“I like living in a cage as long as the door is open.”
This quote came from Goldie Hawn. it fits perfectly with the way I lead my life. Close the door and my peaceful easy feelings disappear and thoughts of confinement take over. Living 37 miles from our shopping town Paso Robles, is just the right distance to separate me from turmoil. Any closer and a person could get a cluttered uneasy feeling.
Being somewhat claustrophobic causes me to ride in elevators with toes fully curled, sweaty palms and an ear bent toward any unusual sound. Finally, I reach my floor and it’s an eternity waiting for the doors to open. Then the doors begin to slide open to reveal elbow room and I breath a comfortable sigh of relief; something that people that ride with no fear never get to feel.
Another advantage of having elevator phobia, I get to use the stairs when I’m by myself. For riding the box solo is real scary. One option is to climb the stairs. But when my hotel room is above the 10th floor that’s when fear meets tired. So I will usually wait a few minutes in hopes that someone might happen along that wants to join me in a minute or two of high anxiety.
Now to all of you out there, who riding the box is no big deal to: Don’t be annoyed if I try to say a few words to you, as it helps ease my need to flee. But once the cage door is open life is good again.
Our mid term elections are now history. At the winner’s party all the champaign has been consumed, the balloons have been dropped and the newly elected official with microphone in hand is promising his or her constituency that a new day is ahead and the world will be a better place because the new Senator Snort has the reins.
Little does he or she know that the bureaucrats back at the capital are just waiting to re-mold him or her to fit their image. Now, to the losers gathering. After the customary concession speech words are hard to come by. Drinking Champaign and dropping balloons is going to have to wait for another day. Last one to leave turn out the lights.
But real politicians are like athletes. They just lost one game but the next one will be different. It will have winner written all over it. I think to be successful in politics a person needs to be like an earthworm. Now before you jump to any conclusions, here’s what Charles Darwin champion of the theory of evolution had to say about Earthworms:
“It can’t be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as have these lowly creatures.”
Did you know these lowly critters can eat their weight in organic matter everyday and turn it into a ready to use top soil for a grass plant to eat. The evening news is the territory where our Senator Snort will eat his weight in our national treasures on a daily basis, and poop out soil to fertilize the national debt. What I’m not sure of is whether the national debt will feed our populace as well as the earthworm feeds its hungry hordes.
And did you know that some fellow wanted to know how long an earthworm lives. So this chap observed a worm for 15 years before boredom over came him and the worm was alive and well still making top soil. Now to Senator Snort who lives by the use of Gerrymandering and Pork barreling to keep his political body alive . And much like the worm “Snort” is hail and hardy after 15 years and still spending with vigor for the publics welfare and his own.
One last ‘did you know’. Our friend the worm multiples it’s kind by laying eggs and then they are spread about in the soil guaranteeing the earthworm’s survival. Our politician does it by following the money that leads to my wallet and has also been known to lay an egg every once in a while.
Now I don’t want you to think that I’m disparaging my brethren who chose politics for their life’s work. But who in their right mind would choose work with a form of government (democracy), that is such a messy way to govern but its still way ahead of whatever is second?
So to you, my civil minded citizens who’ve been elected to meet the needs of ‘we the people’, who by the way, want it all. And when ‘we the people’ feel threatened by some Wing Nut in another part of the world, you promised to keep us safe. This way we can continue to complain about what a lousy job you ‘Senator Snort’ are doing. You can’t win Senator Snort therefore, go ahead keep sprinkling my dollars around but please try to use a modicum of restraint. And you go earthworm, we can’t live without either of you.
Well my fire is just now beginning to die down as my son Greg, grandson Zack, and my right hand man Juan have just spent the last five days loading and hauling with ranch pickups and trailers, 18 loads of “every kind of imaginable stuff”.
Of late I’ve had an uneasy feeling as to the health of my salvage yard and I think those that live there were probably having worried thoughts that maybe the Salvage yard had lost its one of my favorite places to hang out’ status”
It was that, coming up empty handed more and more often trying to find that special thing that you can’t explain to someone what it is, but you know it when you see it.
