Opinion, Discussion and Analysis

Mad Jack Hanks: Winter weather, sinus infection make comebacks

April 5, 2016 — 

Gentle readers, if you can remember my last column, I was braggin’ on spring being just around the corner. ‘Member that?

Well, I reckon I jumped the gun just a tad.

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Lee Pitts: Getting revenge after a friend continually skips out on the check

April 5, 2016 — 

Back in the 1800s when cattle wearing different brands shared the same range, it was quite common for ranchers to eat the beef of another rancher. After all, for every beef of your neighbors you ate, that was one of yours that you could sell for $12.50.

One of the more amusing stories I’ve heard from this era occurred when Burk Burnett, legendary founder of the Four Sixes in Texas, invited Don Waggoner over to his ranch for dinner. Waggoner was also a famous rancher as well as a wonderful horse breeder. As an enticement for coming over to his house for dinner, Burnett promised Waggoner that he would serve him something he had never eaten before. Waggoner showed up for dinner and was served a delicious meal but after the last course was served Waggoner remarked to Burnett, “You have not furnished anything I have never tasted before.”

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Gwen Peterson: Around the campfire, try singing a limerick

April 4, 2016 — 

There’s a Limerick Song that I believe was generated from early “Sesame Street” limerick verses. To that tune, here’s a passage of Camp Hell’s-a-Roarin’ limericks. No, these five-line verses aren’t off-color, lewd or disgustingly nasty. I’m optimistic that these tidbits are witty, humorous and old-fashioned fun you can share around a campfire. Start with the refrain and teach it to the assembled group. Once they’ve learned to sing it, throw in a limerick followed by a refrain all sing. After awhile folks’ imaginations take over and they start making up limericks on the spot!

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Baxter Black: Weather means something different to farmers and ranchers

April 4, 2016 — 

There is at least one thing that separates agricultural people from their office-working brothers...the weather.

How often have you seen the local anchorman turn to the local weather girl and say, “Gosh, Marsha, that’s really good news! I’m sure getting tired of this rain!”

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Milo Yield: Friend's gaffe at a country concert makes for great story

April 5, 2016 — 

Socially awkward situations ­— they happen to all of us, and by their very definition, they always happen at inopportune times.

Such wuz what happened to my ol’ county extension agent buddy — you’ll remember he’s Avery Ware — when he and three friends attended a recent concert at the old Grenada Theater in Emporia. Avery told the story on himself and gave his okay to put in it this column. (Not that I really needed it.)

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Lee Mielke: A look at March, future milk and dairy product prices

April 5, 2016 — 

The March Federal order Class III benchmark milk price was announced by USDA at $13.74 per hundredweight (cwt.), down 6 cents from February, $1.82 below March 2015, and equates to about $1.18 per gallon, down from $1.19 in February. It is the lowest March Class III since 2010.

The First Quarter Class III average stands at $13.75, down from $15.73 at this time a year ago and a distant dream of $22.61 in 2014.

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Mad Jack: Spring brings good memories and time to watchout for rattlesnakes

April 1, 2016 — 

Yep, gentle readers, I am enjoying the bits and pieces of spring that I have encountered recently.

Of course, we all know here in the mountain states that you can have all sorts of weather this time of year. I did see that first Robin’s red breast this past week and a momma rabbit down in the corral with a mouthful of left over hay stuffed in her mouth.

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Gwen Peterson: Springtime tips on ranch life for city folks

April 1, 2016 — 

March has arrived, a fact you’ve probably noticed. Many cattle ranchers, sheep ranchers and plain pig farmers are calving, lambing or farrowing.

March is also a harbinger of the coming dude season. Ranchers who take in guests feel an urge to open up lodges, break out cleaning equipment, check cabins for mice occupancy, oil up dude saddles, and these days — make sure the ranch has WiFi.

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Peggy Sanders: Adventure in Paris sets tone for marriage

April 1, 2016 — 

March 30, 1974 was our wedding day. Russ was an Army officer stationed in Germany and I had just finished up my college degree in Iowa. We took a trip to the Grand Canyon and other points before getting on the plane to return to Germany.

I say return because I too had been there, although for a brief visit, after I had completed my studies in Paris at the Sorbonne.

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Candy Moulton: Chinese railroad history alive with artifacts, storytelling in museum

April 1, 2016 — 

Chinese laborers played a prominent role in construction of the Central Pacific Railway and they were equally instrumental in mining operations throughout the Intermountain West. Gold mining in the Boise Basin started in 1862 upon the discoveries by D.H. Fogus, George Grimes and Moses Splawn.

The population exploded as miners flocked to the region. By 1863 four cities sprung up: Idaho City, Centerville, Placerville and Pioneer, with a combined population of nearly 15,000. In the early years, only a few Chinese workers were in the region, most finding work as cooks. People and supplies came into the Boise Basin over a series of rough roads coming in from the south and the Owyhee country, as well as from the west, where they traveled by steamboat up the Columbia to such jumping off points as Wallula and Umatilla.

