Category Archives: Family

Bad Brahma Bull

It’s been a bull riding week for me.  It started with loading bulls at D & H Cattle to go to a futurity, then on to a PRCA rodeo in Alvarado, TX to watch Pistol Robinson win the bull riding. I also got to watch Allen Spoon, Darrell Robinson, and Sandy Kirby buck some young bulls at Hillsboro, TX.  Pistol, Marcus, and Nick (bull riders) were around all week and were good entertainment.  Daughter Mesa had a bull bucking in North Carolina at the PBR, but he didn’t buck very good.   After church in Hubbard, TX we had a rodeo meeting and talked about bucking bulls.  Then we headed up to Oklahoma on Monday, ended up working bulls most of the day Tuesday and bucking bulls that night.  All that and I have heard enough bull stories for a lifetime, so I figured ya’ll (that’s a word I learned about this week from Kelsey Tucker) ought to have to listen to this bull riding story.  It’s a good one.

~ Curt Pate

My wife, Tammy, qualified our bull, Sangre De Toro, in the top 25 for Exclusive Genetics Million Dollar Futurity in Las Vegas during the WNFR.

For most people when the daughter gets engaged, they end up with grand children.  We ended up with a bucking bull.

Tammy has done great with him and the Exclusive Genetics experience has been great.  If you have some extra cash and are interested in having a bucking bull it is a good way to do it.

As you can see in the photo I need to keep working on the fashion thing (Lori Darlin).  I think she is practicing Yoga even when flanking a bull, but it looks to me like she should relax and breath.

I will have the winning photo and picture of the big check in December.

~ Curt Pate


The Home Ranch

Note: This post is a bit lengthy, but well worth the read. I hope you’ll take the time do so.

I have been going to a guest ranch called The Home Ranch in Clark, Colorado for about the last 15 years or so.

home ranch 1It has always been a great experience for me. It is a very nice place. They have real nice cabins to stay in, the best food you could ever imagine, and lots of outdoor activities to participate in with the main one being horseback riding. They also provide entertainment of the indoor variety with music and a barn dance.

Ken Jones was the manager and partner that hired me to do a horse clinic the first time I went. He was very interested in horsemanship and at the time had several different clinics every year with a mix of folks sharing knowledge.

Ken was a lot of fun and really was a great manager of the ranch. I really admired the way he stayed traditional and always promoted the western way with lots of style.

He had been at it a long time and decided to get out. I owe Ken a lot for all the good he brought me and my family by bringing us to the Home Ranch. Besides that he is one heck of a left handed roper.

The next and present manager was Johnny Fisher. He has quite a different style of management, and the ranch is evolving quite nicely.

The first thing he told me was that the Home Ranch was not about horses, but about people. He was a guy that enjoyed horsemanship for himself, but told me the people that could afford to come to the Home Ranch were interested in lifestyle and getting what they were paying for. His number one focus was to give people what they needed, not what he wanted them to need.

I never discussed business much with Ken (the first manager), we always discussed horse stuff.

The thing I learned is you can have two very different people managing the same operation and get great results. You will lose some clients, but you will gain some.

home ranch 3The next person I have observed during my time is Clyde, the head chef. You can’t believe the things they do with food around that place. At breakfast they squeeze oranges to make orange juice, make all the pastries, and will cook you any thing you want. Lunch, or what I call dinner is probably my favorite. Plenty of fresh salads, and always something on the grill, from quail to salmon to burgers and brats. Dinner or what I call supper is pretty fancy and you may even eat soup that is cold (It’s supposed to be). I have eaten things I can’t pronounce, but it sure was good. Clyde and I have not had much conversation in the last 15 years, but I really enjoy and admire his skill and dedication to high quality and low waste. He and his staff are incredible and really bring much pleasure (and weight) to lots of people.

After a couple of years with Johnny, he could tell I did not really fit the program. He and my wife, Tammy, came up with a new program, yoga and horsemanship. It fit way better than what I was doing. The program that they have developed is great and many lives have really been improved with the yoga and horsemanship week.

