Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another Year

Once more we come
To the end of a year
And such a year it has been!

Just hold on to your hat
'Cause the things unleashed
May be the worst we've ever seen!

It is a time for reflection,
A time to make plans,
A time to be thankful for friends.

It is a time to decide
Where your priorities lie
As this old year quietly ends.

As you're making your list
Of Resolutions next year
There is one thing you need to include;

That is time for your God --
To "get right" with Him
Because only He seeks your good.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Transitioning to the Season

Only another week and then my travel schedule will slow for a few days around the holidays. I am ready! It seems that I've been going from one Trade Show/Convention to another forever. Yea, I know, it hasn't been quite that bad but what's a good complaint if you can't use it. What's bad is I just looked at January and it appears to be worse!! I don't see more than a two-day break for the entire month. Yee-haww (not)!

It has been good though (the Trade Shows/Conventions) because we have picked up quite a bit of business. That's not necessarily something you expect from such functions. Usually, they are good for starting the process or for developing new relationships, but rarely do you walk away with new business (at least not in my industry).

The other gratifying thing is that our marketing efforts are paying off. Potential customers know who we are. They recognize our name/logo and know what we do. They are seeking us out. That makes it doubly important that I be at all of the industry functions. When they see me there, they know that we are supporting them as well as asking for their business.

My schedule is reflected in my recent posts obviously (or should I have said, lack of posts). It seems that there hasn't been much time to reflect, just to do. When I'm running 9-0, my creativity goes down the tubes.

I need to get back in the creative spirit though -- Christmas requires creativity. It should be a joyful time of family and friends. It should be a time of reflection. Instead, it is usually filled with intense activity trying to get shopping done, programs attended and on and on. I intend to do better this year. I plan on enjoying the holiday season rather than dreading it. It's all about attitude right? (I guess I'm trying to convince myself.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Psalm 100

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his [a] ;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Travels in Colorado and New Mexico

A colleague and I recently attended a symposium in Colorado Springs. On the way back south we decided to detour and see some different country. At Trinidad, Colorado, we turned west on U.S. 160 and then south on Colorado 389 toward the tiny community of Branson. (Follow this link for interesting pictures and info on Branson.)

The photo below was taken just south of the 160/389 junction. We are looking to the west toward Trinidad. The two taller peaks on the right side of the photo are the Spanish Peaks and the snow-covered mountains in the middle are the Sangre de Cristos. The mesa to the left is in the area of Raton Pass. (You may click on any of the photos to enlarge them.)

The photo below is a zoom into the Sangre de Cristos. From where we stood, about an hour east of Trinidad, you cannot see a single house or building.

The valley that you see in the distance of this photo is where Interstate 25 runs today but was once a section of the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. The trail continued over Raton Pass into New Mexico. To the south of where we stood for this photo is the town of Branson which is located on the BNSF railroad (once upon a time the Denver, Texas & Ft. Worth Railroad). If you continue futher south on 389 you will enter Tollgate Canyon through which was a minor branch of the Santa Fe Trail. It was used extensively by Charles Goodnight when he trailed herds north on the Goodnight-Loving Trail into Colorado and Wyoming. He thought the tolls over Raton Pass were too high so he shifted the herds futher east to the Tollgate Canyon. After a period of time, he blazed his own trail over Trinchera Pass.

Tollgate Canyon was also known as one of the hideouts of Blackjack Ketchum, a notorious outlaw of the early Plains. He and his band of thieves used the canyon as a route between various trails where settlers traveled. (Some interesting reading about the area can be found at this link.)

Photos courtesy of Neal Odom.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Just for Fun: What Board Game Are You?

You Are Boggle

You are an incredibly creative and resourceful person.

You're able to dig deep and think outside the box to get things done.

You are a non linear thinker. You don't like following directions

You draw your inspiration from the strangest places sometimes. You're constantly inspired.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Just for Fun

What I like about Texas....Gary P. Nunn

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

President Bush to Deliver Commencement

President Bush has certainly taken lots of knocks during his tenure. Much of the negativity comes from the extreme left because they don't understand his belief system. Some comes from the right because they have felt that he often gave into the left. In many ways, that put him at the center.

There are in this country, still many people who are proud to call him their President. The areas of the country that continue to hold conservative values still support him. I am one of those who is proud to say the he is still my President (at least for a few more weeks) and I am proud that he will deliver the Commencement Address at my alma mater.

President Bush to speak at A&M commencement

Dr. Lowrie to the Rescue....

A good man (and fellow blogger) just jumped into the "hotseat" of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. David Lowrie, pastor of First Baptist Church of Canyon, Texas, was elected President of the BGCT yesterday. I guess we'll have to share him with the rest of the state now.

West Texas pastor elected Baptist group president

Click on the link for the AP story.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Richard Fisher's Remarks to the Texas Cattle Feeders

In the previous post I mentioned attending the Texas Cattle Feeders Convention at the Gaylord Texan on Lake Grapevine. In the comments, someone asked about my reaction to the speech by Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher. My response was that I was impressed. You should be the judge however, and to that end, I have linked his speech which can be accessed at the following link:

Although it is obvious that he took great care in his remarks to send no signals to the market, I felt they were revealing anyway. I hope you take the time to read his speech and please feel free to comment. I would like to know your thoughts.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Football, Travel and Fall Colors

I just watched Texas Tech pull out a win against Texas. It was quite a game. It was exciting to the last second on the clock. It's too bad the Aggies aren't having such a good season but they did beat Colorado today.

Tomorrow I'm headed for the DFW area for the Texas Cattle Feeders Convention. It will be held at the Opryland Hotel on Lake Grapevine. From there I will head home on Tuesday to spend the night in my own bed before heading to Colorado Springs on Wednesday for the Beef Summit. It will be lots of travel from now through mid-December. But, I guess it's been lots of travel for the last few weeks.

The weather here has been nearly perfect for the last few days and is expected to be the same for the next week or so. The high temps have been in the low 80's and the lows have been in 40's and 50's. It has been great for creating good color in the trees. The red oaks below are in our front yard.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fiscal Issues Week Focus of Senator Cornyn

With the current economic turmoil faced by our nation being prominent in the news, U.S. Senator John Cornyn has focused his website on fiscal issues for our nation. I am privileged to have a guest post on the Senator's site which can be viewed here. I appreciate the Senator's efforts to bring these vital issues to the public's attention during this election season. He has been a strong advocate for fiscal conservatism and I believe will continue to bring that message to the Senate as we send him back for a second term. Thank you Senator for your efforts!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Random Thoughts From Jacksonville

It has been awhile since I have posted anything. My travel schedule has been crazy and will continue to be that way until almost Christmas.

I am writing this from Jacksonville, Florida, while waiting until time to board my flight west.

It has been a good week working in the Southeast. The people are friendly and the weather was great. Attitudes are good.

Every newspaper that I pick up has gloom-and-doom headlines about the economy and yet as I look around, I don't see it. Business is happening and people are spending money. There is certainly an underlying current of anxiety because people don't know what may really be happening in the economy. That anxiety is fed by the newspaper headlines. Yet, there lifestyles really haven't changed.

In agriculture, things really look pretty good. There is certainly some market turmoil -- but that's the way it always is. The markets go up, the markets go down. You do the best that you can.

The only negative that I've heard is a rumor that one very large outfit that is an industry leader is financed by one of the BIG 5 banks. The word is that their credit line has been squeezed.

So, why is our government bailing the big banks out? I know that it's because it would devastate our economy if they fail because it would create a cascading effect that would start with the big boys and work its way down until everyone was affected.

My thought though, is that they need to seriously consider breaking the big banks up into multiple smaller institutions. Kind of a Ma Bell breakup. Let's spread our risk instead of allowing it to concentrate into a few hands.

What bothers me is that the very banks that the Fed is propping up are the ones buying other financial institutions. If I had a bent toward conspiracy theories, I think we could certainly build a case that this whole financial meltdown smacks of a conspiracy to gain financial control of the world. But, being the rational individual that I am, maybe it's just a function of human stupidity instead.

Maybe I should run for President. Is there anybody out there that would vote for me?