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Baxter Black: Cooking up ideas for a friend's new product

March 30, 2016 — 

Sometimes it is embarrassing when your friends catch that entrepreneurial spirit.

How many times have you gently tried to tell them that, sure, Amway’s great, but what are ya gonna do with all that soap in the closet? That you don’t really need a water filter, or that networking chain letters is not your bag. I used to have a weakness for get-rich-quick schemes, but now I run cows and dabble in Iraqi real estate.

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Lee Pitts: Kids at the fair these days have whole arsenal of new tools

April 1, 2016 — 

Look behind any Grand Champion steer or show heifer these days and you’ll see an army of young men responsible for turning the beast into a thing of beauty. There’s the tail specialist, leg virtuoso, tailhead hotshot and clipper maestro. When I showed cattle 50 years ago, if a teacher, fair official or parent saw anyone even helping to fluff a tail, you and your steer would be unceremoniously kicked off the fairgrounds.

Recently I received a thick catalog filled with show-jock-endorsed paraphernalia for show hogs, sheep, cattle and goats. Goats! In my day if someone showed up at the fair with a goat they’d be denied entrance. And a show hog was just a common pig wearing lipstick. Kids are also showing rabbits, chickens and turkeys. I wonder, do you use a showstick or a cane to show a turkey?

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Milo Yield: Makeup, age mistake mishaps and more

April 1, 2016 — 

Holy Toledo, folks. Three days ago it wuz 80 degrees, with a soft wind out of the southwest, and the crappie were biting for my friend Mocephus and me. Today it’s 33 degrees, the wind’s out of the north, and it’s been snowing for the past two hours. It’s not sticking, but it’s pretty cold and miserable.

I’m afraid the cold snap forecast for this weekend will put an early end to my apricot and early peach crop, but I’ll just hope for the best.

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Shelli Mader: After big move, Mader family settles into city life in Colorado Springs

April 1, 2016 — 

It’s hard to believe that we have been back living in Colorado Springs for two months! I’ve been missing the warm weather in Texas — it has been in the 70s and 80s there almost every day since we left — and the handful of good friends that we made there.

My kids are settling into their new school, though my son is bummed that no one in his inner city school knows what a wheel loader is. It has been hard for him to find kids that are into tractors, farming and construction equipment like he is.

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Candy Moulton: Copper town story tells of tragedy, desire and struggles of strong characters

April 1, 2016 — 

This year Shann Ray, a poet and author of short stories, will win a Spur Award from Western Writers of America for his first novel.

American Copper unveils three characters in post-World War I Montana who must negotiate life in Montana during periods of complex change in their personal lives. Josef Lowry is the son of a poor Czech immigrant who has achieved much earning power and riches from Montana copper. But this man seeks to hold his children, Tomás and Evelynne, close and controlled. When other parents may seek to send the offspring out to make their own way, Lowry – known as The Baron – guards and dictates his son and daughter.

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Mr. Truck: Ram Power Wagon packs big punch

April 1, 2016 — 

When you think of a heavy duty truck, you may think heavy for towing trailers. The Ram Power Wagon is heavy, with curb weight of 7056 pounds. When you think of an off-road truck, you may think light duty or Jeep size. But the Power Wagon breaks all the rules, a solid truck that can go anywhere, just like they did in World War II.

We had a Power Wagon from the forties when I worked for the county with a welder and boom bed. But the new Power Wagon is an agile mountain goat. With locking front and rear differential, a 12,000 pound winch, a lift kit, skid plates and the front sway bar disconnects for tremendous wheel travel over rocks. It’s the only truck that comes with a 12,000 pound winch from the factory. In low range 4×4, the Power Wagon has hill descent, all the things you need to chase the Jeeps on the trails in the Rockies.

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Baxter Black: Important to remember to treat all people equally

March 21, 2016 — 

I wonder if I will see in my lifetime the end of “Designated Americans?” I was filling out a form and was asked to check if I was African American, Hawaiian American, Latin American, Native American, Asian American, Anglo American or Other American. I declined. I guess it would make a difference if I were applying for a basketball scholarship, a cook in a Mexican restaurant, a judgeship on the Supreme Court, or a Karate teacher. But should it?

It is obvious justice is not blind. Watch how opposing lawyers select their members of the jury, or watch how news reporters walk on eggshells around the Designated American d’jour. Or watch people vote (or not vote) for someone solely on their Designated American category. It seems every Designated American group has its day-in-the-sun to be recognized as the “easiest to be offended.” Sports team mascots, scholarships for only the selected, private clubs, exclusive music, Army promotions by gender, racially leaning magazines, the “too rich” and Hollywood each take their turn to sit in the corner and be patted or chastised.

