Lee Pitts: Don’t ask
November 26, 2010
Recently a new ranch owner in our area forced himself into the conversation at the morning coffee club of old ranchers. In the course of the conversation he asked one of the crankier members how many acres he owned. Judging by the response you’d have thought he killed the old boy’s dog, stole his horse or insulted his wife.
Everybody knows you don’t ask a rancher how many acres or cows he owns. That’s like asking a Doctor how much money he makes, or asking a lawyer how much cash he has deposited in offshore banks. It’s simply none of your business!
With many ranches these days being bought by doctors, lawyers and overpaid CEOs, I thought I’d review some questionable questions they should never ask.
If you ask, “What are the other three quarters of your Quarter Horse?” everyone is going to be laughing at you behind your back forevermore. If you ask, “What are the educational requirements to become a cattle guard?” you’re just begging for a put-down. And if you ask a Texas cattleman if his ten gallon hat really holds ten gallons everyone is going to know right away that you are a gunsel.
It’s probably not safe for you to ask, “What breed of bull is that?” It’s probably a heifer or a steer and you’re gonna be laughed clear out of cattle country. Ditto if you ask what organs a “donor cow” sacrificed.
Ranchers get real tired of being asked by 4-H and FFA parents if, seeing as how they own so much land, their little darling could keep their fair pig at their place.
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Farmers and ranchers also grow weary of being asked for a weather forecast, as if, merely by being in agriculture, they are blessed with special meteorological talents. Don’t ask a cattleman in Sasabe, AZ, or in Del Rio, TX, “How much will it rain next year?” (It won’t.) Or a rancher in Aberdeen, SD, “Is it cold enough for ya?” These folks are just a little sensitive about such things.
If you ask my wife if you can wear her hat, ride her horse or borrow her husband the answers are no, no and maybe. (It depends on the day or if I’ve done anything really stupid recently.)
A lot of the dumbest questions I’ve ever heard being asked were at ringside at auctions. I once heard a newbie yell from the crowd at a cow sale, “Does she have any teeth?” To which the auctioneer replied, “She hasn’t had a tooth in her head for the past three years but she’s still alive isn’t she?” Amazingly, the guy bid again!
It’s not a good idea to ask the auctioneer for any cow’s pedigree. If there was a royally bred animal within five generations of the cow in the ring he’d have already told you about it. If you ask, “Who is she bred to?” I guarantee the auctioneer is going to reply, “A bull.” Then everyone is going to laugh at you for asking such a stupid question. Ditto if you ask for the scrotal circumference of a slaughter bull, or any breeding information on a canner cow. And no, the seller is not going to transfer the registration papers to you on a 15-year-old crossbred cow.
Horse auctions are the place where the most stupid questions are asked. One time at a sale a fellow in the crowd was trying to impress everyone with his cowboy credentials. As a crop-earred, outlaw, that carried the brand of a well-known rodeo string was led into the sale ring he yelled out, “Can you ride him?”
“Heck no, I can’t ride him,” the auctioneer replied. “But you are certainly welcome to try if you like.”
At the same sale another wannabe cowboy asked as a skittish horse entered the ring, “Can you shoot a gun off this horse?”
“My dear man,” the smart-aleck auctioneer replied, “suffice it to say, you can shoot a gun off any horse at leastonce.”