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An eight-finger, two-thumb salute

James Beckham for Progressive Cattleman Published on 28 September 2018
ranch hands silhouetted at sunset

One of the most underappreciated tools of the cattle business is a pair of gloves. Even a worn-out pair of gloves will help keep your fingers from being cut, burned, sliced, shredded (hoof rasp anyone?) and stepped on.

Gloves have saved my fingers from burrs on new welds, from being fried carrying branding irons and from getting pinched between the truck bed and a dropped pallet of feed.

A leather glove can be the coldest thing in the world when you fish it out of the stock tank on a 10-degree morning after breaking ice. That’s the morning you don’t have another pair of gloves with you. A leather glove can also be the hottest thing in the world when you miss a dally and instinctively grab the lariat … (which has a 500-pound calf on the other end trying to reach the next county by lunch time).

Consider the range of emotions a pair of gloves can elicit:

Joy – “Here you go, pup, chase this glove! OK, pup, now bring it back. No, don’t run that way. Bring it back!”

Frustration – “Aw, man, I forgot how sharp puppy teeth were. Would you look at what he did to that brand new glove?”

Anger – “What has that dang dog done with my other glove? I knew I should never have taught that dog to play fetch with a glove!”

Embarrassment – While horseback, you pulled off a new glove to shake hands with a neighbor. You lost your grip on the glove and it fell into a fresh pile of manure, where your horse stepped on it and then relieved himself for good measure. That was a memorable event for you and the neighbor; you just wish he would quit telling the story.

A pair of gloves can protect your life.

I used to work for a fella who had been a machinist in the Navy. While in the service, he lived outside the Navy yard in a less-than-desirable neighborhood. The bus ride to and from work each day could be hazardous, he reported, so he carried a pair of leather work gloves in his back pocket for protection. One day, a man mugged a woman on the bus and attempted to steal her purse. The sailor slipped a glove from his back pocket and slapped the would-be robber on the side of the head with it, knocking him unconscious. Then, the machinist held the glove by one fingertip and let the ball bearings he had dropped into each finger quietly roll away under the seats of the bus. The only thing the police could figure out was that the bad guy hit his head as he fell down.

A glove can qualify as a legal document.

Our 84-year-old neighbor, D.W., ran his ranch for almost a year while using a crutch because of a bum leg. One day, D.W.’s son, Larry, called to ask if we would lease his dad’s ranch … starting the next day. Larry explained that D.W. had taken another tumble, and the kids were really worried about him falling somewhere on the ranch and not being able to get up.

In addition to leasing the ground, Larry said the family also needed us to buy D.W.’s herd. Larry offered a fair lease rate, and we figured out how to price the cows and bulls to everyone’s satisfaction. The next day, our ranch partner, Pat, took over care of D.W.’s herd.

A few days later, my wife, Pat and I gathered the herd (which is a whole other story) to make a head count. With the cattle in the pens and after searching our two pickups, we found we did not have a single scrap of paper between the three of us. So, Pat wrote the head counts on one of his gloves. That afternoon, my wife, Pam, called Larry to give him the cattle counts and arrange a time to settle up for purchasing the herd.

“Just bring your sheet of paper with the counts on it,” Larry told my wife, “and I’ll put that in the file for taxes.”

“Well, actually,” Pam told him with a grin, “we didn’t have any paper. We wrote the counts on Pat’s glove.”

Larry never missed a beat. “OK,” he said, “bring the glove, and I’ll put a photocopy of it in the file.”

We took the glove and a check to Larry the next day and thus began a great 10-year business relationship. I guess Larry never got audited by the IRS.

So, the next time you pull a pair of slobbered-on, stomped-on gloves out of your pocket, just think of all the fun you have had while wearing them.  end mark

James Beckham is a writer and commercial Angus producer in Amarillo, Texas. Email James Beckham.

PHOTO: Workers settle in after a day's work at the Rancho de Suenos near Clayton, New Mexico. Photo by Marc Stich.

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