This was becoming a common occurrence . You could see the signs of neglect. There was lots of bare ground showing. Even a Rattle Snake was having a hard time finding a place to hide while waiting for Mr. Mouse to walk by. The Cottontail Rabbit that likes to eat dinner after dark, because during the daylight hours he’s a very desirable target for a Redtail Hawk. But with many of his favorite dining spots now just bare ground he too had to venture out when the Sun was shining instead of when the moon was shining, just to eke out a meal.
I had to take action and move the “Museum” as some people like to call it, up the priority scale, so I could regain the respect of the many critters that live in this wonderful little neighborhood. I had to do something… But replacement stuff has been difficult to find.
I should have been looking during our recent ‘Past Recession’ that caused 2nd hand stuff to flood into the market. Now with better times at hand, lots of folks don’t have to part with their treasures.
Just when I thought I would have to look farther a field, the phone rang. An old friend was on the other end with news that a local contractor had passed away and his estate was selling a very large accumulation of, “My kind of goods”.
I couldn’t wait to give the party that was in charge of dispersing the goods a call. A man’s voice answered. I asked if I had the right person that would be in charge of selling the used portion of the estate and he said told me he was. I was to meet him at 9 am the next morning to look at what this now deceased gentleman had accumulated in his lifetime or part there of.
Well, the beginning paragraph aptly describes how to spend five days of bliss and I believe I could hear an “Atta boy!” cheer go up from all the residents when the first load was dumped and feelings of social security were felt when the 18th load of treasure found its proper place on the bare ground of a sparser time.
As the curtain rang down on the final livestock sale at the Templeton Livestock Auction, a group of 6 little girls paraded through the crowd that was surrounding the auction ring. Each had a little Border Collie puppy that was for sale.
But for me, the idea of rearing a new puppy that would soon be a mature canine, when Zee and I already had 7 dogs of varying skills and obedience didn’t sound very appealing. And more dogs that don’t mind are a real pain.
Obedience for us, when we’re out gathering cattle is a must. I have just sent my
lead dog Bob to get ahead of about 30 cattle to stop them before they run down into a canyon where the brush and trees are impenetrable, and cattle can just hide out till a person just has to say, “We’ll try again another day” (which is somewhat demoralizing to the old Ego).
Everything is going like its supposed to until a young dog of mine by the name of Spider runs to help Bob, but just like when a green cowboy is in the wrong place, he scatters the herd. All the while I’m screaming to,
” GET BACK! GET BACK! GET BACK! You son of a B#$%@!”
We’re headed home now. Empty handed. And I’m sure I could hear some of the cattle snickering to themselves about how ‘that Spider dog helped us get away, we certainly heard his name a lot’.
I said to Zee, “That Spider needs to have his ears cleaned or a swift kick”. Zee replied, “You know, neither will work. You need to take a lesson or two from your daughter-in-law Tricia”. Tricia just happens to be a very well respected dog trainer.
But just like two people that don’t have much in common, Spider and I are not going to become best friends. So the next gather he will most likely be staying at home. Unless he looks at me with those eyes that are saying:
“I promise this time I won’t screw up, just one more chance, please.”
The auction is over now, and as I walk to my pick-up and Gary, a friend of mine calls to me:
“Come here, I’ve got a puppy for you that your going to just love”.
I reply, “I don’t know Gary I’ve already got a bunch that need some training.”
Gary answered, “This pup is so smart, just ask him what you want done and he will do it.”
There was something about Trigger. The young girl that carried him in her arms for most of the day had given him the name, and I liked it. I was drawn to this rambunctious bundle of energy, and before I knew it Trigger was in my arms. All ready for a new life as a working Cow Dog.
By the time I got back to the ranch, Trigger was laying beside me fast asleep. No car sickness and no whining.
“Wake up Trigger were home, your going to be greeted by 7 big brothers and big sisters I hope they like you.”
Bob, as head of the house strode over, took a sniff and looked at me, took another sniff and then he and Trigger walked away together. And now their six week-long friendship has grown into mutual admiration.
As I brought Trigger into the house Zee said, “This will be his first and last inside the house visit. I want you to call Tricia right now and tell her you want some dog training lessons.”
It would be a week before Trigger and I could meet Tricia for an hour long lesson. Afterwards Tricia said to me ,
“If you do as I tell you, you and Trigger will be quite a pair. I can tell you that this pup is something special so listen carefully.”
