Back to school lessons from a cattle drive
This blogpost was posted originally in my blog at www.meatingplace.com on September 3rd, 2015.
It’s amazing what you can learn about people on a cattle drive.
Before my three teens went back to school, Christy and I took them on a cattle drive at an eight-thousand acre ranch in the Colorado Mountains. I grew up on a farm, around cattle and every other sort of farm animal but I’d never had the chance to herd a couple hundred cows along a river and though twelve miles of rough terrain in the mountains.
Here’s a few lessons we learned about raising kids and managing people from our day in the saddle:
- Most of the cattle stay together, but now and then you get a stray or two that wants to go their own direction and they leave the herd. They usually duck into some scrub oak or trees with low branches so you can’t easily get them while on horseback. They hide from you. You have to go get these stays as they will not come back to the herd on their own.
- Cattle get tired, just like people do. Black hides in hot summer sun driven at even a slow pace wears them out after a while. You have to herd them at the pace of the slowest animals. You have to stop and rest them and let them drink at the water holes.
- Some cattle respond better to being led from the front, rather than driven from behind.
- Along the trail, as cattle tempers grow hot, a few will stop, face you give you a look that says, “I DARE YOU TO MAKE ME GO ANY FURTHER”. No amount of “yip” or “get along” makes them move. Your words are no longer effective. Now only the body language of you and your horse will make in impact for changed behavior. Your actions have to speak louder than your words.
- It helps to pass the time by having some fun and singing to the herd!
- The herd when faced with a difficult decision about a river to cross or a fence to go around, doesn’t follow the most dominant “alpha” cattle but rather animals they trust, who take risks by going first.
- Some cattle are pretty smart and some, not so smart. Some make some pretty bad decisions and get themselves stranded on the top of a rocky bluff or alone with a coyote and they get their tails eaten off. When they stay together they are safer than when they are all alone by themselves.
I hope you get a chance to live out the “City Slickers” experience on a cattle drive some day. You will learn a lot about yourself, about the hands riding with you, raising children and managing people.
What life-lessons have you learned on the cattle trail, raising animals or farming crops that have helped you be a better person, parent, spouse or manager?