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Lee Pitts: Putting words into the mouths of dogs

March 25, 2016 — 

My wife yelled for me to come and watch the TV because after a “short” commercial break — that wasted ten minutes of my life — there’d be an unbelievable story about people talking to dogs through the use of computers. Sound interesting? I thought so, too.

Imagine my disappointment when it turned out that a computer specialist at Georgia Tech put computer vests on service dogs so that in an emergency, a dog can find a human who will pull a lever on the vest that will trigger an audio message in English such as, “My handler needs you to come with me.” In other words, I squirmed through several incontinence and erectile disfunction ads only to learn that dogs still weren’t talking to people. I felt like an idiot being suckered in that way, but it did serve as a good reminder as to why I don’t watch television.

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Amanda Radke: Consider the impact on ag when making political decisions

March 25, 2016 — 

For the 22nd time during his nearly eight years in office, President Obama has taken advantage of the Antiquities Act of 1906, locking up millions of acres of land in the western states.

Obama’s designations total 265 million acres, and his most recent designation of the Sand to Snow National Monument, Mojave Trails National Monument and Castle Mountains National Monument total 1.8 million acres.

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Rangeviews: Small S.D. community is home to community, class and fun

March 25, 2016 — 

I like Edgemont.

It’s a small town in the far southwest corner of South Dakota that could have “Never Say Die” as its motto. However, some years ago it chose a more positive, forward thinking slogan, “Why Not Edgemont?”

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Gwen Peterson: Service dog stuns with silly bag of tricks

March 25, 2016 — 

My neighbor, Kim, named her Blue Heeler pup Einstein.

“He’s so smart, I’m teaching him to be a service dog,” she said.

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Milo Yield: Calving season around Kansas brings chuckles, ample stories

March 25, 2016 — 

Oh, my, this late winter is a strange one. It’s been so warm and we had a nice shower, so I tilled up some of my garden plots and the ground worked up like an ash pile.

So, ol’ Nevah and I decided that we’d plant some early garden and take our chances with a late freeze. This morning we planted radishes, lettuce, two varieties of peas, three kinds of onion sets and four kinds of potatoes. We only planted about half our seed so we’ll have some for either replanting, if needed, or simply a later planting.

I’ve also sown a couple of clover, lettuce and kale plots for chicken greens. We’re supposed to get a nice rain this evening and over the weekend, so perhaps our timing will be right.

Also, I noticed this morning that my apricot tree is beginning to bloom. Since it’s blooming so early this year, I just hope that there are some pollinators around and that a late freeze doesn’t doom this year’s apricot crop.


The calving season is in full bore for most of the Flint Hills cow-calf enterprises. And, every year, calving season brings with it some funny stories — some of which find it to my ready ear.

Last Wednesday at the Old Boar’s Breakfast — or, as the Saffordville Scribbler called it, the “Old Dog Catchers’ Club” — one of the regulars, ol’ Dan D. Guye, yelled at me and said, “Milo. I’ve got a story for your column.”

I wuz all ears — and this is his story:

Dan’s a cow-calf man and overnight one of his ill-tempered, overprotective old cows had a calf that Dan needed to ear tag. He knew the cow and knew it might present a dicey situation.

So when he pulled up next to the cow/calf pair, he exited his pickup and left the door open just in case he needed to make a hasty retreat. Just as he approached the rank ol’ cow, the unexpected happened. The Beagle/Basset hound cross that Dan “inherited” from one of his kids, and who likes to ride shotgun in Dan’s pickup, decided he needed to investigate the new calf situation.

So, the hound hopped out of the pickup and went right up to the new calf. Well, the cow went bonkers, blew some snot, pawed the ground and exploded toward the unwanted canine intruder. In a flash, the hound panicked and ran for cover. No, not back in the pickup seat, but right between Dan’s now-shaking knees.

That’s when someone should have had a video camera. Dan said he wuz caught trying to kick the dog out from under his feet and simultaneously slap the on-the-prod cow in the face with his cap to keep her at bay while he retreated.

I’d have loved to seen all that happening. But, all the same, it makes for a nice mental picture, because I can see it all plainly happening in my imagination.

All’s well that ends well and Dan reported that nothing got hurt, except for Dan and the hound’s pride. He did say, however, that the hound’s riding days in his pickup are over — at least through calving season.


Listening to that story wuz ol’ C. Faren Wyde, another rancher who’s a regular at the Old Boar’s weekly confab. After Dan wuz through, Faren piped up, “I’ve got another calving story for you, Milo, but it happened years ago.”

Here’s Faren’s story:

A Chase County couple wuz in the midst of calving season and had gotten into the midnight heifer check routine. Well, one wet, foggy night when they went to check the heifers, they found one needing assistance.