My time at the Home Ranch has now turned into the Weanling Week. Gordon Jessman from Canada brings a load of weanling horses down and the guests get to halter break and prepare them for the auction, which is an annual event at the Home Ranch. Gord and myself as well as the wranglers at the ranch help and I auction the sale at the end of the week. I truly enjoy working with the babies and have way to much fun with Gord.

As I mentioned I have observed many changes over the years at the Home Ranch. Remember, most of the folks that go to the ranch have money. The trends and thoughts I hear at the Home Ranch are most likely from the top of the money folks in this country.

The new thing evolving at the Home Ranch is growing and raising their own food. They are raising grass-fed beef, finishing hogs on the ranch, and have put in a huge greenhouse and outdoor garden. The guests love the concept of the food being all “Home” grown.

Now the interesting thing to me is why people are willing to pay a lot of money to spend a week doing what ranch folks do everyday. The food is a big part of it, and the activities are great, but I feel the true reason people go to the Home Ranch is because the fast pace life that they have all been sucked into goes away. Johnny and Ken both kept it real and honest. They actually in a way get paid to keep these folks living the ranch lifestyle for a week of someone’s life. We in agriculture should be careful not to get sucked into the fast paced crazy world that people pay to get out of. Stop and smell the alfalfa and cow manure.

Of course I can’t think of something without involving animal care, so here is something for you to think about. Lets compare the Home Ranch for people to a feedlot for cattle.

To get to the Home Ranch, many people must fly. They are sorted, poked, and shoved through security, put into waiting areas, then loaded on a plane (which are way to tight in my opinion, and for me not enough leg room). If you have no experience or training on flying, it can be very stressful.

To get to a feedlot, cattle are trucked. They are sorted and hopefully not poked or shoved into holding pens, put into holding pens, then loaded properly. If the driver follows trucker quality guidelines there should be no turbulence and the cattle should have plenty of room to ride comfortably.

home ranch 2The first commingling at the Home Ranch for me is always very stressful. Everyone meets in a room with drinks and fancy food that I don’t quite know how to eat, or even what some of the things are. It makes me nervous being forced to be around all these people I don’t know and talking about things I am not sure about. About the time I am going to break and run they open the door to the dining room and everyone heads for the door. Dinner is served family style so if you are thinking you pick someone you know and enjoy being around to eat with. My wife is real good at all the social stuff, so I rely on her to keep my stress level down.

After we all get situated everyone seems to be more comfortable, and when food starts being served, life is good. After a fine meal and conversation and interaction on a more personal level, I am ready to go to bed and get a good nights rest so I can get up and enjoy the next day which I spend eating, relaxing, being around people I enjoy, staying away from the ones I don’t enjoy, eating some more, getting some exercise or doing something fun, and then eating some more before bedding down to rest for the next days activity, in which I am now looking forward to.

When a calf arrives at the feedlot, he may be under some stress from the trip in, just like many people that had trouble with lost luggage or delays. If the airline does their job correctly and the weather cooperates it goes well and there is not much stress. If the livestock handlers and truckers do their job correctly the calf has a minimum of stress. If the guest seems to be stressed when they arrive, Salina at the check in is very good at taking the stress off. If she were to make it difficult or added more stress to the guest, the stay may not be as enjoyable and the guest may not enjoy themselves. A lack of pleasure will make guests not want to come back or tell others about the Home Ranch, so it is very important to take the stress off and make the guest feel comfortable.

We need to have this same policy when a beef animal is trucked and commingled into a new home. We can work with the animal in a way that calms the animal down and takes the stress off. This can be done by putting them into a pen that is big enough to move away from animals they don’t feel comfortable with, but still allows them to stay with the other animals to keep them from fence walking and getting them to eat and drink.

If we get control of the calves we can place them at the bunk and get them eating. The food may be a little fancy (feedlot nutritionists are gourmet chefs for cows) so it may take them a little bit to get used to it, but once they get started they will like it. If they are not encouraged to try it they may not eat properly and start to not feel good which leads to them not having as good of experience as they should. Just like the guest ranch, the feedlot will benefit its cattle (the guest) by taking the time to get the animals comfortable and then eating, drinking and sleeping.