Tricia said something to me that I wish I had heard years earlier. Of course in those earlier years I probably didn’t have ears to hear her message. She said, “I’m going to teach you a method that will have Trigger wanting to please you, wanting to do as you say and not doing it out of fear but out of respect. To start with I’m going to give you this handful of of Hotdog pieces.”
Then Tricia said, “Let me work with Trigger for 5 minutes.” She positioned him in a sitting position and gave him a piece of Hotdog. Well, in only 5 minutes Trigger was loving to sit down on command. And hearing the word ‘sit’ meant a tasty piece of Hotdog would be forth coming.
Next came the singular word ‘Trigger‘. Once she had his attention, then came, ‘Come Here Trigger’, ‘Good Boy ‘, and as he approached the word ‘Sit ‘ was followed by a little pat on the head and a piece of Hotdog.
Amazing what a Hotdog can accomplish. But I was also wondering if I was going to have to carry Hotdog bits in my pocket forever?
“No” Tricia replied, “Only for 2 weeks then we will progress to doing all sorts of things without the Hotdog because Trigger will be having fun and pleasing you will be his idea.”
My hats off to Billy Crystal and cast for making such an enjoyable and enlightening movie. I want you all to know how important the time I spent watching the movie ‘City Slickers’ was for me. As the movie was ending, Billy and friends were saying their goodbyes, each promising to have a ‘do over’ look at life because of their game changing Cattle Drive.
For me an ‘Ah Ha’ moment happened that would set the stage for an opportunity that pre City Slickers, I don’t think would have crossed my mind.
I looked over at Zee and said,
“We can do this. We’ve got the ranch, the horses, the cattle and our family with all their ranch and people skills, we can do this.”
Zee replied, “I never thought that I would be going back to my roots. Remember, I was raised at my family’s riding stable in Culver City California? So matching a guest with a horse that fit his or her riding skills is something I can do.”
” YES”, Zee said, “Let’s try it, I know there are people in our cities that would love to go on a Cattle Drive.”
What did we want the Cattle Drive to look like? Zee and I both agreed that we would have our guests help us move our cattle when we would be doing it anyway, as a part of our grazing management program. We wanted everybody to camp out, and meals to be cooked over a wood fire on the back of our Chuck Wagon. Bathrooms would not be out houses. After our first drive with out houses, in order for me to do drive number two, flush toilets were mandatory.
Winter months at the V6 are the time to build things that will be needed around the ranch. 1992 was a drought-ending year, and a feeling of prosperity permeated the air. So a lot of projects that had been put on hold during the drought years could now be built.
With the advent of the Goose Neck trailer, our Bobtail cattle/horse truck was no longer needed, and so it was put out to pasture in my Salvage/Museum/Garden/junk Yard, (take your choice) to wait for a possible recall to duty.
It was a hard decision to make, but there came that day when I only needed the cattle rack and not the truck. So now these many years later when I’m rummaging around in the Salvage Yard looking for that special something, I see my reliable old friend still waiting patiently for a chance to go down the road again. To feel the excitement of cattle, or some horses pressing his springs down and saying, “Let’s go!” But reality says that’s not going to happen. I’m sorry old friend.
But my trucks bull strong cattle rack has found a new life as a Bath House. It’s now a place to wash up before meals. It has two hot showers standing at the ready, to accommodate those that at the end of the day need to rub their skin with soap and water. For me, I like to give my skin a three-day vacation away from mans quest for satisfaction, by using chemistry to create a dearth of deodorants, soaps, shaving creams, etc. But for me the most treasured part of this conglomeration of tires and steel are the two flushing toilets that will provide to all, a comfortable experience.
It’s time to gather some cattle. We take 25 guests on our drives, but we have lots of rangeland to get over so we break up into three groups of eight guests and two wranglers. Pack yourself a lunch, tie it behind your saddle and you’re ready to head out. Sometimes cattle are moved from pasture to pasture and sometimes we’re moving the herd to our headquarters to sell their years work. But whatever we’re doing it’s always important, and nobody has ever told me they didn’t get enough horseback time.
