Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Cup of Pride

My favorite cup is getting worn,
The emblem is all scratched
But, it still shows school pride.
I guess I am attached.

I know that it's anathema
To purists far and wide,
But sometimes I wash out the stains
That coat the white inside

And when I do the washing
That my cup must then endure
It slowly chips away the paint
That makes it Aggie pure.

Someday I'll replace it with
Another special cup
I'll take a trip to Aggieland
Where I can pick one up!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Gentle Giants

Deep in the woods on our place is this giant old twisted oak tree.  I don't know the specific variety, but it has a different appearance than other trees that are as large.  It is surrounded by trees and yet it stands alone -- it stands out.  I don't know how to explain it except it is just different.

The tree sits about 20 yards away from a deep creek which is one of two which cross our place.  It rises out of a bamboo thicket which is an indicator that it is often flooded when the creeks rise.  It shows only minor signs of disease but, there are a number of branches that truncate in a broken stub.  There are a few holes in the trunk where a branch has broken off and the elements eaten a cavity into the wood.

Other than the bamboo, the ground is fairly clean beneath the tree.  Usually when a branch dies and breaks off it will lie under a tree until it decomposes.  I'm sure the creek washes away anything not anchored to the ground in this area.

I haven't noticed that the tree is infested with insects although it would greatly surprise me if not.  There are no woodpecker holes in the trunk anywhere that I can see.  Most of the trees in our part of the world are full of boring insects and it destroys their usefulness for timber.  This one likely has some defense mechanism that makes it resistant -- unpalatable -- to the local six-legged critters.  That's an indicator it is uncommon to the area.

The tree is a "way mark" on the trail we cut through the woods that takes us across the creeks to the back side of our place.  It is about half way across what we call "the island" -- the area between the creeks.  If someone is not familiar with the place, it is easy to get turned around in the woods.  This tree is one of the landmarks I learned to watch for when I was first getting oriented to the land.

The tree reminds me of some people I have known through the years.  They are people that stand above the crowd for some reason.  I think of them as the "gentle giants" in my life.  In the list I would include a couple of farmers, a college professor, a pastor, a banker and a couple of businessmen.  They weren't "showy" or, focused on drawing attention to themselves as so many are, they simply went about their professions, quietly being the best they could be while investing in the lives of others.  They were the ones I knew I could always turn to for advice and trust what they told me -- even when it wasn't what I wanted to hear.  They were mentors.

Most of them are gone now.  They left their mark on many people -- including me.  We should all aspire to be such.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Standing Against the Flood

We stripped it to its very bones,
The girders made of steel
Anchored in the banks on either side.
The oak with which we planked it
Was fresh-cut sawmill
Hauled about thirty miles.
With cutting torch we cut new holes
For each and every bolt
Then laid that rough-cut timber
One piece at a time
Until the creek was crossed
And then we checked our work
By driving over it with pickup and tractor
Into the hay meadow
Where the green grass needed mowed
An rolled into winter forage
For the cattle whose needs
Were our responsibility
And our privilege.
Then waters came in flood
And rose above the boards
We had so carefully laid.
Debris piled against the side
And lodged on top
But, still our work stood
Against the raging torrent.
We were gratified.
Life is like this bridge we built
Upon the work of those who came before.
Each plank carefully laid and secured
Against the times of storm
Which seek to wash our work away
But, if we do our work well
And anchor each piece securely
It will stand.

"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. -- Ephesians 6:14-15

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Striving for Improvement

In many ways, raising cattle is a series of trial and error.  The key is to find the right combination of cattle for your specific environment.  We are currently on our third iteration of bull/cow breed combinations and feel very good about the results.  In the photo you see one half of our first attempt.  We put purebred Angus bulls on commercial Brangus cows.  The resulting calf crop was described to me by someone who should know as "the front end of the front end."  This pair of bulls was raised by the Bradley 3 Ranch north of Childress, Texas.  They were of great disposition, highly fertile and threw growthy, muscular calves from the Brangus mother cows.  It was definitely a winning combination -- except for one thing.  Brangus cows have wings.

