| TSLN.com

Lee Pitts: House Calls

PETA has declared victory in their battle over fur and now they want to go to war over wool. I guess no one has told PETA that you don’t have to kill a sheep to get its wool like you have to kill a mink to get its fur. PETA wants folks to wear only “vegan wool” but isn’t it already?

PETA is going after wool because they say there’s a great deal of abuse and inhumane treatment in harvesting wool and I’d agree with them 100%. You see, I was a part-time sheep shearer in my younger days and I gotta tell you, shearing sheep was the hardest work I’ve ever done and my body took the most abuse of any job I’ve ever had. To the sheep it was like getting a haircut but to me it was like being in a big washing machine in the spin cycle for three hours.

PETA says that when sheep are sheared there is a lot of punching, kicking and beating going on and that’s true. While in all the years of raising sheep I never beat, punched or kicked a single sheep but shearing just a small farm flock of 30 ewes felt like going 15 rounds with George Foreman. If PETA really wants to do some good for society they ought to form a sister organization to one called PETSS, People For the Ethical Treatment of Sheep Shearers.

My shearing business consisted of making house calls that typically went something like this.

“Thanks for coming on a Sunday to shear our five ewes but its my only day off.”

“That’s okay. How did you find me?”

“I called the guy who sheared my sheep last year. He says he quit the business right after he sheared our sheep last year.”

“Well, where are these sheep you want me to shear?”

“Oh, they’re still out to pasture. I’ve got the flu and thought you wouldn’t mind gathering them for me. Before we begin how much do you charge?”

“Well, it’s like the sign at your local mechanic’s shop. If you serve in some sort of an advisory capacity it’s five dollars per head and I get to keep the wool. If you don’t help it’s only two dollars per head plus the wool.”

You’d have thought I slapped his mother. “Are you kidding? That’s outrageous! If you keep the wool I won’t be able to get the wool subsidy from the USDA.”

“Well sir, I had to drive an hour to get here, I’ve already wasted an hour gathering your sheep plus I think I sprained my ankle jumping over those rusted bedsprings in your pasture. I may also need a tetanus booster.”

“You won’t hurt the sheep, will you? I saw some nomads on the National Geographic Channel shear their sheep and they tied the sheep up and made them bleed. Then I went on YouTube and discovered that there’s this all new “Natural Way” to shear sheep where you chant to soothe them while you shear.”

“I promise it won’t hurt your sheep any worse than it hurt you to get that big ugly tattoo on your arm. What is that thing, some sort of dragon?”

“No, it’s a likeness of my girlfriend.”

“Oops. Sorry about that. Let’s get started, shall we? We’re burning daylight and I’ve got two more house calls after this.”

“You sure make it look easy. You say you’re chargin’ me two dollars plus keeping the wool?”

“You can have the wool. It’s so dirty and full of stickers it’s useless anyway. And if you’re so worried about the welfare of your sheep why did you let their hooves curl up like a French Horn.”

“For as much as your charging you should throw in a free hoof trimming too. And could you drench them for me while you’re at it?”

After I finished I said, “That will be all of ten dollars.”

“You’ll take a check won’t you? Oops, I see I don’t have any checks left. Can you bill me? I’ll need a receipt for the wool subsidy anyway. And while you’re here, you wouldn’t mind trimming the hooves on our horse, would you? We can’t seem to be able to find a horseshoer after the last one went on Facebook® to describe his experience.”

Lee Pitts: Infamous Vegetarians

I’m getting sick and tired of vegans and vegetarians bragging about all the famous people down through history who were vegetarians for at least part of their lives. I’ll admit it’s a pretty impressive list: Mahatma Ghandi, Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, George Bernard Shaw, Steve Jobs, Paul McCartney, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame, Martina Navaratilova and Leonardo de Vinci. Although there’s some question about Leonardo because he wrote everything down in notebooks including his shopping lists which seem to have always included meat. And he wasn’t afraid to use paints made with chicken eggs, which seems like the only good use for them I can think of.

The tofu-eaters brag less about other famous vegetarians like Mike Tyson, Russell Simmons, Ellen Degeneres, Pamela Boom Boom Anderson, Ozzy Osbourne, Mr. Rogers, Prince, Bill Clinton and somebody called Moby. Another guy who was missing a few corn flakes from his box was John Harvey Kellogg who seemed to live on crackers. He sure seems crackers.

I also found a list of veg heads that included someone called Walter “Killer” Kowalski. I don’t know who “Killer” was but you’d be surprised at how many mass murderers were vegetarians, yet you don’t hear PETA bragging about them.