Thursday, October 9, 2008


discernment - 1 : the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure
(Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary)

"They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them." __Deuteronomy 32:28

How do you know when someone is lying? How can you cut through the fog and see what lies beneath the words? When listening to a skilled liar, the only way to know is through the gift of discernment. It is a gift. Not everyone has it. It is something for which one should pray. It is desperately needed by each and every voter in the upcoming election.

"Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool— how much worse lying lips to a ruler!" __Proverbs 17:7

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Get Out the Military Vote

U.S. Senator John Cornyn has developed a new website to help our military to be able to vote in the upcoming Presidential election. It is a portal to important information and critical dates to ensure that their vote will count. Please get the word out to any military personnel that may have questions about their voting rights. It can be accessed at

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bigger Boxes

We often hear it told
That we need to get out of our box.
It usually means the speaker
Perceives us to be unable
To grasp their ideas.

I really don't think
It is possible to escape our box.
It is built by our past,
Our experience,
Our knowlege.

The real question is,
How big is your box?
Is it a closet,
A small house,
Or a gymnasium?

Is there room in your box
For others?
Or is your box
Just barely a fit
For you?

Is there abundance in your box?
Or is it a desert place
Containing nothing
But you

Is your box full of love?
Is it a place
Where others are welcome
To spend some time

Or is your box
Filled with anger
And hatred
And bitterness
And fear?

Quit trying to get out of your box.
Make your box bigger.
Fill it and fill it some more.
Our boxes are expandable.
If you begin with love.

If there is no love
It will shrink
Until there is nothing left
But you.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Lonely High Place

It has seemed like a long week. I headed for Kansas on Monday and worked there for a few days before working my way back south. I had numerous good sales calls which should have me fired up but for some reason it just hasn't been that way. I think I need to go find a high place and sit awhile.

Sometimes I have the need to climb a hill and just sit and stare off into the distance. That probably seems strange to most people but there are plenty of others like me. You find them in National Parks or on river banks or on horseback. They generally feel comfortable alone. They need space. They need time to think.

It seems sometimes
The clutter in my head
Needs airing out.

Those are the times
I find a lonely place
And sit a think.

Perhaps to say I think
Is a mischaracterization
Of what I do.

A better description
Might be to say
I spend some time just being.

For those of you not familiar
With what just being entails,
It is the opposite of doing.

The best thing about just being
Is that the clutter in my mind
Gets organized

And my thoughts become clearer
Until the peace that enters in
Allows me to hear God.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Palo Duro Canyon in the New York Times

My area is getting a little publicity in the national press. Check out this article from the NY Times about some of the local scenery. People truly don't realize what lies out here in "flyover" country until they spend some time here.

I noticed in the review that Leal's is a suggested place for dining. I thoroughly second that opinion. Victor and Debbie Leal, who own the restaurant, are great people. Victor grew up in the big city of Muleshoe, Texas, where his parents opened the first Leal's Restaurant in the 1950's. If you are out this way you need to make sure you experience their version of Tex-Mex cuisine. You'll be happy that you did. They are conveniently located right off of Interstate 40.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Trade Shows and Interstellar Travel

The Fall and Winter months are "Trade Show Season" for our industry. The Fall is also our "rush" time. I don't understand why the heaviest travel schedule coincides with the time during which I most need to be in the office.

I have spent most of the day lining up my travel itineraries -- all the way into January. The worst part is that there are a couple of time slots in which I need to be multiple places at the same time. There is actually one day in which I am supposed to be 3 places, in 3 different states, at the same time.

I asked my son (the future engineer) the other day to come up with some kind of transporter device like they have on Star Trek. It would really help me out. He immediately replied that it was slightly more difficult than interstellar travel at greater than light speed. When I asked why he replied that there was too great a danger of materializing in occupied space. I suggested a proximity sensor of some sort. He's still thinking on it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cold Calls

Last week's travel threw me behind. It is amazing how much can accumulate in a few days time. However, the trip was productive. It resulted in one new customer and a number of others who I believe soon will be customers. It is rare in my business to get an immediate order for our services on a first visit. The key, I believe, is that we just seemed to click -- personality, timing and service fitting a need. It happens.

In my years of training salesmen (I may have posted on this before but can't remember), I have tried to teach them to look at each customer contact as one step closer to the sale. That is a difficult proposition for a young salesman trying to get started. "No's" can be hard on the confidence. However, if you count "no's" as being part of the process of getting to "yes," each "no" is considered a positive step forward.

Thinking back on the week, there really weren't any "no's." There was only one stop out of about 30 that was "cool" to the idea of our services. The rest were all positive -- and some were very positive. I expect significant results to develop.

Neal, I appreciate the help.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Travel, Trails and Historical Perspective

This was a day of travel. We're talking 630 miles of travel from south of Amarillo, Texas, to Lincoln, Nebraska. After the break of a long weekend in the mountains, work called me back to reality.

Driving is my preferred mode of travel for my work. There are times when I fly, but most travel through the Plains is about as fast by automobile as it is by air because of multiple stops and then renting a car, etc. Besides, driving time is often productive time. I get a lot of thinking done across the miles.

As I travel I also think about the old trails that crossed the Plains. For the first leg of my trip, the highway followed the old Dodge City to Amarillo trail. Next, I picked up the old Western Trail south of Dodge City and crossed the creek where the cattle herds were held while awaiting their turn into the stockyards for shipment east. At Dodge City I began following the old Santa Fe Trail until turning up US 156 at Great Bend and heading to Ellsworth, Kansas, which was one of the famous "wild west" frontier towns. From there I headed east to Salina and then north toward Nebraska. I crossed a couple of branches of the old trails to the Colorado gold fields of the 1850's and then after entering into Nebraska, I crossed the Pony Express route and the old Overland Route from Independence, Missouri, that angled northwest to the Platte River.

When we think about the wild west we usually don't think about the fact that it started in Kansas. The Kansas cow towns were wild a woolly places until the railroads brought civilization. The Texas Panhandle wasn't settled until after 1876 when the last of the Comanche were driven to the reservations of Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

One of the things that intrigues me about the old trails is how they followed the features of the land. Water was critical, fords across the occasional rivers were important, wood or other fuel for fires was needed, natural features that allowed easy travel for wagons was desired. Campsites were determined by speed of travel as well as by location of water and fuel. Many of the towns of today which dot the Plains, originated with the campsites. That is one reason the space between towns is often somewhat uniform. The distance was determined by the daily travel of an ox drawn wagon. It wasn't really until the advent of the Interstate Highway system that we began to get away from the old trails that crossed the country. Even those roughly follow the old trails. A perfect example is Interstate 80 across Nebraska. It follows the same route as the great westward migration to Oregon and California.

The next time you're traveling across the country, think about why those roads are located where they are and why the towns grew up in their particular locations. It might put a whole new slant on your perspective of history.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Silent footsteps on damp pine needles
Against the constant murmur, gurgle, singing
Water burbling
Growing louder yet never changing
Deceptively deep
River rushing over pebbles
Snags with eddying pools of calm no longer clear
Where lightly placed temptation
Seeking silver flashes and splashes
Carefully netted morsel
Gently released
To grow for next time.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Brief Break for Renewal

I am out of here for a few days in the mountains -- cold, clear water with a cutthroat or rainbow is calling....

"For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills;" __ Deuteronomy 8:7

Monday, August 25, 2008

Home Away From Home

Just for grins I am posting the poem below that I wrote back in March, 1990, when I thought I was something of a cowboy poet....

Home Away From Home
A one-ton club-cab pickup
Parked out front of Joe's cafe,
Guarded by a surley pup
That keeps the world at bay.

A thirty-thirty on a rack
That hangs behind the seat
Almost covered by spare tack
Just thrown in, none too neat.

A brass spitoon sits on the dash
That years back held a shine,
But, now is filled with mouldering mash
And covered up with grime.

Sale receipts and tally sheets
Are piled up here and there;
Flyers from the auction meets
Just thrown in without care.

A stray left glove lays on the floor
Among the ground-in dirt
With empty snuff can lids galore
And a once-clean extra shirt.

The left rear fender's dented in;
The imprint of a cow
Who battled rope but didn't win
And into it did plow.

Speckled mud from grill to ball,
This master of the road
Never even threats to stall
While pulling heavy load.