We really could not have asked for better calves, but any time we had to work the cows it was a challenge.  A few of them were just plain crazy.  They were dangerous when confined in the corrals to work.  One of them bent a 2-inch steel pipe with her head simply because she decided to charge it at full speed.  They were also very large and therefore, high energy cost to run.

We had an opportunity come along, totally out of the blue, to sell that piece of land along with all of the livestock.  We took the deal because the individual who approached us wanted it more than we did.  We were out of the Brangus cow business and when we rolled into another piece of land we stocked it with registered Angus cows.  We were so impressed with the bulls that we had purchased, we went back to the Bradley 3 and were able to obtain a nice set of heifers from them.

Because we liked the calves from the Angus/Brangus combination so well, we decided to go with Brangus bulls on the Angus heifers.  We have a good and very knowledgeable friend who helped us to locate some "low birth weight" Brangus bulls and were able to purchase them at an excellent price.  They did their job and we had no calving problems.  The resulting calves were above average, but not in the category that I would call "first class."

As those young cows became "experienced" we switched over to Charolais bulls.  I love the calves we got from them.  They were a little bigger at birth and then took off like a patch of Pigweed after a rain.  The bull/steer calves are heavy muscled and look like weight lifters walking around while the heifer calves are distinctly feminine and yet still larger framed.

Because the Angus cows are more moderate in size than the Brangus we had previously owned, we are able to slightly increase stocking rates.  They are gentle, low maintenance and excellent mothers.  I attribute that to the Bradley 3 genetics.  Despite everyone in this area telling us Angus cows can't handle the heat, they seem to do quite well.  They will shade up during the worst heat, but all have maintained good flesh through the summers and seem to thrive even during dry conditions when the forage is of poorer quality -- much better than our neighbors cattle with Brahman influence.

My point isn't to talk about our cattle so much as it is to say that in business of any kind you sometimes need to go through a number of major changes to find the right combination that works.  It can sometimes be expensive in the short run, but in the long run it pays in Spades.  It may be replacing an inefficient production line, or changing organizational structure.  It could be as simple as changing vacation or, sick leave policy.  The key is to continually be looking for ways to improve -- continuous process improvement.

It applies to our personal lives as well....

Here's one of this year's steer calves.

Friday, August 16, 2019

I Heard What You Said, Just Not What You Meant

Listening is one of the most difficult things to do for many people.  It is especially difficult for people in sales.  Our mind is focused on what we are going to say and not what is being said to us.

Often the words register, but not the intent.  It is usually because we miss the subtle clues that reveal that intent because again, we are thinking about our response, or about our own message.  We miss the non-verbal, or we misunderstand context.

I learned a long time ago that I am most effective as part of a team.  This is just as important in selling as it is in many other aspects of life.  The bad thing is that my preference is to go it alone on most things.  I am comfortable with myself and being alone doesn't bother me as it does some.  I am perfectly happy with silence and no interruptions.

Learning how to work as a team takes practice and perhaps a bit of training.  We can train ourselves if we want, because it is a matter of learning to allow space for others.  Most people are so completely self-absorbed that they struggle to allow space for others.  It's "all about me" is becoming so ingrained into U.S. society, that to be anything else is an anomaly. 

Being part of a team is difficult because it means sharing the glory when we win and sharing the defeat otherwise.  We can't take all the credit and we have to accept the blame -- even if, in our mind, it wasn't our fault.  We need to realize though, that it is always our fault.  What do I mean by that?  I mean we must be proactive in our preparation, proactive in our planning, proactive in the team-building that will keep us, as a team, from anything but our best effort.

That doesn't mean heavy-handedness; it means caring.  We need to care as much for the success of others on our team as we do for our own.  Whoa, that one is tough.  I thought it was all about climbing over the bodies on the way up?  Wrong.  It is about taking as many with us as we can possibly get in the boat.

I suppose this post is a bit rambling, but maybe there is something here of value.  My main point was intended to be that we aren't very good listeners, but where I seemed to end up is that we are most effective as part of a team even though society is telling us otherwise. 

There's an old adage in sales that you should 1) tell them what you're going to talk about, 2) talk about it and then 3) tell them what you said.  Hopefully, since I fumbled the first point you will figure out what I meant....