If the guests at the Home Ranch were only eating, drinking and sleeping, after a while no matter how nice the bedding was and how great the food and drink satisfied, there would be un-contentment at the ranch. People need something to do.

Maybe this is something that is missing in the feed yard. Activity is very important for people’s health and contentment. Animals on the range have the activity of making a living by grazing. When they go to the feedlot, they need rest from the stress off the trip, but will soon need some activity to stay healthy and content. Just something to think about …

You must be very careful when you put human thoughts on animals. I think this is called anthropomorphism. I am not saying the same things precisely are needed to make animals and humans happy and content, but in a general way we have the same basic needs. Humans work to get enough money for this life and create choices through hard and smart work. The more money they have the more choices they can make. Domesticated animals are under our care so we make the lifestyle choices for them. It is important that we understand what the animal needs to give it a high quality of life. Beef cattle are in-the-moment thinkers and I don’t have any real evidence that they plan ahead or even think in the future. They seem happy when they have plenty to eat, companionship, nothing threatening their safety, and a comfortable environment.

The dust and the smell at a feed yard are not enjoyable to me. If you put cattle in a pen next to the pasture and leave access available to them they will spend the majority of the time in the pen eating at the bunk or laying on the manure mound. They will go out in the pasture a couple times a day, graze a little then come back to the pen. This tells me they enjoy the environment of the pen, even though I don’t.

The trouble in the feed yard is when we have weather extremes. Heat with humidity can cause cattle to die in the feedlot. In some areas of the U.S. every year we have this problem. We need to do something about it. Shade and water systems are needed. Mud is a huge discomfort to cattle. We need to figure out ways to get mud-free zones for cattle to rest in during the mud season. Snow and cold with no shelter is inhumane if the animal is forced to stay in it with no way out. If we put a fence around we should provide them what they could get themselves if the fence was not there. Technology and new products have made it much more practical to give the animals the comfort they deserve, but we must overcome old paradigms and use this new technology.

The employees at the Home Ranch work real hard to create a great experience for the guest. They have learned to give people what they want and sometimes need. It is not easy work and week after week of seeing the same old thing can get frustrating. It is not an easy job and the conditions for the employees are not the same as for the guest.

As I said earlier I don’t enjoy the environment at the feedyard. It is most always tough conditions for the people working with the cattle. The cattle may be in the shade, out off the wind and moisture but the handler or caregiver of the animal is not. Pen riders are like wranglers at the Home Ranch. They must meet the needs of the cattle, no matter the conditions.

I don’t recall many conversations I have had discussing cattle production with Home Ranch guests that they did not criticize feedlots. To most people they seem like a terrible place for cattle. From a human point of view they don’t look too good, and how could they if that is the only point of view you know. If this way of thinking by the consumer continues and increases, the consumer will demand another style of production. I am a firm believer that the customer creates the trends in the industry, and from most of the people I am in contact with outside of agriculture, they have a negative view of a feedlot.

The Home Ranch is a great place because they give people everything they could need. The management is the reason they are so good. I have been to other guest ranches that the food was not up to my liking, the horses were not safe for the skill level of rider, and the employees did not have the discipline to suck it up and give the guest what they had paid for.

If a feed yard is managed properly I feel it can be a great place place for a beef animal to be. If my thought of the animal being in the moment, and not knowing the concept of death is true then I am going to declare the feedlot industry to be the “guest ranch” for cattle.

I hope all guest ranches will use The Home Ranch as the bench mark for quality. They truly do improve quality of life for their guests.

~ Curt Pate

This is a old-timey looking photo of my son, Rial. I truly think he was born 150 years too late, but is adapting pretty well to modern times. Instead of the “Cowboy in the Continental Suit,” he is the cowboy in the fox hunting suit.  He is currently in Maryland, whipping in and riding horses on the hunt. Who’d of thought?

~ Curt Pate

rial old timey photo

Rial fox hunting in Maryland

One very unconventional cowboy!

Would Jesus wear spurs?

After last weeks subject on “Sex, nutrition, and electric fence” I had better do a flying lead change.

