The high cost of being cheap
Los Osos, Calif.
Okay, I admit it: I’m the cheapest SOB who ever made soup out of a complimentary cup of hot water from McDonalds and a free packet of ketchup. My wife and I have been married for 44 years and we’ve owned a total of two television sets and our current one is a chunky box-like structure that weighs 100 pounds and has a tube in it. We can’t stand the thought of buying a new TV just to see them get even cheaper next year. The last pick-up we owned we drove for 25 years and we’ve started taking showers every other day to cut our water bill. If I ever owned a Rolex it would have to be a fake of a fake. I could go on like this but I don’t want to waste any more paper than is absolutely necessary to get my point across.
I got this way because I was my parent’s banker and had to pay every penny of my college education with money I made on show steers and working in the oilfields. The first apartment my wife and I lived in cost $125 a month and was above the office of a construction company. When we lived in Australia we lived on $40 a week due to budget constraints. My first job as a ranch manager I made $650 a month and in my second job for a livestock newspaper I worked on commission so I stayed in motels that cost $11 a night. The first time I ever paid $100 for one night in a hotel was in New Orleans and I didn’t sleep all night because I was mad at myself for such extravagance. With the lights out it was no different than those $11 rooms.
My miserly ways naturally carried over when we became ranchers and I soon discovered that it didn’t cost that much to be cheap. We leased a ranch for $12 a month per cow which came to $144 a year and because we began at the start of a seven year drouth we spent $9,000 a year on hay. That’s $219 per year per cow for feed and when we sold our calves at the auction we got $300 per calf not counting commission and trucking. That didn’t leave a lot left over for necessities, like bulls.
Although I didn’t stoop to serving chicken at our first branding I did send out invitations to only the best ropers that said it was a BYOBB event … bring your own beef and beer. No one showed up so the following year we were forced to entice the Super Loopers with hamburgers made with beef from an old cancer eyed cow.
My wonder horse Gentleman cost $650 and we bought our dog Aussie in Australia because the value of the dollar was extremely high at the time. We even tried raising our own hay to cheapen back on feed costs but the bales were so full of rocks my wife could hardly lift them.
Our outfit was known far and wide as The Toothless Cattle Company and I remember reading an article written by a college professor that said a rancher should get rid of all his unprofitable cows, but if we did that we’d no longer be in the cow business.
I learned real fast that what’s cheap is expensive. Take my squeeze chute for example. PLEASE! I’ve always enjoyed working cows through a good chute but when we got into the cow business we couldn’t afford a new chute so I bought one sight unseen for $200 from the widow of a rancher. We’ve since speculated that he was killed by his chute! It was a crossbred, made up of parts of two ancient chutes along with several handmade modifications. One of these was a balky head gate which meant there have been several life or death incidents where a cow would still have her head squeezed down when I opened the head gate. Getting her back in the squeeze would have been like putting spilled toothpaste back in the tube (which I’ve tried). What usually happened was the lever would finally release while the cow was looking directly at the operator.
The only reason I was never killed was I refused to die to save on funeral expenses. ❖