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Is it Surprising We Do This For Little Or Nothing?

As kids all of us had fantasies about what we would be when we grew up. While most boys typically dream of playing professional sports, I dreamed of being a cowboy.

Admittedly, I don't have a six-gun and holster. I don't have much desire to see how fast I can handle a pistol. And sleeping in a bedroll on hard ground has by now lost its appeal. Still, no matter how many talks I give about the importance of a business approach to cattle ranching and embracing technology, I still love the romance of this business.

As I grew older, my career goals changed. Instead of wanting to be known as a cowboy, I gradually evolved more toward cattleman and horseman. Regardless of the terminology, I've always responded with pride in telling folks I'm a rancher. Even doctors and lawyers can't always say that.

Business guru Peter Drucker wrote: "Work is an extension of personality. It is achievement. It is one of the ways in which a person defines himself, measures his worth -- and his humanity." Every time I read that quote, I can't help but think there's literally no profession I'd rather associate myself with than ranching.

When I headed out to the barn this morning to saddle my horse and check heat on heifers, I would have told anyone who asked that I was heading to work. Yet, even on the worst of days, I can think of very few things I'd rather do. In fact, I like it so much I might even say I'd do it for nothing.

Ranching offers the unique challenge of working with Mother Nature, animals and a few really good people. And, while the environment may be ultra-competitive from an economic standpoint and the effort required, people have never entered or stayed in this business for purely economic reasons. That defines our business.

We have a moral responsibility to our family and children to make as good a living as possible, and there are tremendous opportunities for sustainable profitability in the new marketing environment that's emerging, but we aren't in this business for the money. It hurts me to make that confession, because I tend to think of myself as a rabid, free-market, entrepreneurial capitalist type. The most I can say, however, is I've chosen this life and am going to try to make as good of a living as possible from it. -- Troy Marshall