Apparently, in this family the wife wuz the better veterinarian and her hubby wuz the better flashlight holder. So, wifey told hubby to hold the flashlight and she’d sneak up on the heifer on the ground and attach the calf-pulling chains.

All wuz going well until wifey had the chains about attached to the calf’s feet when the heifer realized what wuz going on and broke for the horizon.

That wouldn’t have been such a bad deal except for one thing. As the heifer jumped to her feet, somehow, the pulling chains got wrapped up around wifey’s hands and the pair disappeared into the fog and out of hubby’s flashlight beam. The last hubby saw of them, his wife wuz being towed like a mud sled behind the panicked heifer.

Hubby immediately got into their pickup and began to search for wifey in the dark and fog. That’s not easy in a big Flint Hills calving pasture. He drove around yelling and honking and finally, to his relief, his wife found the pickup.

Wifey’s arm wuz injured and she reported that the heifer had pulled her into a ravine and she didn’t remember how she got her arm untangled from the pulling chains. Faren couldn’t recall how badly the rancher lady wuz hurt, but I’m glad he could recall the rest of the story.


Last week, the sad news reached me of the death of Charles “Crazy Charlie” Thomas, the long-time owner-operator of Thomas Implement, a Case-IH dealer just outside Altamont, Kan. Charlie left this mortal coil at age 80 and left behind eight decades of good laugh, good times, a good business and a great family.

Many of Crazy Charlie’s good times were prompted by his breaking into his “Donald Duck” voice to carry on a conversation. It wuz hard to understand, but no one, including me, ever failed to laugh.

I owe Charlie a lasting debt of gratitude. He wuz one of the first customers in a new publishing venture we were trying to get off the ground back in 1974. His bizness is still a customer to this day. In later years, he hired me to entertain at one of his Open House celebrations.

In reading about Charlie’s funeral and memorial service, I wuz struck to near tears when I found out Charlie’s customers bid him farewell and a gave him a final “farmers’ salute” by lining the highway to the cemetery with their Case-IH tractors. That gesture wuz solid proof that Charles “Crazy Charlie” Thomas lived a good and useful life and left behind many fond memories, as well as many faithful, appreciative customers.


I’ll close now with a bit of political yard sign wisdom: “Socialism is a great idea until it shows up in your backyard.” That message wuz accompanied by a picture of a “Feel The Bern” yard sign, torn in half and this handwritten message attached: “I took half of your sign because you had one and I didn’t. I’m sure you’ll understand.”

Have a good ‘un. ❖

Mad Jack Hanks: Easy to focus on the negative until something adds perspective

March 25, 2016 — 

Wow, we hear the word “hater” a lot these days. Yep, we like to put labels on folks we don’t even know and throw out all sorts of tags to attach to them. I think we do it because it makes us feel better. Well, gosh, Charlie Brown, we all have things that we hate as well as things we love. “I love that song, I hate those shoes, I love that blah, and I hate that blah, blah and so on.

Well, gentle readers, here is something that I hate — not feeling up to par.

Yep, I was layin’ on the couch feeling sorry for myself when I realized I needed to get this column written and even worse, I hate it when I have no subject matter that I think is going to amount to a hill of beans when it comes to putting a column together when it just doesn’t seem right. About this time of the year, I usually get a serious sinus infection and this time it slipped up on me and WHAM! POW! BAM!

I found myself trying to stay on my feet and hating the fact that, well, here we go again.

The past few days have been miserable.

When I looked in the mirror the other morning, I had a hard time trying to figure out who that feller was. I could hardly see as my eyes and face was so swollen from being awake all night coughing up junk and blowing my nose every fifteen seconds. I’m having a hard time at the present trying to stay focused and not screw up this effort. My face looks like it had been set on fire around my nose and eyes and began to melt into big sacks of skin under my eyes.

You know how us old cowboys are.

We are stubborn. We hate going to see the doc, but as a matter of fact, I just had a physical a couple of weeks ago and all was well and good. I did go in to see the doc this morning only to be told that I couldn’t see anyone until 3:30 this afternoon.

Just the same, I feel blessed because any time I don’t feel good and start to whine, it doesn’t take me but a moment to realize that Little Miss Martha would absolutely love to be here and be going through what I am going through.

Don’t ya just hate it when you get smacked right back into focus when you would really just like to wrap yourself up in a little pity blanket until all is well?

I hate the wind as well. It has been very windy up here on the ONO as of late but by golly, it’s springtime in the Rockies and the wind she does blow for many weeks to come. I had a friend come out with his wife, daughter and two granddaughters Sunday so the little ones could ride old Howdy.

I promised them days ago the little horse-crazy girls could ride some and determine if it was going to be necessary for Grandpa to buy them a horse in the near future.