Lived-in, sure, and much abused
Made for one to roam;
O'er many a hard mile it has cruised,
This cowboy's second home.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

When Did You Start Living?

Our pastor asked the question this morning, "How long have you been alive?"

He was actually quoting from the writing of Tony Campolo.

The first and obvious answer from most people is their chronological age. Even that might be debatable based on the phrasing of the question. It could be argued that life begins at conception. Therefore, we each must add the length of gestation to our normal measure of chronological age to arrive at the answer.

The second answer, it being a church service, might have to do with our Christian life. After all, as born-again believers in Jesus Christ, it could be said that we have only been alive since the point of our acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior.

In fact, he was referring to neither of these. His point was, are we just going through the motions, or are we experiencing life to its fullest? Are we really engaged in living our life to the maximum for which God designed us, or are we just getting by?

I think most of us are just getting by -- with the possible exception of the occasional rare moments when we suddenly look around us and say, "Wow, my life is great!"

Living life to the fullest requires getting out of our comfort zone. It requires risk. It sometimes occasions ridicule. It asks much of us but returns much more. It might mean leaving a lifelong career doing what you thought you should and diving into what you really want to do. It might mean selling the trappings that tie you down and moving to Africa as a missionary. Whatever it is, pursuing what God has called you to do is real life. It is living at a level that few ever experience.

So, when will you start living?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fertile Fields

Whew, home! I just got home from a big swing up through the Plains. I had a couple of things to attend to in Western Kansas and a meeting in Nebraska. Lots of miles -- but they seem to have been productive. I won't really know for some time though. Part of it was planting seeds. The ground seemed to be pretty fertile though.

Speaking of fertile ground, the crops in Nebraska looked fantastic. The corn looked great and the soybeans were picture perfect. The pastures were green and the cows were slick and fat and all seemed to have a calf by their side. It certainly was a pleasant sight for the eyes. There was even water in the creeks! Sorry -- I'm not used to seeing that in the Texas Panhandle.

We did get some good rains here this past week and weekend. You could almost hear a slurping sound coming from the ground as it greedily sucked in the much-needed moisture. It came at a good time for a neighbor of mine who had sowed some late hay grazer. It was beginning to shrivel but it jumped a couple of feet within 5 days of the first rain. It's amazing how the crops respond when they get what they need.

It has been a cool summer here -- unlike our Spring. We seemed to have gotten all of our really hot, hot weather back in June. It has been pleasant since other than a dry 2-3 weeks in July and the first week of August. If this is Global Warming, I think I'm for it!

"I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit." __Leviticus 26:4

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Crucible of Silence

Silence is the crucible
In which our heart is revealed.
It can be peaceful
Or filled with terror.

When our heart is at peace
We find rest in silence.
Its friendly, enveloping reflection
Mirrors our self-awareness.

For those who do not accept
That which is self,
Silence is filled
With the terror of that same reflection.

It pounds with

Peace is found in knowing
That you are never alone
If your heart is filled
With the One who saves.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Managing Stress

How do you manage stress?

That was a question asked of me yesterday. It came from someone who understandably must deal with stress. The organization for which he is responsible employs over 1100 people.

He commented, "there is just so much that has to happen at just the right time that I don't know how to keep from worrying about it constantly!"

I asked him if he had competent people in the key positions. He replied that he did -- with the exception of a couple of spots. I then asked him if those couple of spots created most of his worries. He hesitated and then said, "well, yeah, probably."

That is the key -- and the difficulty -- in managing large organizations. Getting competent people in the key spots that you can trust to do their job well. Not perfect -- well.

I then asked if he had a good accountability structure for his organization. "Are your key people accountable for the job that they do? Is there a clear monitoring process and consequences for poor behavior?"

He said, "Yes, but...."

That little word "but" spoke volumes. It contained excuses, past failures, personality issues and myriad other reasons why those employees weren't truly accountable.

The result was worry.

Ultimately, worry is our own failure -- not the expectation of someone else failing. If we do our part well, what is there to worry about?

Many worry about things that are out of their control. That kind of worry is just wasted energy. We should plan, prepare and create backup plans to deal with those things we can't control. But, why worry? They are out of our control.

The only answer to that kind of worry is faith. Faith can be in many things -- but, if they are humans or man made things, they will fail. The only faith that can truly alleviate fear is faith in the eternal. If we place it all in God's hands and trust that He has our best interest in mind, what is there to worry about?

Friday, August 15, 2008

August Storms

The golden grasses
Crackle under foot
As dusty odors
Rise from my passing.

Even the insects
Are silently waiting
As the tiny dot of promise
Builds on the horizon.

A gentle breeze stirs
The drooping leaves
Of plants not native
To the arid clime.

Hope springs
In the blossoming white puffs
That appear mysteriously
In the blueness of the sky.

The whiteness turns gray
And then the deepest blue
As it hangs curtains on the horizon.

The breeze strengthens
And even the hard stems
Of golden grasses
Begin to shiver with excitement.

As the curtain approaches
A brown smudge appears
Rising against the darkness,
Swelling to a rolling wall.

The odor of dust
Permeates the rising wind
And the first stinging particles
Assail upturned faces

As dollops of moisture
Splash muddy blotches
On greedy surfaces
That quickly absorb.

Brown gives way
To greens and whites
On the backdrop
Of deepest blue-black.

Whack, whack!

Peas and marbles
Golf balls and baseballs,
The roar grows
And overwhelms.

The horizon moves nearer
As objects fade
Beneath the torrent
Rolling across the plains.

Prayers answered.
More prayers said.
Fear and thanksgiving
Together swell.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Food and Energy for Texas

The whirling blades turn

The cattle graze

The horizon stretches

Energy Flows
Food Grows

#1 Installed Wind Energy Capacity
#1 Beef Production

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Road Trips and Fellow Bloggers

I am finally back in the office for a day
After a good while on the road.
As usual after such lengthy trips
Accumulated items make quite a load.

I've spent the day just trying
To whittle down the pile
But finally reached a point
Where I needed a break for a while.

It was a very productive trip
These few days I was gone
I watched my son give a speech
And visited with the in-laws.

But also there was work
Which was one purpose of the trip.
A Trade Show and some meetings
That went by at quite a clip.

The highlight was a visit
From a fellow blogging friend
Who dropped by to say hello
And I'm truly glad he did.

He brought along his children
And introduced them as well.
That they are a solid kind of family
Was quite easy to tell.

If you have a little extra time
While browsing on the web
Stop by his blog and say hello
I think you will be glad you did.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Howdy, Y'all!

For those few of you who are continued loyal readers of Panhandle Poetry and Other Thoughts, I thought that I should let you know that I haven't fallen off the end of the earth, I've just been out of pocket for a few days. I've been to Houston and then to Bellville, Texas, and am now in College Station, Texas. For most of the time I haven't had Internet service.

Hopefully, I will have a chance to do some posting while I am here in College Station for the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short course. This afternoon I was able to get in and set up our Trade Show Booth. I will be manning in through the end of the Short course on Wednesday. If any of you happen to be in town, stop by the Gold Standard Labs booth at the Trade Show in G. Rollie White Coliseum. I'd certainly be interested in meeting you.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Observation on a Lunch Break

Sometimes you see people that just make you wonder about their life's story.

I frequently carry my lunch to work and eat it in one of the parks in town. Occasionally it affords the opportunity to observe some interesting scenes and people. Today, there was a pickup parked in the shade of one of the trees which stands adjacent to a parking area. Inside that pickup slept an older Caucasian male that appeared to have experienced a life predominately in the outdoors if one can judge properly from the depth of lines and deep tan of his complexion. In the middle of the seat sat an old woman that appeared to be of native American decent. She was one of those deeply creased, timelessly aged individuals that might have been 60 or 120 years old. She appeared to be patiently waiting for a continued journey. On the passenger side of the seat sat 2 young black-skinned children -- one boy and one girl. I would guess them to be in the 8 to 10 year-old range. They were alert, quiet and apparently bored. They fidgeted, but silently.

I suspect they were travelers passing through. The license plate on the recent model Ford pickup was from Texas, but it's a big state. They could be a mile from home or 1,000 miles from home. There was no identifier of an automobile dealership that I could see. You can often at least tell in what city a vehicle has been purchased by such labels.