If a cattle drive is on your bucket list, or your thinking of a mid – life career change, or you want to feel a little pain and a lot of joy, then come join us for a magical experience.
Today I got to spend the whole day with my old friend, Nostalgia. It would be the last livestock auction to be held at the Templeton Livestock Market. 1947 marked the start of business for T.L.M. as it would become known through out California. The auction takes place every Saturday, usually around noon.
Once a month preceding the livestock sale was the small animal sale, that was the outlet for all matter of livestock. From Lamas to goats, sheep to chickens, pigs to rabbits and any other livestock that has monetary value. Outside puppy’s, kittens and various house birds found new homes.
This special place over the past 67 years was the entry level work experience for teenage kids that wanted to be cowboys ,cattlemen or maybe a livestock buyer. But all that worked behind the scene, in the pens in all kinds of weather and the length of time until the sale was over, which could be 3 AM, they and their work ethic were always better for a T.L.M. experience.
Saturdays for the ‘Auction Yard Junkie’ who reveled to the sound of the Cornell’s (auctioneer) chant, the smell of the livestock pens, the vagaries of the weather, and the always favorite game of: guess if the Cattle Market would be up or down for the week.
T.L.M. Is a cattlemen’s club, a place to mingle with like minded friends. A place for families to gather for the things ranchers do, like rope, gymkhana and then complain about who ever holds the reins of power. I will have to say, it’s usually the Democrats that get the biggest tongue lashing. But folks from both sides of the political spectrum manage to justify why it’s OK to feed at the government trough, filled with different farm subsidies.
1958, its September, Zee and I have just started our career as cattle ranchers and we need cattle to be Cattlemen.
Well, my new neighbor who has been giving me lots of advice on how to survive in the cattle business said, “You need to go to the Templeton Livestock Auction next Saturday”. My friend asked me, “How many do you need?” ” Well I think 100 head would be a good start”, I said. “You head over to the sale, it might take you a couple of weeks to get filled out but they are local cattle so you should get along with them pretty good”.
Saturday arrived and I was at the sale early. I wanted to have time to get an idea of what was in the offering. It wasn’t long before the owner came up to me and said, “Come to buy a few?”
“Yes”, I said, “I’m thinking of 100 head of 400 pound steer calves”. Walt Goodell said, “Go get a buyers number in the office. I’ll be in the ring and when some calves that I think will work for you I’ll wave at you and if you choose you can buy them”. With Adrenalin filling my veins I was about to become a Cattleman as a little bunch of 400 pounds steer calves trotted in. And in a blur of head shaking and dread I heard the auctioneer say, “Sold! To you young fellow what’s your buyers number?” I was in BUSINESS! And 56 years later I’m looking back with no regrets.
The guy that invented the wheel may not have profited from his invention because there weren’t many Unicycle riders back then. But I bet the second guy did. For he took two wheels, found a straight stick and stuck a wheel on each end of the stick, put a box in the middle and LEARNED that he could haul more in his contraption than on his back and called it a cart.
This guy that invented the cart didn’t have the cart market to himself for very long, because another guy came along and logic told him that if he would take two axels and four wheels and join them with a stick perpendicular to the axels he could really carry a load, and the cart business took a dive and the wagon took center stage. Knowledge and Information were advanced.
With the four wheels up and running, this new wagon had one more problem to be solved. You couldn’t steer it. So the 4th guy looks at the wagon and thinks, “If I put a 5th wheel under the floor of the wagon box, and hooked it to the middle of the front axel the driver could now steer it. “
Our teamster now had to get his newly invented machine to move. So who was going to pull this wagon loaded with stuff?
Yes, they even had stuff back then.
Well he looked around and there she was, ‘his Sweet Thing’ standing nearby, and he asked her if she would pull the wagon. Because he was the Boss of His outfit she needed to just say YES. but she said NO. I’m sure that’s how the present day Women’s Rights Organization got started.
To really change the impact man could make on our planet Earth, the wagon needed that something that wouldn’t argue about being put on overload. Enter the Ox. But the Ox had a Weak Link. He was slow, and as man learned more he hurried more.
The ‘need for speed’ was born.
