John Mattingly: Socratic Rancher 12-24-12 |

John Mattingly: Socratic Rancher 12-24-12

I decided to take a break from my series about buffalo (to be continued in two weeks).

The reason for the break is, in all the years I’ve written for the Fence Post, it has seldom worked out that I was honored to write a column for the issue that came out on Christmas Eve. Because Christmas Eve falls on a Monday only once in seven years, and my column comes out every other week, it’s just been my luck to seldom appear in the issue that comes out on Christmas Eve.

So I consider it a real gift.

I want to offer my humble blessings and best wishes to all readers of the Fence Post and all the folks who participate in the publication, in all its various aspects. I’ve had the pleasure of watching the publication grow from John Walker’s garage to a major publication that engages good people and has become a valuable resource to the agricultural community, offering a wide variety of information, entertainment and advertising.

I want to offer my humble blessings and best wishes to all readers of the Fence Post and all the folks who participate in the publication, in all its various aspects.

I don’t think texting or e-mail will ever replace the feeling of a publication in your hands that you can leaf through at your leisure, then write on, dog-ear, tear from, fold up, browse through, pass on, roll up to swat a fly or sweep snow off your windshield, and then, maybe, on a cold winter night, crumble up a few old pages under a stack of kindling to start a fire.

I look forward to seeing people at the Farm Show next year in January where I hope, and plan, to give away books as the result of a little good fortune I had with my book publisher. It will be a chance for me to give back to readers of the Fence Post a small token of appreciation for, well, being readers.

This particular holiday season I’ve heard the usual run of comments. There are those who love the prospect of finding gifts and shopping, being out in malls and shops with all the lights and glitter. Then there are those who find the commercialization a bit too much, but almost everybody, if you pinch them hard enough, will admit they enjoy the chance to get together with family members, take in a meal and share company with a few well-considered gifts.

I don’t strongly favor or disfavor shopping and gifts, preferring to put most emphasis on basics. After I crossed the threshold of 60-years-old a few years back, I have to admit that I consider it a gift that I wake up every morning and watch the sun come up over a cup of hot coffee and piece of buttered toast, sometimes with an egg on it.

Several of my dear friends are approaching their late 80s, and they have taken the time to give me a lot of wisdom over the years. As some of my past stories in the Fence Post suggest, I think one of the great gifts we all have in our culture is our older people, who can give us so much in the way of perspective. I often remind young people (including my son and nephews) that they will be well served to take time to sit down with their elders and listen.

“So we have to listen to you?” one of them asked the other day at a family gathering.

“No,” I said. “I’m not quite old enough, yet.” ❖

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A real body of work


I’ve presided over a riot only once in my life. It was years ago at our annual branding which would eventually turn into an all out war.

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