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Posted 1/13/15 (Tue)


Over the past handful of decades, I haven’t had many jobs. Oh, I did my service in the National Guard. I was in the state legislature. I was the racing director for a few months. But, by and large, I’ve been pretty much self-employed. A friend and I joked for 30 years that we still worked for our dads. Which is a pretty good life.
But the other night, we were invited to a Christmas party put on by Stockmen’s Livestock of Dickinson. The owners hosted it for employees and their families. I’m not a steady employee, but once in awhile, I am kind of like a substitute. Which further illustrates the fact that “good” help is hard to get!
This was a great party! Succulent roast beef, free whiskey, deep fried turkey, free whiskey, mashed potatoes, free whiskey, salads, free whiskey… I could go on and on, but you see what I mean about it being a great party! And it was held the same evening that the Bison won their fourth National Championship! So it was double celebration, albeit it a bit long for someone as long in the tooth as I.
But I have to tell you a little about my employment record. You see, cattle auction sales take several employees. You have employees checking cattle in. You have employees penning cattle. You have employees sorting cattle. You have employees that move cattle up to the ring. You have employees penning cattle back. You have bookkeepers, and auctioneers, and employees that feed, and clean, and cook, and a hundred other jobs. And each employee knows that his or her job is the most important. Which is as it should be.
Now, I started at Stockmen’s when I was in college. Probably in sixty-eight or nine. I still remember when our salary was raised to $1.65/hour! I knew there would never be another poor day. Damn, I was wrong about that.
I started penning cattle after they were sold. You sat on a horse, waiting for cattle to come out of the ring. Then you trotted down the alley until they came to the right pen, where someone would be holding the gate open. Then you trotted back and got in line for the next bunch. Hour after hour. In the cold. I mean really cold, on stormy November or December days and nights.
So this fall, when they were a little short-handed, I volunteered to help. The first day, I vaulted over the cables and into the ring. I…Well, I didn’t really vault over. I guess that would be an exaggeration. But I did manage to crawl over the cables without getting tangled up.
And many of my friends were amazed to see me work! They thought I had never done such a thing. But it did give me a chance to showcase my talent, which is probably why I am still a seldom-used sub.
But, what this article is really about is how long it takes to advance. It proves that if you persist, you can reach the pinnacle of your profession. For me, it took 46 years to advance from my starting position of penning cattle back, to being a ring man in the heated ring!
Thanks, and belated Merry Christmas to Stockmen’s!