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That’s the life

Jim Walker for Progressive Cattle Published on 05 July 2022

Some years ago, I was in Dallas for one of the charity events we support, and a guy asked me what I “do.” I gave my usual, “I’m in agriculture,” which always seems to lead to the inquiry of whether we have a ranch and then to the rather personal follow up question of, “How big is it?” But he caught me off-guard with, “That’s the life. Outside whenever you want, nature all around. No crowds, no traffic, no pollution or crime. I want something like that.”

And before I could respond and set the record straight for this well-meaning gentleman about my perceived leisure employment with the actual rigors of ranch work, two other men who had been eavesdropping on the conversation chimed in with agreement that each of them would love to leave the congested city for a more pastoral setting – but their wives were opposed.

Fast forward to the present, and apparently either the wives have come around or something else has changed (maybe the pandemic?), because the “city slickers” are now here in the rural countryside, buying up acreage and driving up our property taxes to ridiculous levels. And even at elevated prices per acre, land all around us is selling fast. Ten-, 20- and 50-acre “ranchettes” are all the rage. The newcomers look like something right out of the TV series “Green Acres,” what with their designer-labelled clothes and brand-new ranch wear.

It is not lost on me that the large open acreages my charity acquaintances desired are being lost, gobbled up and subdivided by the transplant crowds and real estate agents pushing to make commissions. Some neighbors whose families have been around and worked the land for generations are turning in their spurs. It is too harsh to say they are “selling out.” Many of them have children that ran away from the quiet (read: “boring”) country life to find “cushy,” well-paying jobs in the big city, so taking the ridiculous sums of money being offered to them for their property makes sense to them. The saddest part is that many times after several years of enjoying the fruits of city life, these same children eventually come home, having realized they had the “good life” all along but just didn’t recognize it. With all the grueling ranch work and hardships, often for little compensation, sometimes we forget that we live daily what others aspire to.

One of my favorite poems is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, with the closing lines:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Maybe there is enough room out here for everybody, allowing others to find their own little slice of heaven and to also take their road less traveled. We can all use a little reminder sometimes that we are blessed with the often mundane tasks God has given each of us … and that makes all the difference.

As always, my advice is to grow your herd and keep them (and yourself) healthy, for land’s sake!  end mark

The opinions expressed are those of the author and not of Progressive Cattle.

Jim Walker is a farmer, rancher and all-around thorn-in-the-side with Land's Feed Warehouse in Grand Saline, Texas, who opines on current events affecting the cattle industry. Email Jim Walker.