Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Confederate Battle Flag Controversy

Racial tensions between blacks and non-blacks seem to be at the highest level they have been in many years -- at least according to our politicians and members of the media.  I haven't observed that heightened tension.  Is it because of where I live? -- deep East Texas where the mix of the skin colors is at a nearly equal level.  I recently spent several days in Virginia and North Carolina where much of the Civil War was fought.  I saw black, white, brown and other skin colors freely mixing everywhere that I went.  They were laughing, conversing, sitting at the same table eating meals and there seemed to be nothing but amiability among them.

I did not travel to the inner city of the major metropolitan areas.  Perhaps that is where the issue is seated.  Poverty breeds discontent -- as it should.  The discontent should lead to efforts to remedy the situation.  I was taught that it is by my own efforts that I will succeed.  Maybe the problem lies in that many of those in the inner cities were taught it is only through government intervention and handouts that their situation can be bettered.  Human nature is such that going back to the same solution becomes habit and if that solution is no longer doing the job, the result is complaint rather than seeking new solutions.

I see the Confederate Battle Flag as a symbol of resistance.  It has nothing to do with slavery in my mind.  It is a symbol of standing up to the bully -- in the historic sense, standing up to the bully of a Federal Government taking away long-standing rights of the citizens.  Prior to the time of the Civil War, states were allowed significant latitude in how they addressed most issues.  The Federal Government was, by the Constitution, limited in power to things like treaties, international commerce, interstate commerce and defending our country.  The period leading up to the Civil War saw an increasing level of Federal interference with rights previously reserved to the states. 

Yes, slavery was an issue.  It was driven by economic circumstances and the inherent evil in man to exert power over others.  The South was primarily an agricultural based economy in a time prior to automation.  The North was primarily an industrial based economy dependent on other geographic areas for raw material to supply their industry.  Therein lies much of the issue.  The North was dependent in many ways on the South.  They wanted control and they had a tremendous amount of power.  One might say they wished to enslave the South.

The Southerners resisted the exertion of Federal control over them.  It was a difficult decision for them.  The interdependency between the two regions was strong, but worldwide demand for the items produced in the South provided the opportunity to sell to other markets and allow them the ability to overcome that dependency.  The North had fewer options.  They needed the cheap raw goods to continue fueling their industrial economy.  Importing goods from other countries would be extremely expensive and therefore unfeasible.  Their only answer was to stop the Southern states from leaving the Union. Therefore, war.

The war wasn't really about slavery.  The North was just as dependent on slavery as was the South.  The cheap agricultural products needed for Northern industry were cheap because of slavery.  It just occurred at a time in history concurrent with efforts to abolish slavery; efforts just as strong in the South as in the North.  Slavery became a convenient scapegoat after the war to point the blame away from the aggressors -- namely Northern industrialists -- and to the losers of the conflict.  The winners tend to write the history after all.

When the Civil War broke out, there were large numbers of slaves in the North as well as the South.  Most of them in the North were serving in domestic capacities within the households of the wealthy -- the Captains of Industry and the Politicians.  They were replaceable at a cost.  The wealthy could hire cheap Irish and other immigrant labor to replace their slaves.  In the South, there was not a ready replacement for the slave labor.

When Lincoln freed the slaves during the war, it was only those in the Southern states.  Northern slaves were not freed until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified.  Freeing slaves in the South was a move to cripple what remained of the Southern economy to make it more difficult for them to sustain their war effort -- much as the U.S. Cavalry killed all the buffalo to cripple the economic base of the Plains Indians a few short years later.

The Confederate Battle Flag has nothing to do with slavery, or with oppression of blacks.  It is a symbol of resistance to an oppressive Federal Government.

Should it fly over the South Carolina Statehouse?  That is an entirely different question.  Maybe we should begin with "why?"  Is it flown as a symbol of the historic role South Carolina played in the resistance to the Northern usurpation of state's power?  After all, the first shots fired in the rebellion were at Fort Sumter.  If so, it is a strong symbol of their identity and should remain.  Or, is it a remnant of the once-powerful Southern Democratic Party which was controlled by many who were KKK members and wished to use it as a symbol to keep blacks in subjugation to whites?  If that is the case, it should be removed.

Maybe the more important question that should be asked is, "what is next?"  The South seems, even today, to continue its resistance to an ever-more-powerful Federal Government.  Maybe more Statehouses should consider raising the Battle Flag.......