He rested. She waited. They fidgeted.

My lunch break ended and I returned to work. They were still there when I left.

It just makes you wonder who, what and why. Am I overly curious?

Friday, July 25, 2008

We Can Do Better

We frequently see the debate between “environmentalists” and the rest of us as framed in an “us” vs. “them” manner. Business people feel that the environmental movement is nothing but a roadblock to progress. People in developing countries see environmental groups preventing them from experiencing the luxuries of the west because they hinder the utilization of the natural resources at hand.

Environmental groups often carry names like “Friends of the Earth” or “Save the Wildlife.” Those types of names carry with them a stigma that immediately sets on edge the typical businessman.

What if the debate became a completely economic one?

There is within the economic community the idea that when external costs are internalized into the price of a good or service, the decision to allocate resources to that good or service often changes. An example of internalizing these externalities would be the impact of a uranium mine on the Navajo Reservation. In order to avoid the potential complexities of the decision, let’s limit it to one possible issue – or, external cost -- the impact of the mining activity on the water supply of a community.

Suppose that the mine is located within the watershed of a Navajo community. To fully understand the cost to develop the mine, the potential pollution of the community’s water supply must be examined. Such examination would need to include preventative measures and possible remediation in the event of contamination. It also would need to look at long-term effects to wildlife residing in the watershed. Wildlife might provide hunting lease income to the reservation. It might also be of significant cultural value that would be difficult to price. It might affect tourist income from photography or viewing. It might impact local artisans who utilize specific clays located within the watershed.

With the exception of preventing and remediating potential contamination, none of the impacts mentioned are direct costs to the mine owner/operator. They are however, external costs to the community of locating the mine in their watershed.

How does one determine the value of natural resources? We can estimate the value of mineral deposits. We can value land based on the transactional market for similar properties. But, how do we value the less obvious things such as: filtering the water supply, tourism, hunting and fishing, recreation, moderating effects on climate, flood protection, erosion control and other items about which we don’t currently understand?

Hopefully in the near future, we will see attention paid to such values. Such things must be part of an overall land use plan before disruptive activities are begun. We need oil, natural gas, wind energy, solar energy, coal and we need minerals that can only be obtained through extractive activities. Surely we have learned enough of the complex interactions of the environment to begin to make sound evaluations of our activities in a broader sense. We must learn to utilize our resources without destroying our surroundings. Let’s drill – but let’s do so in an environmentally informed manner. Let’s build windmills for electrical generation – but let’s situate them in a manner that retains the benefits of our wild lands. Let’s learn from the unintended consequences of our past mistakes – such as ruined lakes and streams from coal mining or oil and gas extraction. We can do better.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Family Reunion After-thoughts

We survived the family reunion! It was great. Some started arriving as early as Monday evening of last week -- and they kept arriving throughout the week. We had 68 members of my mother's family at my house. All of her brothers and sisters were there (8 siblings total) along with some of their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces nephews and cousins. We hope that in the future, more of the second and third generation will be able to attend. Only a handful of the first-cousins were there.

The memories of course were stimulated. The stories of growing up on the farm was a common thread. My mother and her siblings told of milking cows, feeding chickens, hoeing cotton, rattlesnakes, tornadoes, family and neighbors. It seemed that most of the memories were good. A common theme was that they seemed to be happy growing up as they did. More than once I heard something along the lines of "we didn't have much but there was always plenty." Kids today don't usually see things that way. They feel abused if they don't have the latest computer game. My aunts and uncles were referring to food on the table and clothes to wear -- for the older sisters (the 4 girls came first) it might be dresses made from chicken feed sacks.

Today the kids want $100 tennis shoes (or higher) and my aunts were thrilled to have new dresses made from feed sacks. Hmmm -- do you think we might ever go back to that? There are parts of the world that would love to have feed sacks from which to make dresses. You never know.

It is a good reminder that we need to cherish the moments that we have. We especially need to be thankful for family. It is important to keep the connections alive.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Family Reunion Week

This week is family reunion week at our house. My mother's family is coming in from all over the country. Since my parents live in the same community as we do, we are both pitching in to provide accommodations for everyone. The events will culminate on Saturday with a big cookout and get together in our back yard. Let's hope it isn't raining. We are expecting 50 to 60 or possibly more for Saturday.

Family. I am privileged to be part of both an immediate family and an extended family that believes in the importance of family. Family is a place of safety and nurture. It is a network of support. It is a tie to values that run more deeply than the history of our country. I am thankful to have family. My heart and prayers go out to those who do not.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Energy Independence Days

U.S. Senator John Cornyn has declared war on our dependence on foreign oil. He has created a special emphasis on his website called “Energy Independence Days” in which there will be a series of posts including videos from Senator Cornyn on the subject of how we might achieve our Energy Independence.

I am thankful that the Senator has taken the best interests of the American people to heart and created this opportunity for the people of this state and nation to have input, as he helps through his leadership, to set our lawmakers on course to address this critical issue. I pray that solutions can be developed through the private and public initiatives that are a hallmark of this great nation. I am humbled to have the opportunity to provide a guest post to the Senator’s website. Thank you Senator Cornyn for all that you do for our state and our country.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

TEXAS: Y'all Come!

Sunday evening we went out to Palo Duro Canyon to the amphitheater to view "TEXAS." It was great. It has been several years since I was out to the canyon for the play. The last time it was a different script. This year, they are back to the original.

The performance is about the earliest settlers in the Texas Panhandle. It is a musical that portrays the end of the "cattle empire" era and the beginning of the influx of farmers. "TEXAS" is in its 43rd Anniversary season.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

An Independence Day of Prayer and Reflection

The day after tomorrow is the 4th of July. Where has the summer gone?

The 4th is honored in celebration of our independence from England. It has been so long ago that we don't truly understand what that independence means. Today, it is a rare individual that even stops to think that the liberties we enjoy arose from that period in the 1770's when previously loyal subjects finally had a belly-full of the capricious actions of the British Parliament designed to extract payment from the colonies for their many wars. It wasn't so much that the colonists didn't want to pay their fair share of the defense of their country (England) it was that they were being taxed without the opportunity of representation in making the decisions. They were treated as less than full citizens of their country.

That desire to have the opportunity to have a voice in the decisions of government is one that in many ways has died among a large portion of our citizenry. Voter apathy is high. Dissatisfaction with the government and leading political figures is extremely low. It is as though a large percentage of the American people have allowed themselves to become less than true citizens. They have been lulled by the relative prosperity that they enjoy and by their feelings of impotence, to merely endure the burdens of the government that they allow to continue on its merry way by their apathy.

It is much like the frog in the kettle illustration with which we are all familiar. If you try to put a frog into hot water he will jump out. If you put him in cold water and slowly add heat, he will boil to death. I believe that a large number of people in this country are allowing themselves to be boiled to death through the gradual creep of economic subjugation through the policies of our government.

This 4th of July is one that I believe should be spent in reflection on where we have been, what we have become and where we are going as a country. It is a time to examine the burden of government on our lives and our livelihood. It is a time to consider the role of each and every elected official and the part that they have played in adding to that burden. Are our lives truly better than they were ten or twenty or even longer years ago? If not, what has changed?

We must get out of the pot and get active. If the heat is building we need to put out the fire. It is time to get involve -- get energized. The election this fall could be a turning point if we will let our voices be heard. I believe in our system of government and I believe there are good men and women both in office and seeking office. I also know that there are those in office and seeking office that have nothing on their mind but their own self aggrandizement, power and wealth. We must seek wisdom in our choices. The only true source of wisdom that I know of is the God that created us. We all should hit our knees in prayer for the future of this great nation. The 4th of July is a great time to start.

Monday, June 30, 2008


In our minds.
In our hearts.
In our lives.

In friendships.
In marriages.
In families.




