Lee Pitts: It’s the Pitts 12-5-11
December 5, 2011
“What are you doing here?” I asked a farmer neighbor who looked as out of place sitting by himself at the auction market cafe as a Nevada cowpoke at the opera. He made his living farming but kept a fancy herd of cattle on his more marginal ground.
“I bought some bulls at a sale and they dropped them off here and I wanted to make sure my 5,000 dollar bulls didn’t get sold in the slaughter run.”
“Yeah, I had that happen to me once. But I bought them so cheap I actually made money on them when they were accidentally sold for slaughter.”
“Knowing the kind of bulls you buy, it’s probably best their genetics weren’t propagated.”
“Well at least I can rest easy at night,” I said. “I don’t know how you can spend 5,000 dollars for a bull and then just turn him out where anything might happen to them. If I spent that kind of money I’d sleep with them.”
“Yeah, you probably would. But I share the same misgivings. As a farmer I can park my quarter million dollar tractors in a shed or keep them around the house where I can watch them. And I feel confident knowing someone is not going to sneak into my fields at night and steal my entire crop. But I can’t do the same thing with my cattle that are in distant pastures where they can be stolen, shot, hit by lightning, or eaten by bears. I don’t know how ranchers cope with the constant threat of loss.”
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“Believe me,” I replied, “if it was my own money invested in these cows I’d feel the same way. But it makes a lot of difference when the bank owns them.”
“Now, with cattle being worth so much more the stress is even greater. A cow is worth more than a gold Krugerand and yet I keep those in a safe deposit box at the bank. Yet I can’t do that with my cows,” said my neighbor.
“Yeah, I don’t think the banker would look too kindly on you traipsing in there with a cow or two to keep in his vault. But I must admit, I feel the same way. Not knowing where my cows are at any given moment. Heck, they could be over at your place getting bred by your 5,000 dollar bulls. Heaven forbid.”
Just then a truck driver who’d been sitting at the counter staring into his coffee cup and waiting for a back haul, turned on his stool and said, “It sounds like what you boys need for your cows is the computer my boss stuck on my truck to keep track of his drivers and equipment. He can see on his computer if I’m driving, resting, where I am, and even how fast I’m going. I hate it, but if they can do it with a truck, why not a cow?”
“It sure would take a lot of the work out of our work,” my excited neighbor said. “I could sit at home in my slippers and tell my cowboy where he might find a sick cow. And I’d know she was sick because the computer could send me an e-mail whenever a cow’s body temperature spiked. I could see where a good chunk of my net worth was at any hour of the day or night, and I’m sure there could be a computer program to tell me when a no-good, trich-infested bull entered into my space,” he said glaring at me.
“I don’t like the idea,” I replied. “I’d be spending all day on the computer waiting to talk to someone in tech support in India, when I could be outside on the back of a horse doing what I enjoy. And it sounds like all this would require a huge computer to keep track of all the data. I don’t have a supercomputer and I’m not about to buy one.”
“The data is stored in the cloud,” said the trucker. “It’s called cloud computing.”
I asked an old cowboy in the cafe who’d done some day work for me, a man I know had never “surfed the Internet” in his life, what he thought of all this nonsense.
“First of all, I’m not wearing a computer if you’re thinking of tracking me down that way. And where is this cloud you’re talking about? It must not be from around these parts. No wonder it never rains around here any more. You’ve got the clouds so full of computer gibberish there’s no room left for any rain.”