Just my thoughts.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Coffee Jitters

I like a steaming cup of Joe
To start my every day;
It helps to clear the morning fog
And send me on the way.

Two cups before I head to work
Seems just the thing I need;
One won't do and more than two
Sends my motor in high speed.

But, days like this, so wet and cold
Cause me to want to sip
About a gallon of the stuff
At a slow and stately clip.

Then sometime 'long about mid-day
It catches up to me
And I find myself begin to shake
In my extremities.

Wondering what is wrong with me
With head that's all a-buzz
I set my shaking cup right down
And get up to shake the fuzz.

I eat some food and take a break
Trying to clear my head
And find I just can't keep my mind
From wandering instead.

Then 'long about late afternoon
When I am feeling weak,
I crave to fall asleep in bed;
It's all I wish to seek.

Such a toll this humble brew
Wreaks on this body mine,
I swear I'll quit this awful stuff....
But, then I smell that smell divine.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Thankful to be Inside Today

Rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow and a little thunder -- that's the weather report folks!  Just day before yesterday I was taking photos of a tree that is almost in full leaf. 

So far the freezing rain has been on surfaces above ground -- like my windshield, the pickup door that I was barely able to open, the gate that was frozen shut -- but, not the streets.  Maybe it will stay warm enough the streets won't freeze over.  They called off school in the event that it might.

I shouldn't complain.  There have been no power outages that I am aware of.  With all the trees around here, accumulating ice can be a real problem due to broken branches taking out power lines. 

This is the kind of weather where you want to build a fire in the fireplace, warm up some hot chocolate and get a good book.  Instead, some of us have little choice but to report to work.

We complain about the weather a lot.  It's either too hot or, too cold or, too wet.  Rarely do we get those days that are just right and yet, most of us in this country work indoors where the weather really doesn't affect us too much.  Instead of complaining we should be thankful.  There are folks who are out working in it no matter what the weather is like. 

Once upon a time I wanted to be a cowboy.  I know a bunch of folks who make their living in the saddle.  They're out there in this mess.  It's the time of year when the baby calves start coming.  There are countless individuals out riding the pastures, looking for that young cow off by herself with a newborn.  The cowboy is bundled up, probably wearing a slicker and gloves, but he's cold.  The wet cold just seeps in and chills to the bone.  That's why they are out there.  It affects those newborn calves the same way. 

They will be doing everything they can to warm that calf up so he will survive -- even to the point of carrying them across their lap as they ride to the barn with the momma cow, head up and snorting, following at a safe distance -- or, maybe not so safe distance for the cowboy.  Hopefully, she will follow all the way into the barn where they will be sheltered from the storm.

It is a noble life and a hard one. 

Yeah, I'm thankful for a job in an office on days like today.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Rainy Weekend Forecast and My Real Focus

Working a full time job makes it hard to do the things I want to at the ranch.  It is worse when the weekend weather doesn't cooperate.  We have had beautiful weather this week, but starting today it is supposed to rain and continue through the weekend. 

I can get some things done if it isn't too heavy, but if it is a "soaker" I am stuck indoors for the most part. 

Part of my current job is in new customer development.  I have been spending a lot of my time building prospect lists and starting the process of turning them into customers.  This business, just like most that I have been involved in, is one in which it takes awhile to develop a new customer -- they don't normally jump on board immediately.

I haven't yet figured out what the "sales cycle" is for loan customers.  It is a matter of developing a relationship.  If you think about it, most people don't change banks unless they move.  My target customers are long-established agricultural businesses.  They have banking relationships. 

The thing that sets us apart from others though, is our personal involvement in agriculture -- particularly cattle production -- and plenty of years of experience.  Not many banks are interested in doing cattle loans, but it is something we love.  And more importantly, we have the experience to understand the business like very few banks do.

Now, how did I go from thinking about what the weather is doing to my weekend plans to how my job is about sales?  Probably because that's where my mind is focused at the moment.....

I guess I'd better get with it!


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Getting Serious

There are a lot of weighty things going on in this old world.  If I began a list of them here, it would stretch for page after page (or, is that screen after screen?).  When I allow myself to dive into thoughts of all that is going on I become angry, or depressed, or I choose to "wall myself off" and focus on less weighty things. 