Somebody hand me a sledgehammer!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Road Time

I learned from a good friend of mine this week some facts that have convinced me that Global Warming is real. He revealed these things to me as we traveled in search of new customers. We were prospecting in some "sparse" country and there was lots of road time between stops. Let me see if I can remember:

  • My friend said that he believes that Global Warming is responsible for warping the lenses in his glasses. It seemed to him that with each passing day the distortion became worse and worse. It was getting so that he was going to need new glasses because of the distortion. Upon reflection, I realized that I had been experiencing similar problems.
  • My friend also said that it seemed to him that Global Warming had caused his arms to shrink. It was getting so that they were hardly long enough to hold reading material at the proper distance for clear viewing. I knew without a doubt that he was correct because I had been noticing the same thing for several years now.
  • We both noted that the heat caused drowsiness as well -- particularly about 2:00 in the afternoon. We determined to call this the "siesta effect" of Global Warming. It seemed that the "siesta effect," although normally confined to environs south of our location, had moved northward and was affecting us on a regular basis.

We began to discuss some of the pro's and con's of the obviously real effects of Global Warming. Following are some of our observations -- not necessarily grouped in any special order.

  • Because of a warmer climate due to Global Warming, we should experience longer lives. This is because the Greenhouse gases have replaced significant quantities of oxygen in the atmosphere (the reason for the "siesta effect"). Therefore oxidation should be slowed and our lives therefore extended.
  • Global Warming also should extend the hotpant/haltertop/bikini season. We determined that in spite of the visual pleasures it could have detrimental effects on our longevity since both of us are married.
  • We noted as well that Global Warming should extend the growing season throughout the world and therefore alleviate the hunger problems that we have been hearing so much about.
  • Global warming also should reduce heating bills in the winter. This would provide a significant savings during those months. On the downside though, the summers would be extended and it is likely that the increase in the cooling bills for those months would more than offset the savings in the winter.
  • An additional advantage of Global Warming might be the extension of football season until February or even March. Well, by that time it's almost spring so why don't we just make football season year-round. We could do the same for baseball as well. That would give us many more choices of sporting events to view throughout the year. Golf also would be a year-round sport. There won't be concerns of losing that little white ball in the cowpasture during a snow storm. There won't be any.

I am sure there are other observations that some of you have made that support this theory of Global Warming. Please feel free to share them in the comments.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Shaping the Grand Canyon

This week, work has taken me on travels into some old stomping grounds. It is interesting to renew old acquaintances and see old faces. That's the problem though. They remind me that it has been 15 years since I last saw some of them. A lot can change in 15 years.

Time has a way of getting away from us. We are so focused on daily activity -- of pursuing our lives -- that we lose track of the passage of time. It's like going to a High School class reunion and wondering why everyone else has aged so much. You still feel the same and don't notice that you've aged along with them. We see the gradual change in our own lives and accept it easily. Absence for extended periods makes that change seem dramatic when we reconnect.

Our lives move inexorably forward. If we weren't such ephemeral beings in our earthly time it would be as though the Grand Canyon was being carved upon our very substance. Slowly, unceasingly, we would be re-shaped into something unrecognizable to our previous self. I wonder if the process continues into eternity?

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Call of the Day

As I drove to work this morning I had the overwhelming sense that I needed to spend some time outdoors today. After the storms which passed through last night, the air had a special quality. The richness and depth of the blue sky was highlighted by the few remnant clouds on the horizon. It called to me.

It was a call -- not for working out in the sun -- for hiking, exploring, soaking in the vibrancy of the day. It has been a long time since I went hiking. Maybe I should head to Palo Duro Canyon and spend some time. I could go out to Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

The problem is that my task list is long. It seems that I have allowed the "little things that need done" to accumulate into a lengthy ordeal. If I was to take the afternoon off I would feel guilty if I didn't spend it "checking a few items off" from my list. It would detract from the enjoyment of the day. Or would it? Maybe I should find out.

Instead, I go to the office. I enter into another day of work. Opportunity lost?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Somewhat Rare

Your Personality is Somewhat Rare (ISTP)

Your personality type is reserved, methodical, spirited, and intense.

Only about 6% of all people have your personality, including 3% of all women and 8% of all men

You are Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Perceiving.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

I'm a little late in the day posting about Father's Day, but better late than never -- right?

Some things that I learned from my Father:

The difference between a weed and cotton (or corn, or okra, or beans, or....).

It's time for supper when the work is finished -- not necessarily when you are hungry.

The animals get fed first.

You "fess up" when it was you that threw the baseball through the window.

"Licks" at school meant more at home.

Profanity was a sign of a weak vocabulary.

If you don't form an opinion, someone will form it for you.

If you get in a fight you had better not be the one that started it.

You ate what was on your plate whether you liked it or not.

Honesty is a given.

If you agree to do something you do it.

You bait your own hook and help any women that won't bait theirs.

You open the door for a lady.

You take your hat off in the house.

You shovel the sidewalk for the old couple across the street and you don't take any pay for it.

If you shoot it you eat it -- unless it's rabbits and then it's self defence. Five rabbits eat as much as a cow.

You don't quit.

You put in an honest day's work for your pay.

If you can read you can figure out how to do just about anything.

Spend time with your kids.

Family comes first.

It doesn't matter how much you make, it's how much you spend.

Don't talk back to your mother.

Some things you have to learn the hard way.

Keep what you own in good repair.

Kids need to know they're loved.

If you see a snotty nose, wipe it.

You're expected in church on Sunday morning.

Sometimes you seem a lot smarter if you keep your mouth shut.

Live your calling -- whatever it happens to be.

Give your time to your church, your community and your family.

The list goes on and on but I think you get the picture. That's what it was and is -- a picture of how to live your life through the example of his. Thanks, Dad.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Gone Political

I have been a bit slow posting for quite some time now. I appreciate those of you who do continue to stop by on a regular basis.

It seems sometimes that I go through "dry" spells. It is hard to come up with something to post. Also, I have been busy. However, I also have started a new blog which is taking a good part of my blogging energy. It is called "Panhandle's Perspective." It is oriented to politics and the issues of the day.

I have always been interested in politics. I have attempted however, to steer clear of them for the most part on this blog. I finally gave in to the impulse.

Why now? Probably because I fear for the direction that our country is heading. Bill Clinton worried me. Barack Obama scares me. His Marxist/socialist agenda will destroy this country.

Drop by "Panhandle's Perspective" and see what I think about it.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

U.S. Senator Cornyn on Ethanol

U.S. Senator John Cornyn has graciously provided the guest posting below.

Hello Panhandle Poet readers…it’s a privilege to guest post here.

I wanted to touch base with you regarding an issue which is very pressing in the Panhandle, ethanol.

When first introduced to the marketplace, it was hoped that ethanol would help revitalize rural America, lower the price we pay at the pump and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

That’s a worthy goal, yet the government’s focus on ethanol has produced a problem. There have been unintended adverse consequences to our economy from the focus on ethanol production. Chiefly, since February of 2006 the combined price of corn, wheat and soybeans has increased more than 416 percent.

For this reason and many more, I co-sponsored legislation which was introduced recently to freeze the renewable fuel standard corn-based ethanol mandate at current 2008 levels.
In the panhandle, like other places, the effect of ethanol production has been mixed. While a few have benefitted from it, a great many others have suffered.

As more and more farmers grow corn for ethanol production, cattle feeding ration prices have shot sky high. Mandates, along with the high cost of fuel, are squeezing every bit of profit out of cattle feedlots today.

As consumers continue to see rising food and fuel prices, freezing the corn-based ethanol mandate will allow us to re-evaluate the consequences of using food for fuel and determine the best way forward. Texas will remain a leader as we work to diversify our nation’s energy supply to include alternative and renewable sources, but in the meantime Congress must exercise its oversight role to ensure there are no further unintended consequences. A freeze of the mandate will allow time for necessary assessments and reduce increasing grocery, grain and feed prices.

Last year, the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) provided the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to waive the mandates, or adjust them as necessary to provide relief for consumers.

Last month, I joined Sen. Hutchison and others in sending a letter to EPA Administrator requesting an update on the pending rule-making process for the waiver of all or portions of the ethanol mandate passed by Congress in 2007. The letter also urged the EPA to consider the sharp rise in food prices as they review the mandate.

Freezing the mandate at its current level for one year is not a long term solution, but it is a good start towards finding one.

My heartfelt thanks go to the Senator for addressing this issue and for providing this post.