We all have different ways of dealing with things. Religion and the way we deal and express it is an interesting subject to ponder on.

I was not raised going to church regularly. When I was in grade school we had Bible class after school on Wednesday and I really liked that. I remember writing a paper about the meaning of Christmas in the sixth grade about liking being around animals on Christmas because of Jesus being born in the stable. That always stuck with me. On Christmas Day I really feel good taking care of animals and feel good about giving them a little special treatment.

My spiritual leaders lately have been a strange mix. A former woman bull rider, drug salesman, bull salesman, cowboy from Texas, and a welder turned cowboy preacher, and a singer that almost went to jail for shooting a guy.

Because of this I really don’t think I am qualified to tell you how you should act, but I would like to get you to thinking about some things that are important to spend a little time on.

A former woman bull rider turned preacher had a huge impact on me. The first time my family went to her service it was in Madison, Wisconsin at the Midwest Horse Fair. She was riding a real pretty black gelding and was singing a gospel song. She tried to stand up on him and he ended up bucking her off right on her butt. I could tell it hurt, but she never missed a word of the song, got back on and finished a very inspirational church service.

I really looked forward to Crystal Lyons words and displays of inspiration. We went to many of the same horse fairs and we became friends. If you have the opportunity to listen to her it will be a great experience, and I guarantee it won’t be boring.

Ron McDaniel, became a real good friend of mine. We spent a lot of time together and he has fun, is very good at his job, and is very humorous. Ron lives what he believes. He gave me a Bible that is called The Daily Bible. It has reading for every day of the year laid out for you. It is a great way to get the Bible read and understood.

If you have ever seen or heard Kit Pharo, you would know he is very strong in his opinions. He is not shy in speaking his mind about the cattle business or God. His Sabbath Day Devotions always provoke thought.

Todd McCartney is a fellow I have spent a lot of time with. When you travel with someone, away from family and friends and watch the ethics they use conducting business you learn about their integrity. Todd is a very committed Catholic, and I have said it many times that Todd McCartney is one of the most honest religious people I know.

My wife and I spent the winter last year in Hubbard, Texas. It’s a great little community, and I started attending the “Hubbard Cowboy Church.” The service is held in an old barn with a dirt floor and an outdoor privy. The Pastor, Butch Boatright, is as country as it gets, but really knows how to get the message out to us country folk.

As you may know I like good music. Billy Joe Shaver sings a song called “If you don’t love Jesus, you can go to hell.” I read his book and it talked about his feelings on religion.

I really admire people who live there faith. When I started this deal of writing, I said I would keep it positive. I am going to get just a little negative for a bit.

I have had it with people that use religion, church, the cross, the fish, or religious music on their cell phone, and then lie, cheat and steal like a bad outlaw. I have seen and dealt with this so much in the last five years or so and am sick of it. It makes me sad to see how low some people will stoop. Sorry for the bluntness, but is a bad deal. You will have a hard time getting me to do business until I truly know you if you are trying to impress me with a bunch of God symbols.

Don’t just talk about it, live it.

Pretty much everything I do has something to do with animal care and handling. I heard a cowboy preacher one time talking about man’s dominion over animals. His thoughts upset me a little, because he was saying we could do pretty much what we wanted because of our dominion that God gave us.

Well I got to thinking about that. We do have dominion, there’s no doubt about that. But I wonder if maybe we are not judged by how we handle that power. Not only over animals, but all things in our care.

If you have read the Bible, you may recall Jesus was a colt starter. Here is a question for you to think about, and if you would like to share your thoughts please do.

Would Jesus wear spurs, or use a hot shot? I encourage you to really think it over. I have heard lots of interesting thoughts that have come out of this discussion. I am sure we will learn of many opinions from many different points of view.

If Jesus did wear spurs I would be okay with him having a cross or a fish symbol on them.

Curt Pate

Fun Hater

Lets have a little fun. I have been getting pretty serious about all this writing stuff. It’s time for a funny story.

My daughter named a bucking bull after me a while back. She named him “Fun Hater” and that really hurt.  I do like to have fun, but my fun may be different than other folks.