But, the relevant question is, "If not me, then who?"

Nothing gets "fixed" until good people step up and work to improve the situation.  But, can I really do anything about ISIS, or children starving in India, or ocean degradation, or drug and human trafficking, or any of the myriad other issues haunting this world?  Well, yeah, I can.  What I mean is, although I can't "fix" them by myself, I can effect positive change in some or all of those issues.

"How?" you might ask. 

By doing all that I can each day to make a positive difference in the life of someone.

The above statement sounds a bit like a mantra from secular humanism.  We hear it in slogans such as "Pay it forward."  They are great slogans and, if humanity was primarily benevolent, they might ultimately make a positive difference.  Hmmm.....back to ISIS.  I don't think there is anything benevolent about them.

The reality is that unless the nature of the person is changed, nothing changes.  The only power that can truly change us is the power of Jesus Christ.  I pray that you will seek Him with all of your heart. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Brush and Thorns

I know that I have posted recently about clearing brush from fence rows on our place.  I am also clearing brush and junk trees from all over the place.  In fact, there is at least 40 acres of junk trees growing where it should be clear pasture with the occasional, scattered oak tree for shade.  It's a messy tangle of thorns where there should be grass.

I could hire someone with a bulldozer to come in and clear the land.  It would be much quicker and also very much more expensive.  Dozer work for clearing brush runs from $85 to $135 per hour depending on the size of dozer that I hire.  It would take at least a couple of weeks to get the job done, but it would be done. 

I could do it that way, but I guess I have a stubborn streak in me that wants to do the job myself.  So, at least for the time being, I am working away at it with a chainsaw and tractor.  It's a good way to wear out leather gloves and a good way to sweat off a few pounds.  Progress is slow though and it is occasionally hard on me when I am punctured by the thorns.

The only way to really imagine what I mean by thorns is to show you a picture.

The thorn in the picture is sticking out of the main trunk of one of the trees I cut on Saturday.  It is about 4 inches long.  The tree is covered in them -- not just on the branches, but the trunk and major limbs as well. 

I have to cut my way through the thorny branches in order to get to the trunk so that I can take the tree down. 

You can't tell from this photo, but this tree is about 12 inches in diameter at the base.  There were limbs sticking out of it all the way to ground level. 

The downed tree farthest from me is the one in the above pictures.  You can see a few smaller ones in the foreground.  Looking in the distance you can see scattered trees that are similar.  In the far distance is a line of trees -- all the same stuff.  It may take awhile.

I am cutting the trees up for firewood and piling the limbs for burning.  The stumps have to be treated to prevent re-growth.  I'm told they will rot in a couple of years if treated.  I sure hope so!

If you need some firewood, let me know.  It is cut your own and there is plenty of it.  But, it is also free if you will pile the limbs neatly and cut only the trees that I want cut!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Little Travel

I spent a lot of years traveling for work.  I know that I've posted about it before, but it is what is on my mind. 

For the past year, I haven't had to travel much.  It might be because I was semi-unemployed/self-employed/underemployed/whatever you want to call it.  But, with my new job, there will be a small amount of travel.

I got in late last night from Milwaukee.  I attended a school for learning about a new software we are installing here at work. 

Being new to my job, I had a hard time following some of it.  It wasn't so much the software that was difficult, but the acronyms and jargon used that was related to the products we would be using the software to manage.  I have yet to get fully up to speed on some of those things.

It has been my practice when traveling to see a few of the local sights if time allowed.  Milwaukee being on the shores of Lake Michigan meant that a brief trip to the shore was desirable -- if we could just get there in the daylight!  Fortunately, the last day, we had some time to do so.  Photos are posted below.


I also had to sample the local foods.  The deep-fried cheese curds and a variety of sausages were delicious!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sleep Where Ar't Thou.....

Don't you just hate those nights when you can't sleep well?  It may be that it is difficult to fall asleep for some reason, or worse yet, you go to bed exhausted and fall immediately to sleep, only to wake up an hour later and toss and turn the rest of the night.  Yeah, that was my night last night.

I was tired and went to bed at a reasonable hour.  I read some before turning out the light which is normal for me.  I must have fallen asleep almost immediately.  Then about 11:30 I woke up and felt as though I never truly went back to sleep again.