When he saw me he offered, “dang Jack I didn’t know you were sick, we can do this another time,” I assured him that I was fine and there is no way I would send those little darlings back to town without letting them ride.

It was windy and cold and we didn’t ride long, and I’m so glad I got to be a part of what put those huge smiles and giggles on those girls faces. It didn’t promote me to getting better faster, but I’d hate to be the one to disappoint those little kids.

Well, my nose is running and I have tears in my eyes from the infection, but I finally did get this column written and I do thank you for bearing with me under the circumstances. I will do better next time.

Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion, find more things to love than to hate and I’ll c. y’all, all y’all. ❖

Milo Yield: Pulling good-natured pranks can be a fun pastime

March 15, 2016 — 

Last week I pulled a fun, harmless — but a tad nasty — little prank on an innocent person.

An upstanding young feller in our community works in town, but still helps out on his family’s farm. He also happens to have a girlfriend. This is a story about him/them.

A couple of weeks ago on a beautiful, sunny Sunday, ol’ Nevah and I decided to attend a women’s basketball game at my alma mater, Bea Wilder U. As we were sitting in the stands, during a timeout, the crowd camera panned through the fans — putting people’s faces up on the big screen above the floor.

Well, I happened to glance up at the screen just in time to see the young feller in this story and his girlfriend’s faces flash up on the big screen. They were just innocently sitting there minding their own business.

But, just seeing the young couple on the screen, put my devious old mind to work, because, often, but not at that game, the same crowd-scanning camera becomes a “Kiss Cam” — that is, any couple who shows up on the screen is obliged to plant a kiss on each other to share with the crowd.

So, I hatched my prank. The next week I “happened” to have business at the young man’s place of employment. All the employees are locals and they all know each other well.

During my business transaction, I “happened” to see the young man in question and I yelled at him, plenty loud enuf for the other employees to hear, “Hey, I saw you and your lady friend at the Bea Wilder U. women’s basketball game last Sunday.”

He smiled and replied, “You did? We didn’t see you.”

“Well,” I said, “I didn’t actually see you, but I saw the pair of you on the Kiss Cam during a time out. And, let me tell you, you put a real mugging on her. I haven’t see such an intense mugging since the last ranch rodeo I attended. The Kiss Cam stayed on you for a long, long time before you came up for air.”

About that time, all the employees who could hear me started giggling and laughing, realizing the scam I wuz pulling on him.

As for the young man, I think he flushed a bit, but he took the entire schtick with a good natured grain of salt, for which I’m glad becuz he’s a lot bigger than me.

It wuz a dirty little trick, I admit, but it wuz all in fun. Now, it might not be so fun for me the next time I see his girlfriend.


Spring has got to be just around the corner, because all the killdeer’s are back at my pond and running around on our gravel driveway. They’re always the first spring birds to arrive at Damphewmore Acres. I’ve also seen a few advance-guard robins in the yard and I expect any morning to see a huge flock of robins in the yard on their way north.

I tried fishing for the first time this year and got skunked. I think the fish will bite on occasion now, but I know they’re waiting for the water to warm a bit before they get really active.


The fire danger is high right now. We’re got a lot of tinder in the Flint Hills just waiting until this spring’s fire season. With all the grass left in the pastures from last year’s good growing season, the fires this season are sure to be hot and effective in killing unwanted brush in the rangeland.

And the fire season will be more dangerous, too. Just last week, a couple of knuckleheads drove through the eastern Flint Hills intentionally setting grass fires.

I don’t know if they’ve been apprehended or not, but I hope so because wildfires are nothing to play around with.

And while I’m talking about the fire season, despite the best efforts of ranchers to comply with federal air quality standards, the feds just keep coming up with more restrictions.

This year, they’ve lowered the air quality threshold by five parts per million in the air, while expanding the “window” during which they’ll be measuring air quality in Kansas City and other urban areas.

You’d think the feds would be more cooperative when it comes to finding ways to burn the Flint Hills safely for all concerned. After all, without annual fire, eventually the beautiful, productive Flint Hills native grasslands will give way to unsightly, unproductive brush, cedars and hedge trees.


Been watching the political debates on the boob tube. All I can say is, “Ugh!” They’re not true debates, but shouting, insulting matches. We, the people, deserve better.

It’s going to be a long time before this election is settled in November, and there’s gonna be a lot of fallout and long-term ramifications.


Gotta go for now. I’ll get off my soapbox and leave you with these words of wisdom from Facebook: “Sometimes the thoughts in my head get bored and go for a stroll through my mouth. That’s never a good thing.”

Also: “The fact there’s a highway to hell and a stairway to heaven says a lot about the anticipated traffic.”

And: “The most precious thing we have is life, yet it has absolutely no trade-in value.”

And, finally: “If life deals you lemons, make lemonade. If life deals you tomatoes, make Bloody Mary’s.”

