I read recently that during the agricultural era, the identity and value of a man was most often tied to his relationship with his family and his community. Then, in the industrial era, a man came to be defined by his work. But, in today’s information era, which is defined by innovation and technology, a man is uncertain about how to define himself.
I actually find a lot of good in the defining characteristics of all three eras, and some negatives as well, I suppose. I like the sound of being identified by family and community involvement, which are truly noble things. Of course, in the early days of agriculture, farming was tremendously hard work, and success was more fragile. Without modern technology, large-scale operations largely weren’t practical and Mother Nature tended to trump work ethic. Thus, success was seen as only being one part hard work and smarts, and three parts luck.
The industrial and information ages changed agriculture. The hours are still long but, for the most part, we’re doing something we love and doing it better. I think there’s more uncertainty and volatility in agriculture today, as it’s capital-intensive, low-margin and remains dependent on uncontrollable factors like global markets and Mother Nature. Nonetheless, ag is a great way of life, as there’s a pride and purpose in working with your family, feeding God’s children and taking care of the land and animals.
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That discussion about the long-term picture and challenges of agriculture sort of sets the stage for my thoughts about getting into better physical shape. Like many middle-aged men, I realize I should get back into physical shape. Also like most middle-aged men, that’s about as far as I’ve progressed on the notion – recognizing that I should.
With that said, I’ve noticed that there seems to be an inordinate number of cattlemen who run for exercise these days. Some who are older than me are even running marathons. I see this change in evidence at industry meetings.
I’ve always found cattlemen’s behavior at overnight conventions and meetings kind of curious. We all tend to get up early, just as we do at home, but have nothing to do. So we have long breakfasts and meetings in the hotel cafés and lobbies and consume lots of coffee. Lately, though, I’ve been increasingly getting humbled as I watch more pasty-legged cattlemen walk by me sipping coffee after their morning runs.
I presume these folks are running regularly, because who in their right mind would begin such an activity while on what is nearly a vacation? My disdain for such behavior isn’t rooted in jealousy, though; on the contrary, it just seems kind of redundant to me, as ranching is akin to running a marathon anyway, isn't it?
I’ll admit that I’ve never enjoyed running, but the real reason I likely won’t be joining the running set of cowboys is that I am geographically challenged. You see, I happen to live on fairly high ground, so no matter which direction I run, coming back will be uphill. Maybe I'll just start by stretching for a while.
The views of Troy Marshall do not necessarily reflect those of beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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