My head was filled with thoughts of loans and cattle and projects that needed done and on and on.  Nothing that I was really worried about, just thinking about them.  I couldn't turn it off.  I tried every technique I could think of.  Nothing seemed to work.  So, I tossed and turned.

One thing I've noticed on nights like that is the side I am lying on affects what I think about.  I can usually change my train of though by turning over and laying on my other side.  It probably has something to do with the fluid flows in my brain.  There does seem to be some correlation between the side on which I am lying and the type of thinking.  One side is more analytical and the other is more creative.  I suppose that ties with left-brain, right-brain thinking.

Anyway, today I get to deal with the consequences of less than the optimum amount of sleep.  I can usually convince myself that it doesn't matter -- at least for awhile.  But, by mid-afternoon it will likely catch up to me unless I can stay really busy. 

Don't you hate it when that happens -- especially on a Friday!  It may make for a really long day.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Cold and Dreary Day

The sound of gentle rain
Seeps into my consciousness
As I awaken
Moments before the alarm.

A sense of dreariness,
Much like the promised day,
My still-tired body.

The routine of shower,
Breakfast, shave and dress
Does little
To break the spell of weariness.

The mist is too light for continuous
Yet, too much for intermittent
On my windshield wipers.

The sound of tires
On wet pavement
Is monotonous
As I make my way to work.

The office is quiet.
The conversations muted.
It is wet
And cold outside.

My desire is elsewhere,
And it calls to me
In silence,
Adding to the moodiness

That marks my path today......

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cattle Working Facility

Yesterday I posted about Progress.  One of the things that I mentioned was the progress on our new corrals/vet barn.  I thought today a few photos might be in order.

The support posts have been set for the roof of the structure that will cover the working area.

The pile of sand is for mixing the concrete foundation for the Vet Shack and chute/scales.

Here are the forms for the foundation/floor of the Vet Shack.

I ordered all of the corral panels and chute from Priefert.  The chute/scales, etc. will be under the roof so we can work cattle even in the rain.

When we unloaded all of these in the late evening about 1 1/2 weeks ago, we just stacked them as best we could near the area where we planned to build the facility.
It's good to see some progress at the place.  It won't be long now before we will be ready to start turning out cattle.
I will try to occasionally post a few pictures of what is happening out there.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Random Thoughts on Progress

Yesterday the contractor started work on our barn/vet shed at the ranch.  It will take them a couple of weeks to complete the structure -- not because of size, but because concrete will have to dry.  It is just a simple structure, but important to our cattle working.

It's good to see progress. 

One of my co-workers rode out with me after work yesterday to check the progress.  As I drove him around the place and we looked, I was struck by the piles of brush and cut wood and obvious progress that has been made on the cleanup of old fence and brush.  It made me feel pretty good that the aches in my muscles were generated from a good deal of obvious progress. 

There's always a cost to progress. 

Things are starting to happen here at work as well.  I am now into my second month and it seems that the "learning curve" has been steep.  Now it is time to apply what I have been learning.  Yesterday, we put together a "hit list" of prospective customers for me to go visit.  I even had the opportunity to visit with one of them yesterday.  It was a very positive conversation that will hopefully result in new business.  It is important to feel productive.

Productivity is a form of progress.

Perhaps it is arrogant of me to think so, but in spite of my slow start at developing new business, I believe I have made a positive impact on things here at work.  My contributions have been small in some ways -- such as a spreadsheet to make a somewhat complex calculation easier.  Much of what I feel that I have contributed is simply a product of my gray hair -- or, at least, the experience that helped to turn it gray.  I can be a sounding board for some of the younger ones here.  It is amazing what a calm demeanor can do for the "atmosphere" in a workplace.

A peaceful environment allows progress.

The "slowness" here at work has had another benefit.  It has given me time to think.  Time to plan, time to learn, time to knit relationships -- all of these things are important to becoming effective. 

Planning is progress.

Now, it is time to take action on the plans.  Even as I was able to visit with one of the prospects on my list yesterday, I felt "traction" for executing my plan.  I know there will be refinements along the way, but planning without action is an exercise in vanity.  Imperfect plans -- and all plans are imperfect -- are merely a guide for action.  Until action occurs, nothing results.

Action is progress.