You guessed it! Some guys spied a horse on a distant hill and said to himself, “If I catch him I think he can pull my Wagon!” Catch him he did. And our first Cowboy was born.
Well, it didn’t take him long to invent the harness, and civilization would never be the same. The point I’m trying to make is that the wheel was invented with a little bit of information and a whole lot of ‘how too Knowledge’.
Today I have in my hand an iPhone 4. I’m told that this gadget has more information stored inside its 1/2 inch thick by shirt pocket long size than all the libraries in the World.
But information by itself, if you can’t use it, is worthless. Today we are raising an ever growing number of young people that are NOT taught how to put information to tangible use, and the educational community needs to address this problem.
So I elect myself to start with three suggestions.
1st: We need to have a new job description for our colleges and universities when they go out in search of new teachers. Let’s not limit the field that can qualify to those with doctors degrees only. Let’s instead open it to all that want to be considered a candidate for the job, regardless of Degrees hanging on the wall. Then give the job to the best qualified person, who is capable of meeting the needs of students first.
2nd: We need workable internship and apprenticeship programs that meet the expectations of the student and the expectations of the entity offering the opportunity. The program must be symbiotic in nature so that both intern and person or company profit from the experience, or it won’t work.
3rd: Teachers Unions of our land need to consider the rights of a student to learn on a par with a teachers right to reasonable working conditions.
This month of September, with a few million kids heading of to institutions of supposed Higher Learning, and most wanting to go to the prestige university, worry not if you don’t get accepted. It may be a blessing in disguise. Because most of what they’ll teach you, you can dial up on your iPhone.
What’s missing today in most institutions of higher learning is how to transform information into workable skills. The body of information one has with little knowledge of how to apply it will just be latent inklings of what could have been. Most employers today must see their investment in new additions as their payroll ‘Payoff’.
Even though I have been critical of our houses of higher learning, for most kids, it’s still a good place to get 4 or 5 years older and they will be better for the experience. Hopefully today’s professors will still challenge their students to make their imaginations ‘dream the impossible dream’ and their inquisitiveness is still asking the right questions.
If a person has PASSION about what he or she does I know there is a magic carpet in the mind that will direct you to the places where lies the skills to turn dreams into reality. And the hard work necessary to achieve ones goals will not be work at all, just fun. Remember:
I’m listening to the local 6 O’clock news and our anchorman has just announced that 250 scientist’s say that we can expect our California climate to be 30% dryer over the next 20 years. Only time will tell how accurate this forecast will turn out to be.
Whatever the outcome, for better or for worse, I hope that common sense might be part of the solution. For me, I can’t wait. I have to move on while the problem is studied, investigated, validated and enough political hot air is belched into the atmosphere to raise our Global Temperature a few more degrees.
Fire has always played a major roll in the evolution of our planet Earth. But with the birth of each new generation of people these folks have decided that the cities held a greater promise for fame and fortune than life on our farms and ranches.
This means that an awful lot of decisions that affect how I run my business, are made today by people who have little knowledge of the issues that confront me, and not by the people who live on the land.
Bear with me; all this blabber will set the stage for my point of view.
First, we need to relegate SMOKEY BEAR, who most of us were raised with and taught to revere to some paragraph in our History books of “what not to do”. His management of our wild lands has been a disaster.
He needs to be sent to the scrap heap of irrelevance for changing our perception about fire, from a tool that helps keep our ecosystem in good health to a villain that turns forests into bleak waste lands of blackened trees, and the critters that inhabited these places meet their end in a confluence of smoke and fire. In Mother Nature’s world this does not happen!
While I’m on my soap box, we must rid our thoughts of slogans like, ‘Only you can prevent forest fires’, which further vilifies fire. These slogans that were thought up by some public relations person that didn’t know his ass from a hot rock are not now and never were valid.
With Smokey Bear out of the way, we can view fire in a more objective and scientific way. If we use our knowledge and good sense then reasonable policies can come to the fore that will use fire as part of the solution, and not part of the problem. Lets be smart enough to manage our wild lands in the 21st century and use Mother Nature as our mentor.
I think I’m done venting for now.
So back to my solution on how to manage our Chaparral lands. Last winter my son Greg and his son Zack crushed about 100 acres of predominately Chamise Brush with a D7 Cat tractor and a D6 Cat tractor.
