Avoiding A Wage

My aunt from Mississippi toured around the ranch with me the other day. As we checked on the alfalfa and talked about selling ground beef, lamb chops and wool pelts, along with writing, she said:

“You sure put a lot of effort into not taking a wage!”

She’s right.

The idea of punching a time clock and listening to someone else direct my day makes my stomach turn upside down.

Instead, one family eats my steaks, another makes stew, another reads a book snuggled in a wooly recliner – all as a result of my native grass and clean water that turned into something a person can use.

I’m not the only one with a family business that provides lots of little pots of money.

At the Augusta rodeo a couple of weeks ago, I visited with a trick roper and his daughter from Lubbock, Texas.

Bryce and Grace Chapman hauled four horses for two days to show the audience how to spin a rope around horse and rider while the horse walked and trotted, how to drive a team from the saddle of a riding horse standing in the wagon and how to spin a rope from head to toe while standing in the saddle. Bryce was worried that one of his draft mares would flinch and crack the chassis of his 1923 wagon, but she never moved a muscle. Neither did his saddle horse that played dead, laying on the ground for about 10 minutes while Bryce spun ropes all around him.

If I tried those tricks with any of my horses, you could visit me in the hospital. Or maybe in the morgue.

When Bryce and 13-year-old Grace are not practicing or performing, Bryce shoes horses.

His justification: He said he has a bit of a horse addiction and he doesn’t like people to tell him what to do. He has open dates to perform at more rodeos. Meanwhile, he will be nailing iron to hooves and making hay.

My friend, Zane, and his wife, Casey, make a living from lots of little pots of money, too.

Zane is a rodeo clown, auctioneer, farmer and rancher.

And now he is an investor in rodeo memorabilia. In a big way.

In the late 70’s, Oscar the bucking bull spun to the left so quickly out of the chute that only five bull riders ever heard the buzzer from the top of Oscar’s shoulders. Oscar came out of the rodeo chute more than 300 times, but was ridden on only eight of those days. Don Gay rode him three times and even scored 97 on one of his rides.

Oscar retired in 1979 and died in 1983.

After that, someone mounted Oscar in his most famous, heels high in the air, bucking pose.

Now, Zane the rodeo clown and rancher extraordinaire owns the taxidermied Oscar. As soon as Oscar’s tail is re-secured, 1300 pounds of horn-hooking fury will reside in Zane’s recreation room. Until someone comes along who wants to own him more than Zane does, that is.

A central-Montana rancher once said 10 dimes make a dollar. He was referring to all the little management decisions that, combined, create a productive ranch. He might as well have been talking about all the little pots of money created from assorted gambles that keep a ranch in the black.

Add them all up and they provide enough -- enough money and enough freedom to keep people like Bryce and Grace Chapman and Zane and Casey working hard to keep the rest of us smiling.  

The world would be a darker place if they took a wage.

Lisa Schmidt