What is the goal toward which I am working?  That is something that I have clearly defined in my head, but which I won't share in this public venue.  The key, though, is that it is clearly defined and my plan, if executed well, will lead to accomplishing the goals which act as milestones along the path to the destination that is a clearly formed vision in my head.

Progress leads us along the path to our Vision.

Just my thoughts this morning.....


Monday, February 2, 2015


Working a full-time job during the week means that I have only the occasional hour or so after work to devote to the ranch.  Of course, those snatched hours are dependent on being able to get away shortly after 5:00 which rarely happens.  I keep a change of clothes in the pickup just in case though.  I will be glad when the days get longer and there is more daylight in the evenings so that I can get in a little time doing all the things that need done!

Since there is so little time during the week, I squeeze in as much as possible on the weekend.  It is up early and get to work.  So, I really aren't getting the kind of break that most people crave -- my weekend away from work turns into a weekend of work.  It's my choice though. 

The physical labor is good for me in numerous ways.  One benefit is that there is no need for a gym membership.  Another is that it gives me time outdoors.  Sunshine and fresh air are important to good health.  The best benefit to me though, is the "think" time.  Physical labor is a break from the mental grind of the week.

Our property has many acres of invasive trees.  Most of which are, I think, black locust.  They have thorns like nails.  I am working on clearing the ones growing in some of the old fence rows which I am taking out and also will eventually try to clear them from the property entirely. 

Saturday was a nice day -- other than a little wind ahead of a cool front that was expected that evening.  We had a chance of showers moving into the area so I wanted to start early enough to get as much as possible done before the rain. 

To make a long story short, I stayed after it until almost 4:00 by which time I was exhausted.  Rather than head into town for a shower and easy chair, I decided to spend some time in the woods.  Walking in the woods is peaceful relaxation for me -- even if I am tired.  This time of year is the best.  The summers here are unbearably hot and the woods are stifling because of the humidity.

It was about 6:30 when I pulled out the front gate to head home.  It was dark.  I was hungry.  I had sore muscles I didn't know I had. 

I forget that I have aged.  Hopefully by mid-week I will recover......


Friday, January 30, 2015

Hurrying to Work

Yesterday, after I got off work from my "day job," I headed out to the ranch to try and accomplish something before the sun went down.  I changed clothes in the middle of the pasture and spent about an hour dragging and piling brush before it became so dark that I couldn't see anymore. 

That might seem a little strange to some folks.  It in fact would have seemed strange to me once upon a time.  I recall times in my career when I couldn't wait for the workday to end so that I could go home and "do nothing" for a little while.  It wasn't a lack of ambition, it was more a lack of understanding.

We had corral panels and a chute delivered this past weekend.  A young man doing some "moonlighting" delivered them on Sunday afternoon.  He made it to our place around 5:15 p.m.  If you think about it, that's just nearly dark.  He had made other deliveries earlier in the day.  By the time we pulled out of the gate it was 7:15 -- well after dark.  It was the first time I'd driven through the pasture by headlight.  The mud holes aren't quite as easy to spot!

That young man will be successful.  He puts in a 40-hour week working as a welder for a factory and then has started his own welding business on the side.  He also does deliveries for folks like me.  He understands that it takes hard work and putting in the extra time in order to get ahead. 

Most people at my age are thinking of retirement.  I guess that I am too, but I see retirement as just a new phase of my career.  It doesn't mean sitting in front of a television and becoming a vegetable, it means doing what I have always wanted to do. 

I'm not at the point that I can rely solely upon it for a living right now, but I'm working that direction. 

It reminds me of a time many years ago when I got into Amway.  One of the things they recommend you do is to make a list of the most successful people you know.  Then, you contact them and attempt to schedule a time to show them the business plan.  I remember doing that. 

Number one on my list was a very successful farmer/cattleman who had numerous business interests.  I called him.  He said come on over, I'd like to look.  I did.  He listened, asked questions and then said, "I don't think this is for me, but I'd like you to show this to a couple of my kids."  I did and one of them got in the business.

The most important thing that occurred in that meeting though was something he said to me while still sitting at the bar in his kitchen.  He told me that whatever I ultimately chose to do with my life, I would be successful.  I asked why he would say that.  He said, "Look around you.  Do you see anyone else sitting in my kitchen talking to me about a business plan at 9:00 in the evening?  Keep doing what you are doing -- putting in the hours -- and you will be successful.  It isn't about luck or anything else.  You will get out of life what you put into it."

