Tales from the O-NO Ranch 5-10-10
May 11, 2010
When I arrived at Terrell, Texas, just east of Dallas some 30 miles, I was a little uneasy. I had been given the job of managing a large livestock/hay operation. I had never managed a ranch before I had only operated a small cow outfit in the Texas panhandle. I was green and had just turned 35.
This was a corporate operation for an oil company that had several farms and ranches across the U.S. Today I would meet the crew of men that would work for me. Most were a little older except for one farm hand and one cowboy who were much younger. Jake was the oldest employee at 57 and had been on the ranch for about 50 years. He put me in mind of the comic book cowboy, Red Ryder. He was straight with big hands, steel blue eyes and red hair. With his batwing chaps (shaps) and big hat and vest, he could surely be Red Ryder come to life.
Jake was the cow boss and I liked him right away. He wasn’t a top hand by any means and I discovered before long that he might be a little slow to get everything done that he needed to. However, I found all of the employees to be the same way. This came from the last manager not requiring a whole lot from these guys as he wanted to be well-liked by all of them. And he was, but it cost him his job in the long run.
My job was to get things moving and make a bunch of improvements in the process. As a result I fired three employees that just absolutely refused to get off their duff after several ultimatums. By the end of the next year I had to bump Jake down from his cowboss position to cowboy. I did not cut his pay, just his responsibility and he seemed OK with that.
One summer when Jake was on vacation and we were looking for things to do around the ranch to keep everyone busy, I decided we would clean up the shop and each ranch property where the employees lived in company housing. At Jake’s place I found his feed room to be a fire hazard as it was full of old paper feed sacks and just junk that I had hoped he would have taken care of by now. He hadn’t so we hauled it all off.
When he got back he came straight to my office, bursted in the door and gave me a good cussin.
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“Who do you think you are coming over to my house and haulin’ stuff outta’ my barn? You’ll probably whup me but I’m ready to kick yer #$%@#$&*.”
Boy, ol’ Red was on the warpath. I responded by sayin’, “Jake, number one, that ain’t yer house or yer place, it belongs to the ranch. Number two, it ain’t my job to have fist-a-cuffs with the employees. You need to just settle down and we’ll work our way through this.”
He sat down and I listened as he ranted for a few minutes and then he seemed to be OK and admitted he should have kept his company property a little cleaner. Me thinks it was payback time for bumping him back to “cowboy.”
Gentle readers, I had given each employee notice of what not only I expected, but what the company expected of them and if I didn’t get it, things would change. Things changed. I treated my employees fairly, paid them well and gave them weekends off at every opportunity. Most of those guys were there 10 years later when I moved to Colorado. Jake had retired at 62 as he was tired of the ranch work. I didn’t blame him at all, cause when we worked, we worked. If Jake is still alive, and I hope he is, he is in his 90s. He was a tough ol’ man and I bet he’s still kickin’.
Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion and I’ll c. ya.