Several things I have observed since the crushing have caused me to question my need to Control Burn:
By leaving the crushed Chamise on the soil surface, over time, it will decompose into organic matter thus increasing soil fertility.
By having the brush in contact with the ground, in case of a fire, it will be a colder fire that won’t tend to carry so much heat up into heart of our Blue Oak trees as some live with Chamise. Therefore reducing the chance of being killed in a fire.
By leaving the now crushed brush on the ground when our rainy season arrives, the rain that falls will be slowed down by this mass of sticks all pointing in different directions each acting like a little fish hook to ensnare a drop of water and then send it underground to provide the needed moisture for the green growing season.
A mature Chamise stand is a desert to most all grazing animals I.E. deer, cattle, rabbits and horses. But with the brush on the ground, grass and forb seeds can grow now that they have been exposed to sun light.
The already existing organic matter on the ground won’t be lost in a fire.
I won’t be adding any smoke to the atmosphere just in case, it helps cause Global Warming.
I hope that the pictures accompanying this blog will further explain what I’m trying to accomplish:
Also take note of a pass I made with my Bulldozer through a Chamise Patch about 10 years ago. Notice all the annual and perennial grasses that have in filled and some Chamise is sprouting again.
I don’t want to miss lead anyone into thinking this is the only solution for our Brush lands, as I believe there are many. I support the use of fire as an option but in my case it wasn’t necessary. I hope that my words might just keep some of us from returning to the emotional Smoky Bear thinking that lacks logic, patience and common sense.
Years ago, I’m not sure when exactly, you could buy a sack of livestock feed at most Feed Store. The sack was made of a cloth that was a profusion of gaily colored flowers, so that if you were handy with a pair of scissors and a sewing machine a woman could make herself a dress nice enough to have a night out on the town.
That’s and era that we will probably never see again, as most folks don’t know what a Sewing Machine looks like and scissors are meant for clipping coupons out of the local super market flyer.
Anyway the sack of feed I bought had attached to it a tag that if, “taken to heart”, by its reader was way more valuable than the feed inside. I would like to share it with you:
Most people get a pay check every 2 weeks or once a month, and Christmas comes once a year on December 25 for most. But a second Christmas comes in June for me that is very different, as it’s payday for myself and most ranchers, as well as grain farmers in the central part of California.
When Zee and I settled on our first ranch in Paso Robles in the the summer of 1958, it was a town of about 5,000 people. It was your typical agricultural hamlet that depended almost totally on how well the ranching and farming community did, and that dictated whether Paso Robles prospered or wilted that year. One grain farmer said, “This would be poor country if it weren’t for next year”.
Bad years meant that most purchases such as cars, tractors and house paint would be set aside till the following year when things would be hopefully better. One thing that couldn’t wait until next year were groceries. The market that we shopped at was Orcutt’s Market and if you couldn’t pay your bill, Don would carry you till next year when your cattle were sold or your grain crops harvested. Then these honor bound folks spent their first dollars on what they owed Orcutt’s Market.
So our day in June arrived and cattle were to be gathered at daylight and then driven to our cattle corrals where they would be weighed and loaded on to the new owner’s trucks.
Now let me tell you about something called, “Shrink”. That’s the loss of weight that happens in the hours just before the cattle are weighed. If a steer weighed 700lbs and he is sold for a dollar a pound he will lose about 1% of his body weight per hour or in this steers case 7lbs X $1 = $7.00. If you multiply this times 500 head it adds up to $3,500. And if by bad planning, your corrals being in poor shape, cowboys on horses that didn’t understand their job and turned what should have been a 1 hour job into a 3 hour wreck, the Shrink is now 1% X 3 hours X $7 X 500 head = $10,500. The cattle market today is twice this amount so the loss to bad management would be $21,000. This hopefully explains why a nice soul like me can turn into shouting raving bull and then the moment the last head is weighed, return to being a reasonable Humane Being.
Tradition dictates that the cattle buyer who represents the new owner sits down with the seller and they figure out how much is owed, and a check for that amount is written and I have just had my 2nd Christmas of the year.
Note to self: Jack, make it last til next June!