A good eye
I admit, I have all the tact of a horny pit bull in the miniature poodle class at the Westminster Dog Show. To me, tact is your saddle, reins, hobbles, quirt, etc. Or, what the saddle maker has in his mouth when he’s nailing a front jockey to a saddle tree. The way I see it, some people have tact, and the rest us tell the truth.
When I started my livestock newspaper I got some big advertising budgets because not only would I work ring at the breeder’s sale, I’d also come packing some bull orders. I didn’t cultivate this following, nor did I advertise my services, but at most sales I bought at least one bull and the most I ever bought at one sale was 30 bulls.
I like to think there were several reasons ranchers trusted me to buy their bulls. One, I’d give an honest appraisal and two, I never spent more than the limit I was given. It also could have had something to do with the fact that I never charged a dime for doing it. It was not all fat ad budgets and exotic travel through such places as Gas, Kan., Climax, Ga., and Slickpoo, Idaho. In at least one case I was fired off a sale for NOT buying a bull.
I always tried to arrive a couple hours before any sale I worked and this day was no exception. Before I’d even gotten out of my car an irritated consignor jumped me and said, “Where have you been? A friend of yours wants you to bid on my bull today.”
So I called my friend and he said, “Yeah that guy has been pestering me for two months telling me I needed to give him an $8,000 bid for that bull. I’ll tell you what, just placate him and look at the bull and call me back and tell me what you think.”
I’d bought a lot of bulls for my buddy and I knew the chance he’d pay $8,000 for one were the same as it snowing in Phoenix in the middle of July. I also knew that my friend liked his bulls a little on the framey side and that he was also very hard to please.
I called him back and said, “The bull is structurally correct, heavily muscled, has a powerful toolbox, and has exceptional numbers. The only negative thing is that he’s probably a frame score 5.” I swear, that’s all I said.
The next thing you know I was fired from the breeder’s annual production sale, never got another ad, was taken off his Christmas card list and if I saw him in public he wouldn’t even speak to me. I found out from a fellow road agent that the reason my friend had given the bull consignor for not buying his bull was, “Lee Pitts told me the bull wasn’t any good.”
I knew the breeder was irate so the next time I was in his neck of the woods I dropped by. I was met at the front door by a good looking teenager and I asked to see her father. I was led to the kitchen table where I extended my hand in friendship and to lighten the mood I said to the bull buyer, “Your daughter who let me in sure is a beautiful girl.”
“That’s not my daughter,” he replied, “that’s my son.”
So we were off to a great start. Open mouth, insert other foot.
I’d considered offering up a good excuse for not buying the bull like, “I was emotionally wobbly that day.” Or, “I was having technical difficulties,” (it works for the cable companies). Or, “I tried to bid but the auctioneer never saw me.” Instead, in a moment of higher consciousness I realized there’s no gentle way to prick a balloon. So I bared my soul and told the truth. Midway through my mea culpa a lady walked into the kitchen and served a plate of brownies which were some of the best I’d ever sampled. Again, trying to lighten the mood I said, “Your wife sure is a good cook.”
“That’s not my wife,” he said, “that’s my daughter.”
I think this example clearly illustrates another reason why cattleman trusted me to buy their bulls: I have such a good eye.
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