Also posted on:

Panhandle's Perspective
Common Sense Agriculture, Conservation and Energy

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Wind Blows

The wind blows

The air is filled
With the tiny grains
That should be held
By growing things

The wind blows
The sand moves
The tiny stalks with newborn leaves
Shrivel beneath the onslaught

Not the Dust Bowl
Just spring
In the southern reaches
Of the Great Plains.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Senator Cornyn Visits With Bloggers

Yesterday I had the privilege of participating in a conference call with U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). It was an invitation only call issued to members of his blog roll.

I appreciate the Senator’s interest in keeping the members of his constituency informed through the new medium of bloggers. He closed his call by thanking bloggers for their role in sharing the news of what is happening in the world without the slanted agenda that is often behind the reporting of main-stream media.

The Senator opened the call with remarks about the Supplemental Troop Funding bill which passed the Senate by a 75-25 vote yesterday. He expressed his disappointment that the bill was saddled with an excessive number of non-defense related items that were added by members whose special interests overrode their concern for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. They saw the sure passage of the measure as an easy means of adding pork-barrel items with little threat of veto due to the imminent need for the funding.

Also included on the bill was a modernization of the GI Bill-of-rights. He indicated that he believed such modernization was necessary and proper yet did not seem to be fully pleased with some of the provisions in the bill.

The Senator also remarked about the rising cost of gasoline and the impact that it was having on our lifestyles and our economy. It seems that the agenda of many of the Democrats in positions of power is overriding the common sense of developing our own resources in a sensible manner. While recognizing the need for conservation, we must develop domestic oil supplies from proven reserves as well as encourage the construction of additional domestic refining capacity. These items would help alleviate prices through a focus on the supply side of the equation. It will be necessary to expand our domestic supply to help offset the growing international demand from countries such as China whose economy is requiring energy at an increasing rate.

After his opening remarks, the Senator opened the call to questions from participants. The questions ranged from the vote to override the President’s veto of the Farm Bill (voted yes to override), to additional questions about energy (including the impact of the ethanol mandates) and gun-control.

On the question of ethanol, the Senator noted that the mandates were a perfect example of unintended consequences. He especially noted the negative impact to water and land demands and their impact on food prices through competing away acreage from the production of other crops. He also noted the negative impact to livestock and poultry producers through the escalating price of feed. He, along with several other Senators, has requested the EPA to adjust the mandates according to the provision in the original enabling legislation that allows them to do so.

He also noted that the ethanol mandates have caused many to behave illogically. He specifically cited a story released through Bloomberg on Wednesday, about the Postal Service driving ethanol powered vehicles that were 28% less efficient that similar gasoline powered vehicles. They were burning more fuel to travel the same distance.

I appreciate the Senator’s willingness to take the time to visit with the blogging community. I look forward to the next opportunity. If you are interested in joining the Senator Cornyn blogging community, contact

Also posted on Common Sense Agriculture, Conservation and Energy.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Our attitude determines our response to what life hands us. In many ways, it drives our behavior.

Last week a good friend related to me the story of a two-day trip calling on various beef producers. The trip was designed to include a variety of operations as an educational venture for an executive in his company that had little knowledge of the beef industry. His story illustrates the difference in attitude of each of the producers and how they are responding to the currently trying times in the beef industry. (Disclaimer: Note that either no names are given, or they are changed to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent!)

The first stop on the tour was to an operation that consisted of a small pre-conditioning facility as well as a cow herd and some stocker cattle. This individual had experienced escalating feed costs and had been “burned” by a couple of his pre-conditioning customers. His view was that ethanol was killing the beef industry. To sum it up, he had a “woe is me, the sky is falling” attitude. All he could see was the downside created by escalating feed costs.

The second stop on the tour was to an operation that specialized in buying light weight calves and taking them through a stocker phase before selling them to someone else for finishing. This individual had tried numerous approaches to add value to his cattle but found that “it doesn’t matter what I do, someone else always gets ahead while I just try to survive.” His attitude was one of powerlessness in the face of market realities.

The third stop was to meet with a veterinarian. He felt that although we were currently in a “down” cycle, it would eventually pass. The focus of the conversation with him quickly turned to new technology. He wanted to know what was in development, when would it be available and whether they had considered looking at a list of other possibilities. His attitude was forward-looking and positive.

The fourth stop was to a large cattle feeding operation. The attitude there could be described as “it’s bad but it will be better and this is what we’re doing to make sure we are still in business when it does.” They had a “hunkered-down-in-the-bunker” mentality but saw an improving future. Their attitude was one of “dodging bullets” until it got better.

The fifth stop was to a small pre-conditioning and stocker operation. The owner had experienced a number of setbacks and recently taken a job in town to supplement his income from livestock. He was at the point of feeling “beat up” and not knowing what the future would hold. He realized that much of his predicament was due to decisions that he had made that cost him dearly. It will be a difficult road to recovery, but he was going to give it his best effort. His attitude was one of having been through a fight but not through fighting yet.

The sixth stop was to a small operation that primarily ran stocker cattle. He saw opportunity everywhere. To him, turmoil signaled opportunity. His attitude was one of innovation, forward-thinking and determination to exploit opportunity.

The seventh and final stop was to a large seed stock operation. They felt that things weren’t great right now but were preparing for the future. They were extremely knowledgeable of the global factors affecting their operation and had plans in place to adapt to every conceivable contingency. Their attitude was positive but cautious and designed for what they saw as an uncertain future.

All-in-all, the attitudes were more positive than would be expected given the difficulties the industry faces as it adjusts to the realities of a bio-fuel economy. The operations listed above will be profoundly affected by changes in the beef industry. Their individual attitudes will affect how well they do.

We become what we think – what our minds dwell upon. We react to our surroundings based on our attitude toward the things that we see, feel and experience. Some of the producers in the scenarios enumerated above will survive and thrive. Others will fail. Based on their attitudes, which ones do you think will be the survivors?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Small-town Texas

U.S. Senator John Cornyn writes about small-town Texas in the post linked below.

More than a Name

Monday, May 19, 2008

By: U.S. Sen. John Cornyn

When pioneers made their way to Texas generations ago, many helped establish towns. From Abbott to Zorn, these smaller communities safeguard the Texas ethic, the values that have made our state great.

If you exit the major highways, you can travel to places such as Cee Vee, Tarzan, Tigertown, Ropesville, Petrolia and Notrees. The way these towns were named often reflects the optimism and good-natured outlook of those who helped settle our vast state.

Even today, the real spirit of Texas can be found in smaller towns across our state. Texas names have...(complete article here).

Don't forget about Happy, Earth, Needmore, Dime Box, Mobeetie, Telegraph, and the hundreds of other anchors to generations of Texans that dot our great state.


Straight and narrow
The highway stretches before me.
Although I only see as far
As the light which shines before me
I know the way is straight
Because it has not varied
In its path.

Only a few travel this unwavering road.

I am vaguely aware
Of those who travel other ways
That are filled with darkness.
They zip hither and yon,
Racing toward their destination.
They seek but never find.
They seek in vain.

Storms assail my path but the light goes on before.

Along the way I meet others
Who seek escape from the darkness.
I show them the light that guides me.
Some see the light
And others do not.
I invite them to travel with me
Following the light.

We travel together as the light guides our way.

Psalm 119:105 - "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."

Friday, May 9, 2008

Character and Persistence

Some days you get hammered
And it's hard to pick yourself up.
You are keyed up
Built up
Psyched up
And disappointed
When it doesn't go the way you wanted.

So, how do you respond?
Do you get down on yourself?
Become disillusioned?
Or, do you bounce right back
And move on to the next project?
Or, better yet,
Take a new approach and try again?

How we respond to what life hands us
Reveals our character.
Weakness is easily defeated;
Strength is in persistence.
What are you made of?
Are you strong, or weak?
Persistent, or easily defeated?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Thinking Toward Progress

To sit and think
Is sometimes a luxury.
We hurry and rush
From one task to another
Without thinking about
What we are doing or why.

But I've found through the years
That a moment of silence
Reflecting on tasks I must do
Helps me to order
My work for the day
So my efforts will multiply.

It allows me to focus
On what is important
Rather than merely reacting
To whatever crisis
Rears its ugly head
As I go through the course of a day.