Have a good ‘un.❖

Steve Suther: Producers only should leave an impression if it's a good one

March 15, 2016 — 

“Unforgettable,” crooned Nat King Cole, “…that’s what you are. Unforgettable, though near or far.”

The charming voice and smooth lyrics of the classic song sure make being “unforgettable” sound like an awfully good thing.

Even when applied to cattle, it certainly can be. There are those “bell ringer” groups that gain and grade. They never get sick and they earn premiums upon harvest.

If a cattle feeder remembers your pen, these are things you hope are running through their head. You want them to smile when thinking about the ease with which the cattle went on feed and how they really never had a bad day.

But there are times when unforgettable is not such a positive thing.

Last fall, my colleague Paul Dykstra was part of a session entitled, “How to Build the Perfect Feedlot Steer,” and during it mentioned that the feedlot pen rider knows what the industry does not need.

“You do not want him to become familiar with your cattle.”

You see, if there is an imaginary “Wall of Fame,” full of cattle that buyers hope to purchase again, there is an equal and opposite “Wall of Shame.”

An owner’s name just might cause them to shudder at the likely “wreck.”

They might remember numerous pulls and repeated treatments or cattle that faced many challenges as they came on feed. Or maybe it’s the attitude that sticks out the most — the mean and hot-headed critters they cared for each day.

Just as you never want to be on the “do not accept checks from” list behind the counter at your local convenience store, you certainly don’t want to be on this list.

It might not be a published register, but it’s just as important to your bottom line. The cattle business is a small one after all, and word travels. Your reputation (or your cattle’s) may precede you in the auction barn or as you try to make a direct sale with a neighboring feedyard.

That’s why small things all add up. Vaccine handling and administration, the details involved with calving health and weaning, yearlong herd nutrition — they all make a difference. That can help animals express genetic potential, though proper management doesn’t help mask poor choices.

It might take extra work to get feedback from buyers, but if you can open a communication loop, it will be worth the effort.

Because when you hear that your cattle were (channel your inner Nat King Cole here) “unforgettable…in every way,” you want to be sure that’s a positive description.❖

Candy Moulton: Spur Award winners announced at the Tucson Festival of Books

March 15, 2016 — 

Pulitzer Prize winner T.J. Stiles, the prolific Joe R. Lansdale and an 11-year-old Maine girl highlight the 2016 Spur Award winners from Western Writers of America.

Winners and finalists were announced Saturday at the Tucson Festival of Books and will be honored during WWA’s convention June 21-25 in Cheyenne, Wyo.

Lydia Schofield of Thorndike, Maine, became the youngest Spur winner in WWA history when “Buckaroo Bobbie Sue,” published by Little Hands Press, won the Storyteller Spur as best illustrated children’s book. The book, illustrated by Kristina Zack Young, was published under the penname JoJo Thoreau. Lydia’s mother, Tiffany Schofield, is acquisitions editor for Waterville, Maine-based Five Star Publishing.

Stiles’ “Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America,” published by Alfred A. Knopf, won in the Best Western Biography category.

Lansdale, whose “Paradise Sky” (Mulholland Books), won for Best Historical Western Novel, is also a veteran of the Western genre.

Since 1953, Western Writers of America, westernwriters.org, has promoted and honored the best in Western literature with the annual Spur Awards, selected by panels of judges. Awards, for material published last year, are given for works whose inspiration, image and literary excellence best represent the reality and spirit of the American West.

All winners :

Historical Novel: Winner: Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale (Mulholland Books).

Contemporary Novel: Winner: Crazy Mountain Kiss: A Sean Stranahan Mystery by Keith McCafferty (Viking).

Traditional Novel: Winner: The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas (St. Martin’s Press).

Mass-Market Paperback Novel: Winner: Lords of an Empty Land by Randy Denmon (Pinnacle).

Biography: Winner: Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles (Alfred A. Knopf).

Historical Nonfiction: Winner: William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest by William Heath (University of Oklahoma Press).

Contemporary Nonfiction: Winner: The Size of the Risk: Histories of Multiple Use in the Great Basin by Leisl Carr Childers (University of Oklahoma Press).

Juvenile Nonfiction: Winner: This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon by Nancy Plain (University of Nebraska Press).

Juvenile Fiction: Winner: Walk on Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson (Greenwillow Books).

Storyteller (Illustrated Children’s Book) Winner: Buckaroo Bobbie Sue by author JoJo Thoreau and illustrator Kristina Zack Young (Little Hands Press).

Short Nonfiction Winner: “Cowboys and Capitalists: The XIT Ranch in Texas and Montana, 1885-1912” by Michael M. Miller (Montana The Magazine of Western History).

Short Fiction Winner: “The Scalper” by Richard Prosch (Western Trail Blazer).

