J.C. Mattingly: A Socratic Rancher | TheFencePost.com

J.C. Mattingly: A Socratic Rancher

J.C. Mattingly Moffat, Colo.

Doing the monthly bills last week, it occurred to me that, for a free country, we pay a of fees.

Late fees, access fees, privilege fees, licensing and registration fees, disposal fees, origination fees, handling fees, baggage fees … last spring I even paid a hiking fee. (Well, it wasn’t exactly a fee, it was more a permit/contribution to Search and Rescue, such that if you buy the card and you get hurt or lost in the wild, you won’t get a bill. A nice thing to have when you’re 62-years-old, climbing Fourteeners as if you were 30.)

But the fees on the phone bill that I studied last week, I have to call Anomalous Fees. Curiosity got the best of me, and I called The Corporate Provider, asking what, exactly, the menu of nine different fees was actually for, as some of them were inexplicable acronyms.

To get an answer, I had to climb the corporate phone ladder to a regional manager. He explained six of the nine fees, finally admitting, “But those other three fees, I have no idea what they’re for. All I know is: we all have to pay them.”

This sounds like a great business plan for someone, such as a graduating MBA, seeking to join corporate America: charge a fee that no one knows what it’s for, but everyone has to pay, automatically.

Come to think of it, I should’ve thought of that all those years I farmed and delivered hay, grain and other commodities, never charging anyone a single fee. I simply delivered the goods, presented a scale ticket, and was paid by the ton, bushel or hundredweight. It would’ve been so simple to add an occasional fee to my bills of lading, such as any of these:

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• WTTF (Walk to the Tractor Fee)

$1.02 standard, basic fee

• LF (Loading Fee) .56 per unit loaded

• SDF (String Disposal Fee) .05 for small bales, .25 for big bales

• TDF (Tie Down Fee) .47 per strap

• WF (Waiting Fee) 2.39 per hour, or portion thereof

• LOF (Love of Farming Fee)

1.00 per load

• RMF (Repair and Maint Fee)

.56 standard, necessary fee

Ranchers could share some of these fees, but would have a special set of fees associated with livestock, such as:

• PTCF (Pulled The Calf Fee)

$3.58. For those who needed a little help into the world.

• GKF (Got Kicked Fee) Variable Depending on how much it hurt.

• HSF (Hay Surcharge Fee) $10.00, for every $10 a ton over $100

• DLF (Death Loss Fee) Variable Depending on losses. “The rancher who never lost one, never had one,” as my old friend used to say.

In keeping with certain billing practices borrowed from the corporate world, both farmers and ranchers could toss in a couple of innocuous, friendly-sounding little fees that even we couldn’t explain.