.

I am always looking for a new business venture, so maybe I should start a Ranch Fit Gym.  I think it would be a simple business model, paying me to keep you in shape doing my ranch work. Cross Fit is similar to ranch work, lifting more than you should too many times with bad form.  The Box will be called the Ranch and the WOD will be called Work. If you’d like to video your workout, it will be entertaining watching you getting mucked out by an angry mother cow.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Get Over it! it is just a branding

Many people might not think that cowboys would include event planning and management in their resumes. However, as the days get longer and the temperatures get warmer, cattle ranchers prepare to brand their calves.


I think that organizing a branding must be similar to organizing a wedding or bar mitzvah. I often ask my friends, “How was that branding you went to last weekend?” They usually respond with, “It went good pard. Nice-sized calves, good crew, and a great lunch.”  But sometimes the response is not as positive. “It was a long day, big calves, weak ground crew, and they only had a 12-pack of beer.” 


The most successful rancher is supported by a VERY supportive and organized wife. This is where the stress of planning a branding starts. The real skill of event planning and management is usually one that most cowboys don’t portray, but their wives have the skills that make a branding go like a well-planned wedding.


Just like a wedding, you start with a “guest list.” Sometimes you might not agree with your partner on who should be invited to the branding, but of course, the main requirement is that you both enjoy their company, or at least agree to enjoy their company for a day. Let’s face it; we all have that “someone” that we have to invite regardless.


Just because you are a good hand does not necessary get you invited to a branding.  A handy buckaroo who has recently gotten a divorce might find out that people like his ex-wife more than they like him when it comes to branding calves, or vice versa, and how about the guy who does not understand why he never gets invited to brandings? I am sure it has nothing to do with cutting off the owner’s wife at the last branding!


Now it comes to catering. Most ranchers cannot afford catering, soooo what’s for lunch?  You want to be cool and different, but you still need to brand calves and manage a good meal.   How do you brand, vaccinate, and cut while trying to manage those slow-cooked ribs?  At my branding, we have more beer than calves. My friends drink a LOT of beer, but I do not have that many calves, so my goal is to have more calves than beer. While I feel that this is a reachable goal, it would be more realistic if my friends would just get “on the wagon.”  Another problem with alcohol is that it can make or break your branding. Too little alcohol might not get you very much help for your next branding. Too much alcohol might end up with a WWF match at your branding.


Even after all the stress, you are glad it is done, and you can reflect and laugh about the event.


I recently asked a close rancher friend about my branding concerns and he said: “Get over it…it’s just a branding”