Thursday, August 15, 2019

That Tiny, Narrow Line

Though the path is clearly shown,
The Great Paralyzer,
Sends trembling through our soul
And we turn our back
To the promised land,
That those who have entered in
Did so
By means unworthy,

And we sit with those who with us
From Opportunity
Which like a shining light is ever there,
To point the blame
To others fault,
Their achievement as we sit
In judgement
Of what they have done.

Opportunity is something that is ever before us.  The trouble with opportunity is that it often requires us to take chances -- to get so completely out of our comfort zone that we turn away in fear that we will fail.  So many times I have been in groups that talk badly about those whose achievements are clearly a result of their willingness to take the risk and go for the prize waiting ahead.  They have a  tendency to blame anyone but themselves and face their unwillingness to accept the risk and "go for it."  That's when I move on.  I want to spend time with those who have taken a chance and now live their dreams.  Often I find that the difference between the successful and the "complainer" is that tiny, narrow line which one stepped over and from which the other turned in fear.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dreams of Youth

I saw there in the distance,
Taking shape before my eye,
A tower of water vapor
Reaching upward to the sky.

The promise that it offered
Caused my heart within me leap
In joy for cooling moisture
That across the Plains did creep.

The swelling, spreading blossom
Seemed slowly drawing nigh
Yet in the heat it fizzled;
It was all an awful lie.

There within me sank
The beating organ in my chest
As I saw the withered grasses
Stretching far into the west.

I knew that it was normal,
Part of life's great ebb and flow;
I couldn't help but ponder
Why it sent my feelings low.

Deep within my being
Tiny sparks came into sight
Of dreams that had been shattered
Yet, still there was a light

Shining brightly in the distance,
Growing clearer in my head,
Of good times now remembered
In this life that I have led.

The things that once I cherished
Were now no longer sought;
Replaced by higher treasures
Which love and tears had bought

And I saw the fleeting vanity
Of each and every goal,
Knowing time, with healing answers,
Would bring peace within my soul.

Rising there before me
Were the things I'd held in vain
Dissolving in the droplets
Of gently falling rain.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


Badges of honor
For battles won
Against all odds.

Signs the enemy
Was engaged
And overcome.

Remain behind
After healing time
Has moved beyond.

Written deeply
Into the very nature
Of life lived fully.

Of the Fighter,
The Perseverer,
The Overcomer.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Climate Change Quarterbacks

Some folks are observers
As they pass through this old life;
They prefer the grandstand
With a perch high above
The nitty-gritty going on the field.
Often, they carry on
A running commentary --
A critical analysis of everything they see
But, in which have never participated
As if they were experts
In the field.
They see the execution
Of well-coordinated movement
Which sometimes doesn't
Work as planned
Because there is opposition
Equally bent on succeeding.
Those spectators
See only a small part
Because they had no involvement
In the preparation,
The investment,
The time spent
Honing skills
And developing plans.
They have no
Sweat and blood and tears
Poured into the ground of battle
Yet, they rage on
With blame
When the results on the field
Don't match
The expectations
Of these sideline quarterbacks.

So it is with the beef industry
Which daily fights the battle
Against the elements
To bring food to the table
Of hungry people
Who criticize them
For what they do
More efficiently
And sustainably
Than could have been imagined
By generations
Who have come before
And paved the way.
Climate change?
Look to your steel
And concrete
And luxurious living
As you jet around the world
Burning fossil fuel.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Coffee and Cinnamon Rolls

It's that time of year when all of the cows
Look for a swimming hole
To cool their hides and drown some flies,
Drink coffee and eat cinnamon rolls.

Well, I've never offered 'em coffee
And as to a cinnamon roll?
I wouldn't give it to my cows
It's for filling my own pie hole.

I've been to Alaska and even to Maine
And they sound good this time of year
'Cause it's hotter than Hades here in this place
And it's cooking this old hide I fear.

Every August it gets this way
It happens each trip without fail;
I'd like to replace it with April or, June
In that calendar up on the nail.

The grass is all brown, trees dropping leaves
And the water dried up in the creek;
I got stopped by a rabbit with half-empty canteen
Asking directions to the nearest water leak.

Texas in August is not for the meek
And no home for the Heavenly Host;
It serves as reminder to straighten our ways
Or, He'll give us to Satan to roast!