So, after work today, if it is still daylight, I plan to put in a little more time on our place.  We are trying to get it ready to receive cattle.  Lots of labor involved, but well worth it. 

Whatever your dream, don't give up on it.  Work for it.  Stay focused.  With hard work and perseverance you just might see it realized some day.....


Thursday, January 29, 2015


Yesterday I attended a Cattlemen's Conference along with the President of our bank.  We were a sponsor and had a booth.  Since leaving my last job I have missed doing that sort of thing.  I always enjoyed Trade Shows and Conferences. 

Our purpose was to hopefully make a few contacts that could be developed into new business.  We came away with several.  It is now my job to follow up and follow through to turn those contacts into customers.

It was gratifying.  When we returned to the bank late yesterday, the President commented that I was a "pro" at it.  I guess I should be after doing Trade Shows and events for the past 20+ years.  It felt like I was home......


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Plumbing Problems

Sometimes wisdom is knowing the difference between when to attempt the repair yourself and when to call in the expert. 

On the surface it looked like a simple clog.  So, I unclogged it.  The problems began when I discovered a crack in the pipe.  I quickly realized it was old a friable and prone to break with little pressure.  It was no place for an amateur.

We called a plumber.  I'm glad we did.  It ended up costing less and taking much less time that it likely would have if I had continued to "know what to do"......

Yep, been there, done that kind of wisdom is the kind that sticks with you.


Monday, January 26, 2015


We recently purchased a piece of property that had been somewhat neglected for many years.  Much of the pasture has been allowed to be overtaken by trees and brush.  The fences are in extreme disrepair and grown up with trees and small shrubs.  The corral is still in decent shape because it was made of steel pipe, but it is poorly designed and appears to have been built in the 1960's.  The attached loafing shed is falling down and the tin is ripped and coming off of it.  In short, there is much work to be done to get the place back the way it should be to become productive again.

It takes time, money and lots of hard work to rehabilitate land.  Some of it we are hiring done but, much of the labor will be supplied by us.  The last couple of weekends have been spent tearing out old fence.  The wire is rusted and tangled with briar.  In places the trees have grown through the fence.  Some of the trees are 6 - 8 inches in diameter and the wire goes through the center of the tree.  Upon counting the rings after cutting some similar sized trees, it appears some are about 30 years old.  That means the fence hasn't been cared for since the mid-80's.

It is a slow process by manual labor.  I could hire a bulldozer to come in and push it all up in a big pile and burn, then bury the mess.  I don't really want to do that if I can avoid it.  Instead, we are cutting the wire out of the tangle so that it can be hauled to the scrap yard.  Some of the bigger trees will become firewood.  The T-posts are too rusted to re-use so they also will go to the scrap yard.  The smaller brush will be piled and burned.

Needless to say, I don't have to worry about going to the gym for exercise.  I am getting it in abundance clearing fence lines.  The physical labor is good for me.  After all, I am like most of us in that I have probably neglected my own physical condition, much like the fence has been neglected.  I wonder if I can get back to the shape I was in 30 years ago!  I doubt it, but I am certain I can be better than I am. 

The one thing not clear in this photo is that everything -- and I mean everything -- has thorns.  Most of the trees are black locust.  Google it.  The thorns are big as nails.  Tangled through everything is a plant called green briar.  Mixed in with those are dewberry vines and primrose -- all with thorns.  And there are other trees and shrubs that I have yet to identify -- also covered with thorns. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Full Circle

It would be appropriate to say that my career has come full circle.  Although it was not my first job out of college, my first career choice was banking. 

When I was at A&M, a very wise individual asked me the question, "If you could do anything for a career, what would it be?"  I answered, "Rancher."

He then proceeded to ask me about resources that I might have at my disposal.  "Does your family own a ranch?" -- No.  "Do you have lots of money?" -- No.  "Do you have someone with lots of money to help you get started?" -- No.  "Will you inherit a bunch of money?" -- No.  "Then, the best advice I can give you is that there is 'more than one way to skin a cat.'"

He told me that I should hold onto that dream, but I would have to find some indirect means of achieving it.  I chose agricultural lending.