Song Winner: “The Hand” by Trinity Seely and Waddie Mitchell (Bucket Bail Press).

Poem Winner: “All-American Biography” by Paige Buffington (Narrative magazine)

Drama Script Winner: Slow West by John Maclean (See Saw Films/Film 4/New Zealand Film Commission; A24).

Documentary Script Winner: Power’s War by Dodge Billingsley and Cameron Trejo (Amistad Entertainment LLC).

First Novel Winner: American Copper by Shann Ray (Unbridled Books).

First Nonfiction Book Winner: William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest by William Heath (University of Oklahoma Press).❖

Lee Pitts: A life without books is incomplete, even though book business isn't what it used to be

March 15, 2016 — 

I love books and the minute you walk into our house, that becomes obvious. I may not have the 300,000 books that Larry McMurtry had, or the 133-pound book found in a Chicago public library, but overflowing bookcases line the walls of our home.

I feel uncomfortable in a home without books, and there must be others like me, because interior decorators are buying books by the running foot that nobody reads with fancy leather spines to decorate homes. I find I don’t have much in common with people who don’t read. They say Henry Ford didn’t read books. Maybe that’s why I’m a Chevy man.

The book business has been kind to my wife and I ever since we published my first book in 1985 and we refer to our home we’ve lived in for three decades as “The House That Dirt Roads Built.” I’ve become acquainted with many interesting people because of my books, like Paul Harvey, an offensive line coach of the San Francisco 49’ers and the owner of the Minnesota Twins.

In 2004 when we published “A Collection of Characters,” it was one of 175,000 books published that year. It seems that everyone wants to write a book, and I think half of them call me for advice. It’s like someone once said, “To lead a complete life, you must plant a tree, sire a child and write a book.”

Most of the people calling me about writing their memoirs say something like, “I want to write a book and I already have a title, a really funny joke and the page numbers.”

It’s a lot of work writing a book...and then the real work begins. It doesn’t help that Amazon killed off a good chunk of the local bookstores around the country that would feature a book by a local author. And it’s hard to predict what will sell. The New York publisher Harper Collins printed one of my essays as a hardcover book for children and I thought it would sell like hotcakes because the essay was all over the Internet, but most of those marked down books ended up in big stacks just begging people to steal them. Bookstores even took those security thingies out of them to make it easier for shoplifters.

Being the author of a book is not all the glitz you may think it is. It’s quite a blow to the ego to go to a local library sale where they sell boxes of books people don’t want any more to find five of your own books there autographed to your neighbor. (I still don’t speak to my neighbor after that.)

Like everything else, thanks to the Internet, the book business isn’t what it used to be. My first book was called “It’s The Pitts” and about a week after an ad appeared in our own livestock paper, my wife and I went to the post office and had a notice in our P.O. b\Box to go to the front desk where they handed us 204 envelopes with money in them. We thought we’d never see another poor day! Guess what — in the 30 years since then, we’ve NEVER sold that many books in a day.

There were a couple highlights along the way. We had to reprint “People Who Live At The End of Dirt Roads” four times and we had big sales after a couple of my essays appeared in the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.

Speaking of which, I’m very embarrassed that our second-best selling book was a cookbook, and I can’t even cook! Worse yet, it was called “The I Hate Chicken Cookbook,” so for the next 25 years I’ve had sneak around lest anyone see me eating a piece of poultry.

Book signings are the worst. Someone, obviously an author, once compared them to being a prostitute, only with less dignity. I’ll never forget the elderly gent who walked up to the table where I was signing and asked, “How much are these books?”

I replied, “They’re twelve apiece or five for fifty.”

He reached into his pocket, threw a crumpled single dollar bill at me and says, “I guess I’ll take the package deal.”

I was speechless when he said, “You have 50 cents in change, I hope.” ❖

Baxter Black: When a cowboy catches a cold, he's inconsolable

March 15, 2016 — 

He had a little fever but he said he’d be okay,

“Too much to do to lay around and stay inside all day.”

“Harry, you were up all night. You’ve been through a case of Halls!”

“I can’t stay in the house all day! Gosh, what if someone calls!”

“You wouldn’t have to answer. I’d tell’um you’re outside.”

“But what if Ester just dropped by. I’d have no place to hide.”

“Don’t fret yourself ‘bout Ester, ‘cause I’m meetin’ her in town.”

“I planned to fence the stackyard ‘fore I move the cows on down.”

“It’s drizzlin’ rain and freezin’, you best lay there in your chair.

If someone comes just claim that you’re workin’ on the fair.”

“But they’ll see me in my slippers! And what if I doze off?”

“All I know’s your sick and sufferin’. Just listen to that cough.”

“Well, you go on with Ester and I’ll try and close my eyes.”

When she hit the yard that evening, she saw his compromise,

He was sittin’ in the pickup, asleep there in the seat.

