I have said several times in the past I have the best job in the world. Over the past twenty years I have been living the life of a country music star (classic country, not modern) or a rodeo cowboy with a guaranteed win. Flying around doing demonstrations and riding lots of good horses and working cattle, with some good, good people. It’s the best job in the world.
Last week I went and helped my brothers and the crew at Pate Auction Service do the state of Montana surplus vehicle auction. It was cold and snowy all day but I love to sell and really enjoyed it. Brothers Doug and Dan have taken over the business from the folks and have evolved with the times of technology and internet. I admire what they are doing and how they are a good team.
My first memories of auctions are yellow legal pads to design sale posters and taking the pictures to the printers and laying out it out. The clerk system was all filed by hand and the mailing list was on a rolladex. We would all spend a day labeling and putting stamps on brochures and go all around putting them up in cafes and feed stores.
There is so much more to an auction than bid calling, but that’s the part I like. Even though it was a miserable day, we sold the heck out of things and it was the best job in the world for me that day. When I was much younger I used to love setting up auctions and going out of town and working and staying on the road. At that time in my life it was the best job in the world.
I have been really busy lately. The 63 Ranch has a lot that needs done. Around 50 head of horses to take care of, cabins, lodge and buildings to winterize and machinery to buy and use, hay to buy, cattle to buy, and I suppose I need to figure out where my boundary fences are. We are cleaning up 100 years of accumulations from a time when nothing was thrown away. And I mean nothing!
Everything so far has been pretty physical and I’m getting into shape. I like cleaning things up as when you are done you can really see the difference you made. It’s interesting to see how people did things, and a place can have a pretty good cover on it, but when you go to cleaning up and maintaining things, you can tell a good manager and a poor manager real quick.
Growing up, I had four real different influences in my life. My Dad was a hard worker and new how to build fence and ranch stuff right, but would hire qualified workers to do the things he didn’t do well. He was a good business man and could make money running the business to hire work done.. My step Dad was very good at building and working on things. He could wire, mechanic, and new how to carpenter right. That was a big part of the kind of farm/ranch operations he and my mother ran. They would do most things themselves and had good modern tools and modern Ranching and farming techniques. They were hard workers and had lots going on but always struggled to make it work as did most people in the 70s and 80s.
My Grandpa Ed didn’t fix things he tore things up. He had to work at places that he only worked livestock or people. He could build fence and feedlots, but he did not care about equipment. He was a livestock man, and a good one.
My Grandfather Leanard came through the tough times and never really got out of them. (He had lots of money, just didn’t know what to do with it or how to spend it.) He made money with livestock and land and did not spend much money on anything else. Much of the stuff I am throwing away is just what I grew up making work. We had a little lean to shop with a single box of tools(no sockets) a grease gun, a few old funnels and a bunch of bins of used bolts, lag screws, hammers, saws, fencing pliers, golden rod fence stretcher,shovel, double bitted axe and a tamping bar.
We had an old air compressor, and there was a Buzz box welder my Dad gave me to use( my Grandpa wouldn’t buy one)but it was in the meat house as it had a 220 plug. There was some other junk in there but not much more.
I found an old sign somewhere that said “hard hat area” and I nailed it to the door and it was there for years. With the tempers around that place it was a hard hat area!
There was no shop to work in. It was pull up in front and lay on the ground. If it was wet or snowy we would lay on a piece of plywood or a tarp.
The one thing that you did not do there is use something and not put it back. It wasn’t fancy but it was organized.
We got by just fine. The equipment we had was a swather, small square baler, a Massey 185 tractor, a Massey 65 tractor (no loaders)a New Holland bale wagon, an old manure spreader, a old v ditcher that You had to ride and run the wheel up and down while another pulled it with the tractor, and a harrow.
That was just about it for equipment. We had an old squeeze chute, a good stock truck(he made a lot of money hauling and trading horses and cattle with the old strait truck through the years) and a half ton pickup. He didn’t get 4 wheel drive until I was a teenager.
That was it. I think he was one of the more profitable ranchers in the Helena Valley. He wasn’t big, was a master at not paying for labor, and always had a cash flow with his trading, and made money ten years in ten because he had very low cost in his livestock.
It was a great lesson for the times and I am glad I was a part of it. I still have a lot of that in me, so I understand the things I am throwing away. It was the greatest way to grow up in the world!
That was old school, and that’s why I answer the phone at the ranch “ The new 63 Ranch”. I admire the old traditions, but just like the auction business, ranching has changed. The old 63 was a guest ranch that couldn’t change with the times and had to be sold. I love the feel and the history of the place, but that is done. We are going forward into the future and I am so glad to be a part of it.
One of the greatest pieces of equipment on the ranch at the moment is a hydraulic dump trailer. I have hauled so much stuff to the dump or scrap yard in my life, and unloaded it by hand. Now I roll in, uncover and dump. As my Dad would say, handier than pull tabs on can beer.
We sold the old John Deere tractor and ordered a new one, I’ve got a nice 2012 Dodge truck with a bale bed and a cake feeder. It’s nice! The place came with a good skid steer and a backhoe. We have trailers, tools and anything we don’t have and need we will get if it makes sense.
We have have plans for a good shop/storage building. No one knows for sure what the operation is going to be in the future, but it will have cattle, horses and people in the mix. It will be first class and the new 63 will make its place in history. We will take care of the land and it will take care of us, just as always, but with a little different twist.
When I’m on the phone with the boss and am going out to work I say I am going out to church. When I get out there horseback and jingle the horses in and see all the beauty around me and the moose, deer, elk and bear, I am in the middle of some of Gods greatest creation and I am so lucky to get to be a part of it.
Thanks to the four mentors I mentioned above, I feel I have a real strong work ethic and enjoy working as much as anything. My Dad always said “to be paid more, do more than your paid for” and I think that is a great way to live.
All the phases of my life I have had the best job in the world for me and where I was at in my life. It is up to you to get the right skills to get the best job in the world for yourself, or you are missing out on a great part of life.
Several years ago I was in Sheridan, Wyoming at Pat Puckett’s place, and were were all roping and laying down yearlings and branding them. Buck Brannaman and I had one stretched out on the ground and he smiled and said “When work is play, life is good”.
I’ve been playing for a long time and the games just keep getting better. I hope it is the same for you. It’s all about the attitude we take to our job. Some people are always happy and content, and they create contentment and productivity on the job, and some people are always the victim and unhappy and they steal energy and suck the life out of themselves and everyone else. Don’t do that.
(The bulls and bears of the 63 ranch!)
Enjoy life, enjoy work.
Nice column. Seeing that bow-top squeeze gave me the willies 🙂 And that dump trailer is a back- and time-saver. Glad things are going well and you’re enjoying it.
Asegurate de pasar tiempo con los perros, Amigo.
Great letter about your heritage helps me remember my own heritage and the great grandparents and parents I was allowed to belong to. Thanks