When I graduated, I wasn't clear on how to start my career.  I just wanted a job.  Fortunately, that same wise individual (who by the way was my advisor) helped me to get a job.  He warned me that it wouldn't be a high paying job, but that it might open some doors.  It certainly didn't pay much, but it gave me a practical education in how the world works.  I worked for a politician.

My second job was in agricultural lending.  I must confess however, I soon found out I didn't love it.  It was another education.  My supervisor was lazy and used me more as a gopher than a loan officer.  I didn't learn as much as I should have at the time.  It took little more than a year though, to be recruited by another financial institution with whom I stayed for about 7 years.

It was a tough time to be in the lending business.  Interest rates were high, the economy in turmoil and I spent a good deal of time collecting my predecessor's bad decisions.  I again learned much.

I left lending with the idea that I wanted to be on the other side of the loan desk.  I wanted to focus on making an idea/dream come to life rather than searching for why and how it might fall flat.  I wanted to build businesses. 

I spent the next 23 years doing just that; growing businesses.  Most were for someone else, but in recent years I have had ownership interest.

Now, I am back in the financial industry in the role of agricultural loan officer.  But, the world looks different today than it did back in the 80's.  Yes, there is plenty of turmoil in the economy, but now I look at loans with the knowledge that comes from "been there, done that" and it puts things into an entirely new perspective. 

I am looking forward to this next phase of my career.  I see it as my role to help people to achieve their dreams by giving them sound financial advice.  God has an interesting way of growing us to where we need to be.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Another Year -- And It's Going to be a Good One!

Another year is past.  Welcome to 2015!  When I wrote those words a few minutes after Midnight in a Facebook post, I followed them with, "Sounds like the title of a science fiction movie...."  If you are my age or older, you will understand.

I can recall as a much younger person wondering if I would see the new century.  In 1978, I would have been 20 years old.  The new century was farther away than the number of years I had already lived at that time.  I think when I was that age I expected to go out in a "fiery crash" before I was 39.

As we age, we become wiser.  Most of it is by default -- "the fault" of mistakes made and lived through such as touching a hot stove and realizing you didn't want to do that again! 

As I think about this past year I don't see many of those mistakes.  Other than the first couple of months, it was almost a Sabbatical Year for me.  I left my job in March and since that time I have been self-employed.  Perhaps semi-self-employed is a better description.  I have spent some time writing and taught myself to paint with watercolor.  I have done some consulting work (and actually got paid for it!).  I spent a lot of time in our cow/calf operation and in November we sold it along with the land.  In December we bought another small "ranch" and I have started spending some time getting it ready to receive cattle.

The pace was reasonably slow and I had a break from the seemingly constant travel of many years.  Now, I am going back into the world of the fully employed -- maybe even over-employed!  We are in the process of starting up a stocker calf operation on our land and I just took a full-time job at the bank which I start on Monday.  I also have agreed to do a regular magazine article for a trade publication -- CALF News.  (Click here to see the last article I wrote for them on pages 26-27.)

In many ways, this has been the pattern of my life through the years.  It seems that God has built a few "breaks" into my career that were perfectly timed which prepared me for the next phase of His plan for me.  I am grateful.  I don't do well with too much idle time on my hands, but I also tend to push pretty hard when I have plenty to do.  So, I wear myself out and then need a break. 

The world seems to work that way.  I believe it was Designed that way.  Spring is a time of growing and blooming which quickly turns to Summer when the fruits of our labor begin to ripen in preparation for Fall harvest which fades to a Winter of rest.  The Bible tells us to do our labor in six days and rest on the seventh -- just as God did in the Creation.  Our lives are lived in much the same way.  I have been fortunate in being able to do much the same through several different careers.

Now, I am coming full circle.  Other than spending a little over a year "extending my education" through my first job working for a politician, I have returned to my first true career -- banking.  I am going to be a loan officer again.  I spent almost 7 years lending money many years ago.  That was before I had any real business experience.  Now, I will look at the ideas and dreams that people bring to me through the eyes of someone who has been there.  I am looking forward to helping them realize those dreams.

I think 2015 is going to be a very good year.  I'm not too excited with what is going on in Washington these days, but people will figure out a way to overcome the barriers that the political leeches seek to place in the way of their success.  I still believe, after all these years, in the American Dream and the can-do spirit that permeates rural America.  I am looking forward to using what I have learned through the years in a new way.  Yep, it's going to be a good year.  I have decided.