So instead of being pulled
Hither and yon
Jumping to the whims of others
I stay on the tasks
That are aimed at my goals
And progress along the way.

Monday, April 28, 2008

What Food Crisis?

In my wealth
I am concerned
That the price of fuel
Has increased significantly.

In his poverty
He has no money
To buy the food
To feed his children.

If I drove less
And bought less
And paid less
For the things I desire

Would he have
More funds
With which to buy
What he needs?

Sadly, no.

In my compassion
I give of my plenty
To those who would
Feed the needy.

Greed siphons
The compassionate gift
Until the trickle remaining
Is almost meaningless.

What is the answer?

One camp says
That we should
Redistribute the wealth
Among the needy.

The other camp says
That we should
Teach the needy
To feed themselves.

The greedy,
The powerful,
The politicians,
The bureaucrats,

All seek to exploit,
Pushing their own agenda,
While I continue to worry about the price of fuel
And he still can't feed his family.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Straw Hat Weather

On a recent trip to Corpus Christi, I acquired a new straw hat. It was during the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers annual meeting and trade show. It was definitely straw hat weather in South Texas although it was prior to Easter – which came early this year. OK, so where am I going with this? Traditionally, in most parts of cattle country, Easter marks the beginning date when it becomes acceptable to wear a straw hat rather than a felt hat.

While felt hats are appropriate at any time of year (especially on formal occasions) straw hats generally are worn only after Easter and prior to Labor Day. Those are the dates that basically define the period of warmer weather when the greater airflow through a good straw hat is more comfortable than the heat generated beneath a felt hat.

Easter came early this year. Add to that the early time change and my clock got off somewhere. It is just now warm enough to start thinking about straw hats rather than felt.

Most of the time I wear a cap to cover my bald head. Caps are easier to keep up with, the brim doesn’t hit the headrest on my pickup seat, and they don’t catch as much wind as a hat. But when it is hot outside, you can’t beat a good straw hat. It keeps my neck and ears from broiling.

Some people wear hats for decoration. I never really bought into that. I wear a hat for shade or to keep my head warm. Some people wear hats to keep the rain off of their head. That’s usually not an issue in the Texas Panhandle. It would be nice if it did rain. Then I could test that particular theory.

People seem to have lost sight of proper hat etiquette over the years. I fear that it is a symptom of the general coarsening of behavior. It is tied to a loss of civility in society.

Some years ago the John B. Stetson Company published guidelines for appropriate hat etiquette. These guidelines are appropriate today – whether the wearer sports a felt, straw or a cap.

* The hat should be removed from the head when the National Anthem is played, when entering a building, when you are being introduced – especially if it is to a woman, at a funeral, or when beginning a conversation.

* The hat should be tipped, or lifted slightly from the head, when a woman thanks you, after getting directions from a stranger – especially if the stranger is female, when you excuse yourself to a woman, when you are walking with a friend and he says hello to a woman that he knows and you do not.

* You are not expected to remove your hat in public buildings, in entrance halls or in elevators. The exception being that it is polite to remove your hat in an elevator if there is a woman present – unless it is too crowded to do so. You are expected to remove your hat in any situation where a show of respect is appropriate. This would include removing the hat in public buildings if the building is a church, courthouse, or state or federal capitol.

* Hats should be removed for meals if there is a safe place to put your hat while eating.

Hat etiquette is something that has been lost. I see hats everywhere. Our kids wear them to school and even to church functions. They think nothing of leaving them on their head unless someone in authority asks them to remove them. They have no concept of the lack of respect that wearing their hat shows – or maybe they do.

It’s springtime. The weather is finally turning warm. I believe it’s time for a straw hat.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Portland Head Lighthouse

The rocky ledge runs far out into the sea
And on its outer point, some miles away,
The lighthouse lifts its massive masonry,
A pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day.

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "The Lighthouse"

This past week I went to Portland, Maine, for business. Fortunately, I was able to have a little time to take a trip out to the Portland Head Light. The weather was gorgeous.

The lighthouse sits on a promontory of rocks jutting out into the ocean. It is adjacent to what was once old Fort Williams.

Construction of the lighthouse was completed in January, 1791. President George Washington appointed Joseph Greenleaf, a Revolutionary War veteran, to be the first keeper. The original keeper's house was of stone. The current Victorian house was built in 1891.

This is a fishing boat returning to port. The photo was taken from the observation area at the base of the lighthouse.

For more on The Portland Head Light click here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

New Competition for Beef

While traveling in Kansas this past week I had the opportunity to meet with several cattlemen and feedlot managers. The mood among them is somber to say the least. The market doesn’t seem to be adjusting to the realities of the new energy economy very quickly.

Transportation cost is one of the biggest factors impacting every industry across the country -- especially livestock feeding. When trucking companies are dealing with diesel prices in the neighborhood of $4.00/gallon, the cost of moving grain or animals or boxed beef becomes significant. If calves are being shipped from the Southeast to feedlots in the Plains, the cost of transportation must be figured into the price of those calves. The same issue affects corn – if it can be purchased at all.

On the other end of the supply chain we have the consumer. When gasoline prices are at record levels, groceries is one area where household costs are cut. We should be looking at ways to drive less or improve fuel efficiency but instead, we cut back on spending for higher priced food items such as beef. We don’t give up our gas guzzling habits very easily.

The result is that packing plants are looking at cold storage filled with boxes of unsold beef; the feedlots are looking at cattle that need to go to market but the packing plants aren’t willing to give them a price at which the feeder can make any money; cattle feeders are unwilling to buy calves to put on feed – and on and on. It all is driven by fuel in one form or another.

What is driving the fuel prices? I am amazed that our Congressional leaders in all of their wisdom feel compelled to bring the heads of multiple oil companies to Washington to berate them over the cost of fuel. Of course, most of the Congressmen and Senators don’t have much training in economics. In fact, I think they must be trained in anti-economics – or at least anti-free enterprise. Most of the laws coming out of Washington seem to hinder business rather than help. The cost of every regulation and every hair-brained pork-barrel scheme gets passed on to the consumer in some form or fashion. Sometimes it is a direct tax but more often than not, it as an indirect tax created through regulatory action on business.

It is the growing economies in India and China, domestic regulations concerning fuel additives, mandatory targets for bio-fuels, market uncertainty due to political unrest, burdensome regulation on building new refineries and infrastructure, the high cost of building refineries, environmental regulations, closure of certain areas to oil exploration, the devaluation of the dollar, and all of the other global factors that impact the energy business that are driving fuel prices. Why do we think we can solve the problem by making ethanol from corn? Oh, and did I mention the booming economies of India and China? A few hundred million individuals with the most disposable income at their finger tips that has been seen in those countries ever – want to spend it on some of the finer things in life – like automobiles and meat.

Our consumer spending habits are enabling those countries to build thriving economies that produce goods that must be transported to the U.S. by ships burning diesel. I’m happy their economies are growing. We just have to realize that we are paying for that growth.

The current ethanol mandates drive up the price of corn. That’s really all they do for our energy situation. Has the price of gasoline come down? The high price of corn was good for corn farmers – last year. The cost of farm inputs has now normalized (adjusted) due to the higher fuel costs and the margins for farmers will be much slimmer this year. Their business is extremely fuel intensive. Their input costs – such as for fertilizer and diesel – have gone through the roof.

The mandates are hurting cattle producers. They are suppressing demand for beef because now – put this in your pipe and smoke it – beef is competing against energy. The consumer dollar will choose energy over beef because of the need to heat and cool our homes and drive to and from work. In the past, beef competed with pork and poultry. Now it must also compete with energy because the primary cattle feed ingredient is being converted to fuel.

Isn’t it great what misguided regulations do for you?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Petition in Support of Our Troops

Sign the petition started by Senator John Cornyn in support of General Petraeus and our troops. You can do so at:

Show your support!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Lunch Time

Through the years and various jobs, I’ve had the privilege, or maybe I should say was required, to travel throughout a large portion of this beautiful country. In those travels there has often been the opportunity to strike up a conversation with perfect strangers. In sales, you never know who might provide the next good lead.

