Ranchers and cattlemen tend to be the kind of people I admire and respect. They work hard, their word is their bond, and they’re always willing to lend a helping hand. We all know the stereotype, but the reason this “code” is so well known is that it tends to be lived out on a daily basis.
There are aspects of that stereotype that aren’t always positive. After all, ranchers don’t tend to be the best at expressing emotion; the whole verbalization thing isn’t one of our strengths. In my defense, I’ll admit that I talk my dog and or horse when I’m out and about, but the beauty of those conversations is that they’re one-sided.
Yes, we ranchers tend to be masters at silent communication. I love when I can just look at one of my boys or wife and they know exactly what I want them to do from across the pasture. Of course, we love telling stories, and we’ll talk politics, weather, markets, and even sports. There’s just seems to be little need to spend much time on emotions. A handshake and a simple “thanks” will mostly suffice in our world.
I still remember riding all day as a boy with my grandpa gathering cows. It was one of the best conversations of my life, and yet we probably didn’t spend more than 10 minutes actually talking. I’ve found that the mental telepathy thing works great if both people are mounted on horses.
Yes, I think we ranchers tend to assume that unspoken thoughts and words can be heard by others, and I actually think it works most of the time. I think my kids see the pride in my eyes, and I hope my parents feel my gratitude for all they’ve done. I’m pretty sure my friends know how much I appreciate their help, and I pray my wife knows just how indispensable she is in my life and the life of our family.
However, that assumption that our feelings can be read by others is also our curse, because not all of this unspoken communication is actually received. So, as I head out today, I’m going to make a conscious effort to be more specific. I’ll mention that we need to close that gate, take weights and disposition scores on the heifers, make sure counts are written down, and that the vaccine needs to be kept out of the sun.
I’m going to walk in and give my wife a squeeze on her shoulder and tell her I appreciate her. Actually, I contemplated walking in and giving her a big kiss, but I’m not sure I’m prepared to be that demonstrative and I don’t want to scare her. I’m also going to say or do something that lets the kids know I’m proud of them.
It’s a lot easier today to overcome the rancher’s curse than in the old days. After all, texts and emails allow us to build up to that actual two-way conversation.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com and the Penton Agriculture Group.
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