A prisoner of circumstance

Stanley is a computer nerd who inherited a paid-for ranch and 450 good cows. For some people, like me, this would be a dream come true but for Stanley, who hates cows, horses and the outdoors, he became a prisoner of circumstance. One man’s dream really is another man’s nightmare. Stanley’s goal in life was to design video games and he was three years into getting a degree in electronic engineering when his folks died and he had to come home to run the ranch.

You might say we shouldn’t feel sorry for Stanley; he could simply sell the ranch and cows, never get out of his pajamas and play computer games for the rest of his life. But it’s not that easy. Even thinking about selling the ranch that’s been in his family for 125 years made Stanley feel like a traitor to his ancestors. Plus, he’s got a young son and daughter who are both interested in cows and love everything about ranch life. So Stanley feels a responsibility to keep the ranch going for his kids who would be the sixth generation on the place.

Just because Stanley has been reduced to being a placeholder doesn’t mean that he’s no longer interested in everything electronic. He’s heavy into social media, maintains a homepage for his cat and got PTSD from playing Mortal Combat on his MacBook six hours a day. And Stanley is no slouch when it comes to cyberspace. His home office is overgrown with cable spaghetti, he gobbles up computer cookies and you’ll never catch him plugging a power strip into itself. Stanley has spent a fortune turning the dirt road that leads to his place into an information superhighway and I’ve often thought that Stanley might operate in some gray areas by hacking into other people’s databases. I wouldn’t put it past him.

Stanley is so into computers he named his daughter Alexa, after the Wi-Fi network tool that performs tasks for you. (I see a BIG problem ahead for daughter Alexa. She’s going to be run ragged with Stanley saying things all day like, “Alexa dim the lights” and “Alexa lock the doors.” Or, “Alexa, turn up the thermostat.”)

Of course, all of Stanley’s cows now have radio frequency ear tags, he pumps water with solar panels, he sells his calves on the video and he buys his bulls on the Internet. Stanley was also interested in turning his ranch into a windmill farm but the wind doesn’t blow enough on his place to put out a birthday candle, and he can’t turn it into a solar farm because there aren’t any mandatory transmission lines nearby to plug into. Because Stanley doesn’t care for cowboys he’s been reduced to devising ways to replace them with drones and robots. Now, a computer might be able to beat you in a game of chess and one might even be able to check on remote water troughs but they can’t repair a broken float valve, won’t stand on the back of a truck in freezing weather doling out alfalfa, can’t pull a calf, there’s no robotic squeeze chute on the market that gives shots, and a computer can’t roundup your cows. Although Stanley tried.

Stanley thought to himself, what makes cows move? Horses, of course, cows will also run to a feed truck, and heel flies really make cows move. So Stanley got the idea that if he could make his drones sound like heel flies he could buzz his cows and herd them anywhere he wanted. So Stanley filled his bunkhouse with drones instead of cowboys. Then, to test his idea Stanley used a small sample, a pasture with 50 cows in it. Sitting at his desk in his home office still wearing his p.j.’s he flew four heel-fly-drones to push the cows to his corral. At first the cows ignored the unmanned aerial vehicles so he turned up the volume on the drones to HIGH and soon the cows started running with their tails in the air.

Sure enough, Stanley was able to gather the entire 50 cows in one location but, alas, it was not in his corral. The cows were standing in a dirt tank with water up to their bellies so the “flies” couldn’t bite them.

Lee Pitts

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