It was idlin’ in the driveway. The dog made it complete,

Like he’d just drove up, or maybe was fixin’ to pull out.

Either way he had it covered in case someone might doubt

His constant perseverance, but his sweetheart only said,

“You can come on in now, darlin’, it’s safe to go to bed.”

Gwen Peterson: Cowboys used to sing songs about home, love and horses

March 15, 2016 — 

In early days, cowboys drove cattle herds up the trails from Texas to Kansas, to Nevada to Montana, where the animals were then loaded onto railroad cars to be shipped to eastern markets. The journey could take weeks.

At night after the cattle had bedded down in a tight bunch, one or two nightriders — usually in two hour shifts — would slowly circle the sleeping herd. As he rode, the cowboy would sing quietly.

Whether he was particularly melodious or not didn’t matter. The sound of the drover’s voice was soothing and calming to the cows.

Though there are still “drives” of the local sort, no longer do cowboys drive herds of bovines miles and miles to railheads. Those days have faded into history, but the old songs live on.

Songs of home, songs of sweethearts left behind, songs of longing and loss, nostalgic tunes and humorous ditties sometimes made up or parodied to a familiar melody.


At the end of a day on a dusty trail

When the sun begins to set

The cows bunch up and soon lie down

A prairie meadow their bed

And soon a cowboy saddles up

And through the dark of night

He slowly circles the sleeping herd

And sings until morning light

The songs of the trail have been handed down

They’re part of cowboy lore

Listen! Listen! As night winds whisper

Those plaintive tunes once more

Songs of the trail, songs of the herd

Songs of horses and riding

Songs of home, of sweethearts left

Songs of young men sighing

Come sing along as we repeat the words

Of tunes from yesteryear

That help us remember times gone by

Those days we still hold dear

“I ride an old Paint, I lead an old Dan

I’m goin’ to Montana to throw the houlihan,

They feed in the coulees, they water in the draw,

Their tails are all matted, their backs are all raw.

Ride around, little doggies, ride around them slow,

For the fiery and snuffy are rarin’ to go.

Old Bill Jones had two daughters and a song,

One went to Denver, the other went wrong.

His wife, she died in a poolroom fight

But still he keeps singing from morning to night:

Ride around, little doggies, ride around them slow,

For the fiery and snuffy are rarin’ to go.

When I die, take my saddle from the wall,

Put it on my pony, and lead him from his stall.

Tie my bones to his back, turn our faces to the West,

We’ll ride the prairie that we love the best.

Ride around, little doggies, ride around them slow,

For the fiery and snuffy are rarin’ to go. ❖

Mad Jack Hanks: Good moms give proper love and attention to their calves

March 15, 2016 — 

Gentle readers, I have made a good many horseback observations over the years. One thing that I have opined in this process is that a good momma cow is like a cool drink of windmill water from a tomato can on a hot west Texas afternoon.

I reckon bovines are like us humans. Some are a little better than average and put forth a little more effort than most. A good momma cow has her baby licked off and on his (her) feet as soon as possible right after birth. She shelters him from the cold and allows him to run and buck and play and have some fun under her watchful eye.

You have seen that momma cow with a dozen or so calves bedded down around her as she “baby sits” all the babies while her sisters go to the salt block or to water. I would bet ya that she volunteers to be the babysitter simply because that is just who she is.

She is like a lot of women who volunteer to help out at their children’s school or in their Sunday school class or who takes her children down to the homeless shelter to help prepare and feed the down and out.

Now some first calf heifers can find themselves under a little stress when that first baby is born, especially if they have an assisted birth. They are just not sure what happened. “What’s this? Why, does this baby belong to me?” Some will just jump right in and take care of that calf, and some may just walk away and say, “I didn’t ask for this. I’m just too young and pretty and busy to be a momma right now.”

Isn’t that the way we see some folks act these days? Not only the young girls, but the baby’s daddy might just revolt and not want any part of the responsibility of having a child.

I love little kids. There was a young mother at the dance hall a couple of weeks back who let her toddler onto the dance floor before it was too crowded. That darling little girl watched the grownups dance and did her best to mimic them. And let me tell ya, this baby had rhythm and for a tiny toddler, she could cut a rug. I was amazed and highly entertained just watching her. She had a good momma.

I always tried to cull any cow in the bunch that was not attentive to her calves. There are just some cows, like some women, that shouldn’t have babies.

They just don’t seem to appreciate the value of being a mom. I know you moms have your hands full these days trying to make ends meet, take care of all your family’s needs and be a lover and a soft place for your children to land when the need arrives.

Of course I didn’t intend for you ladies to be compared to a cow. I trust you were not offended and will continue to do your best in all situations. God love ya!

Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion, take time to be considerate and I’ll c. y’all, all y’all. ❖

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