I spend lots of my life like I am right now – writing.  I’m stuffed in an airplane with people all around me and not able to stretch my legs out.  I eat restaurant food all the time.  When I get home I have the need for freedom and the last thing I want to do is go to a movie or a concert to be surrounded by the same thing.  A good home cooked meal, having my dogs around, and throwing a few loops at the roping dummy seems more important.

Getting horseback and riding through some good grass, moving some cattle, or just riding up and looking over the Musselshell River that runs through our place is about as good as it gets for me.

When I look around me and see the stress that all these people are under just living in the crowded lifestyle so many of them must live in, it’s amazing to me we don’t have way more problems in society than we do.

If you are lucky enough to live on a farm or ranch or have a rural lifestyle, enjoy it.

For several years we traveled the country doing horse clinics and demonstrations.  Our children were home-schooled and most of the time had a geography lesson while doing other school work. This means we were going down the road in a pickup truck while they were doing school.  We had lots of fun and met many good people.

One person that we met was Charlie Trayer.  He was doing cow dog demo’s for Purina and we were on the same program several times.  We all really liked Charlie and the Hangin Tree Cowdogs he was raising so we ended up with some pups.  We had rope names for our dogs.
I named mine Lasso and Mesa named hers Roper.  They had a lot of go to them.  We decided we needed to get some goats to work our dogs the way we had learned from Charlie.

Goats were a little tough to find in Helena, Montana at the time.  I finally located some, but the lady didn’t want to sell them because they were purebreds and she was going to show them.  I think I ended up paying $250.00 each for five goats and she would buy them back when I did not need them anymore.  That’s quite a bit of money to spend on goats, but I was going to get it back so it was no big deal.  We really didn’t have anywhere to keep goats, but we did have a indoor arena, so we rigged up some pens and got ready to work our dogs.

We shut all the doors and turned the goats loose.  We got our pups and we were ready to have our first dog training session.  Mesa was probably 8 years old or so and always wore her Gus hat. She was what you’d call pure cowgirl.  We cut the dogs loose and they did want to work.  Lasso was a little older and he was aggressive.

They hit those five goats hard.  Goats were running, dogs were barking and not listening, and there were way more things going on than I thought were going to happen.  One thing I forgot to mention was the reason the goats were so expensive is they were little bucks. Lasso noticed this right away and would catch a goat by the balls and hold him.  If you have ever heard a goat cry when a dog has it by the balls, you will understand the intense drama shaping up in our little father-daughter dog working session.

Roper was running madly after the goats. Mesa was trying to catch him.  The goats could not outrun Lasso and he would get another by the balls and the screaming would start again. This did not go on for to long and Mesa said to me, “Daddy, I don’t think I want to work dogs on goats anymore.”

She got her wish, because when a goat finds that much pressure they will find a way out of it.  The goats got out through a door and $1250.00 worth of goats headed for the Scratch Gravel hills of Helena. That was pretty much the last time we saw them.

Just a few years ago I had some heifers that belonged to Craig Wenger which I had calved out for him. We also had about 60 head of two year old bucking bulls I had purchased from D & H Cattle Co.

I had been out checking some cows on a young horse that only had a few rides on.  When I got back to our place I decided to turn some chickens out to graze in a little hay field. (They were my wife’s chicken project, not mine.)

I was unloading my horse and saw that some bulls had gotten in with the heifers, and I was pretty sure Craig was not to interested in getting the bucking bull business, so I kinda hurriedly got on my colt to interrupt the bulls fun.  I was pretty busy trying to get these bulls separated when my horse decided he was not really ready for bull sorting. He proceeded to try to buck me off.

While he was taking my attention off the bulls and getting my mind to riding I happened to notice a little action in the chicken herd. My dogs had taken the opportunity of my mind being occupied with the bulls and were having a fresh chicken dinner.  Things were pretty busy for me for a few minutes.  After the dust settled, the tally stood at 4 chickens dead, 2 heifers bred, one horse rode, 3 dogs disciplined, one wife mad and a great big laugh had a few hours later.

So you see I am not a fun hater at all.

~ Curt Pate