It is amazing to me how many times during such conversations, the subject turns quickly to what each of you does for a living. I look at it as an opportunity. It may be a sales opportunity or it may just be a chance to learn more about the local community. It is almost always interesting. It sometimes leaves me a bit chagrined.

A good example of this occurred a few weeks ago in a restaurant in a town which shall remain nameless. I had stopped for a bite to eat.

Most people when traveling tend to stop at places that look familiar. They will stop at chain restaurants or fast food signs where they have a good idea how the food will look and taste. I have traveled enough that my tendency is to stop at the unfamiliar. My favorite restaurants are better described as the local cafĂ© – often downtown on Main Street America. They provide the best opportunity for sampling the local fare and getting a taste of the local atmosphere.

I will frequently pass up a number of good eateries to find that special hole-in-the-wall where the parking lot is filled with pickups sporting brush guards and cow dogs and dragging stock trailers with saddled horses. It is a sure bet that the food will be good and the conversation at surrounding tables will be interesting.

Often the tables will be set up in a manner that encourages group seating. Why not? Everyone knows nearly everyone else in the place. They frequently come into town in ones and twos and appreciate the company. They may not have had a conversation with anyone but their cow dog all morning. It was in such a place that I met Fred. (Now, Fred isn’t his real name but it will suffice for purposes of my illustration.)

I had been driving for a while since visiting with my last prospective customer and needed sustenance. On the outskirts of town was a run-down looking white board building that had been blessed with numerous additions through the years. The parking lot was full and it appeared a likely place for good food. I walked in and saw only one seat available in the place – at a long table down the middle of the room – across from Fred. So, I asked if he minded if I sit down. The “help yourself” response led me to sit and order a glass of tea and the special – enchiladas.

Fred wore a dirty felt hat that looked like it had seen a lot of use. He had a handle-bar mustache and suspenders that held up faded jeans beneath a belly that was evidence of too much time sitting and not enough time exercising. I’ve lived long enough to learn not to judge a book too hastily by its cover. Often the most successful individuals don’t look the part. In fact, it’s the ones who flaunt their appearance of whom I’ve learned to be somewhat leery. So I thought perhaps Fred might be a local rancher.

Fred didn’t say much for awhile but eventually asked the inevitable, “you just passing through?” My reply of course was yes, which led to further questions of what do you do, etc. Upon learning that I was involved in a livestock related business he began to ask questions more specific to my business. I thought to myself that maybe he might even be a potential customer. I began to ask questions of him.

As the conversation progressed, I noticed an occasional glance from one of the gentlemen sitting just down the table from us. This gentleman was obviously interested in our conversation so I thought to myself, “this is great. I may find lots of business leads.”

My questions began in a very general tone but soon became more specific – such as, “what kind of processing regimen are you using on your calves?” His response left no doubt that he was clueless about processing regimens. I eventually got him to admit that he was a truck driver for an oilfield service company.
When he got up and left I looked down the table at the gentleman who had appeared to express interest in our conversation and just shook my head. He grinned real big and said, “I wondered how long it would take you to find out he didn’t know what he was talking about!” With that I knew it was time to hit the road again.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Finding Your Voice

I am amazed at how often people become caught up in being what they are not. I don't mean to say that they deliberately put on an act. What I mean is that they become enamored with what others are doing and seek to emulate them on some level.

Writing is one area where I think this is common. Writers want to be read. They want to be popular. They want to be accepted into the realm of recognizable personalities. So, they write about things that they perceive will be popular.

It is a great exercise in learning the art of writing. Typically, though, by emulating someone else, the writer never finds his own voice. He never truly expresses himself. He writes for someone else.

I think great writers are like great artists and musicians. The best are unique. They express themselves through their work in their own unique style. Their work stands out from the crowd because it isn't "cookie-cutter" work; it is apart from the crowd. It stands out. It is the single red shirt in a sea of blue. It is the cowboy hat at the opera.

Writers should write about what they enjoy. If you like history, write history. If you like music, write about music. If you like television, write about television. You get the picture.

The blog world is an area where I think there are lots of pretenders. I believe this is especially prevalent among political blogs. Many political blogs were started because the writer saw that political blogs received lots of attention. The writers really don't have their heart in their work. They struggle with every post. It shows.

I am learning to recognize my own writing voice. It is something that I've struggled with just as do many others. I don't know yet exactly what it is. I believe that it is an evolving thing. I hope that when I find it, it will be recognizable by others.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Congressional Earmarks

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) has posted an interesting commentary on the Earmark Game. Click the link to read the article.

Everyone Loses in the Earmark Game

I agree that many worthy projects are funded through the process of attaching earmark appropriations to spending bills. The problem is exactly that pointed out in the Senator's remarks: "...the system we have now is broken, and it’s not being fixed."

For some time now I have felt that a line-item veto power by the President would be a good method for fixing the problem of Earmarks. I no longer believe it is the appropriate tool. I would like to think that the President would be above wielding such a tool in a political manner, but given the "quality" of the current candidates for that office, I'm not so sure. I can just see a situation in which the political party that holds the White House would receive the benefit of Earmark spending while all others suffer.

I am happy to see that Senator Cornyn is aware that the Earmark issue is one with which the taxpayers and voters at home are concerned. A sincere effort on the part of Congress to stem the abuse and correct the situation would help to begin the process of rebuilding the faith of the American people in our elected officials to represent their best interests.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

An MBA Mentality

As I dive into this topic, please don’t mistake my attitude toward education. I believe an educated society is crucial to the proper operation of our government, to the advance of society, and to a civil public discourse. However, through my years in business I have found that often, there are attitudes which come with a formal education that are counterproductive to business productivity.

A large portion of my career has been spent in sales or sales related activities. My formal title has never been salesman – it has been manager. Managers should be fully engaged in the sales activities of a business or it is likely the business will fail – whether it is retail, wholesale or a service business.

Many organizations – especially large ones – believe that the best managers have MBA’s (Master of Business Administration). From a logical perspective it makes sense. Find someone who has been formally educated in how to run a business and let them run your business. The problem comes when the MBA manager has no practical experience in the day-to-day function of the business itself. They have the head knowledge, but lack the heart knowledge. They know the tools but they don’t know the business – at least not from the hands-on level. Generally their understanding is conceptual in nature – not practical.

Why do I bring this up? Because it seems that I often spend an inordinate amount of time educating my suppliers on the realities of agriculture.

The MBA manager mentality is often one that is focused on the numbers or benchmarks. It is focused on “objective” measurement of factors which indicate progress in the business. This can be things such as the number of sales calls made, the number of contacts at a Trade Show, the percentage of gross margin -- both average and per sales, and similar easily measurable statistical indicators. They have been taught techniques for handling particular situations that regularly occur in business – like competitive pricing issues – and respond according to the “book” answer. The problem is that they have never walked in the shoes of their sales force or of their customer.

The last item is the key. The most successful people that I know understand their customer. They have either been involved in a business similar to what their customer does, or have spent enough time with their customer to understand their business or situation. They look at their own business through the eyes of their customer. They take time to see what their customer sees and adjust their business accordingly.

Do we do this in agriculture? Do we see ourselves from our customer’s point-of-view? When was the last time you spent time examining your operation from the outside? When was the last time you walked through the grocery store and took a hard look at your product – whether it is beef or cotton or wheat – from the consumer’s perspective? How does the quality of your product compare to competing products? What about price?

We are seeing a number of fundamental shifts in our economy. Fuel prices will soon drive dramatic changes of behavior in how we conduct business and in how consumers allocate their dollars. Transportation costs will force many things to be produced locally that have historically been shipped long distances – such as produce. Are we in agriculture merely riding the tide of the ethanol boom or are we preparing for the inevitable changes that the energy economy will drive?

We are good at managing the numbers. In today’s business environment, if a farmer or rancher can’t manage the numbers he’d better have a second job to support his habit. But, are we good at seeing our industry from the perspective of non-farmers and ranchers? If we educated the public to our business and educated ourselves to what the public truly wants, could we do a better job at providing for their wants and needs? When we can do that, there will be plenty of rewards for the effort. Don’t just focus on the numbers of your business; understand your customer and adjust accordingly.

Also published on Common Sense Agriculture, Conservation and Energy.