Two can play at this claim game. Some non-flesh-eating barbarian vegetarians included Genghis Kahn who killed 1,780,000 people in just one hour. Pol Pot, who murdered two million Cambodians, or one quarter of his fellow countrymen was also an avowed vegan. Some insist that Idi Amin was a vegetarian but I was unable to confirm or deny this. The same is true of Joseph Stalin who mostly ate walnuts, garlic, plums and pomegranates. He also drank copious amounts of wine. I know I’d need something to dull the guilt I’d feel if I murdered as many people as Stalin did.

There is no question about Charles Manson being a confirmed vegetarian and he is also very vocal about animal rights. I guess it’s okay to kill people but you better not be killing any puppy dogs! One of Manson’s murdering female followers was Squeaky Fromme, also a vegetarian. A more recent vegan gone mad was Adam Lanza, the nut job who killed 20 innocent kids in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newton, Connecticut.

I could go on like this naming mass murderers who were also vegetarians but I can’t quit without including the most hated man in history who was responsible for millions of deaths. Yes, there can be no denying that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian. After his suicide in the bunker scientists tested the enamel in his teeth and found absolutely no traces of meat. Yet you don’t hear PETA brag about that fact in any of their advertising and promotion.

Joseph Goebbels, who was Hitler’s propaganda minister, developed this whole media campaign around the idea that Hitler loved animals so much that he couldn’t eat them and this proved that he could never have any people killed. Needles to say, it was not the most successful propaganda campaign in history, if you know what I mean? Hitler was also said to be an ardent opponent of torture and the dissection of animals. I guess it didn’t bother him that his Nazi underlings chopped up and gassed millions of humans before burying most of them in mass graves. But you better not be kicking any cats around!

Hitler often had meetings with his top Nazis and always tried to dissuade his colleagues from eating any meat. Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s Deputy Fuhrer, was so vegan that he brought his own veggie meals to these dinners. At the end of his life Hitler mostly ate clear soup and mashed potatoes. No wonder he suffered terribly from hemorrhoids and had very low testosterone levels.

Hitler’s post-war plans included transforming everyone in the German occupied countries into vegetarians. Hitler predicted, “There is one thing I can predict to eaters of meat, the future of the world will be vegetarian.”

That’s just one more reason we can all thank our brave men and women who helped defeat Hitler.

Discovering so many vegetarian mass murderers down through the ages makes me wonder, could it have been something they ate that made them so deranged? Or, was it something they didn’t eat… like red meat?

Lee Pitts: The Lock Mess Monster

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who prefer combination locks and those who like locks with keys. Combo people are generally early adopters of technology, good in math, boring, generous, precise people with good memories. While “keyed” people are more mechanical, cheap, poor in math skills but very creative. They also can’t remember what they had for lunch yesterday. I happen to be a key person.

Whether we are keyed up for combos is determined early in life. Both my wife and I are keyed the same and detest combination locks. To this day she remembers having nightmares of forgetting the combination to her high school locker. The first combination I remember forgetting was to the lock on my Schwinn® bicycle. I grew up in what you’d call a high crime area and if you didn’t have your bike chained down to something solid it would be gone in five minutes. And sometimes even if you had it chained to a heavy duty bike rack you might return after school to find the rack and all the bikes gone.

I carried a two foot length of heavy chain and a combo lock everywhere I rode my bike. The lock had a three digit combination and I’ve always had a terrible memory so I made the date of my birthday the combination to my bike lock. This was a common practice but it was a terrible idea because one time while I at my birthday party at the YMCA one of my “friends” was stealing my bike. Gee, I wonder how he knew the combination, could it be the date of my birthday he now knew? I heard he became a computer hacker later in life.

I had no trouble remembering the numbers to my combo locker in high school, I just couldn’t remember what order they went in. Let’s see, was it two turns to the left or one turn to the right? I got so desperate I wrote down the combination with a Sharpie on my locker door, which kind of defeated the whole purpose.

I gained lots of experience opening locks as a roustabout in the oilfields where you couldn’t go half as mile without having to open a gate. As a roustabout I rode shotgun on a A-frame truck with a mechanic boss and my main job was hopping out of the cab to unlock all the gates. It was great training to be a rancher later in life.

Since each gate had to be accessible to the oilfield workers, the owner of the land, the rancher who leased the place, hunters, etc., sometimes you’d have a chain locking the gate that consisted of chain links and 10 different locks. I remember one ingenious setup where there was a round rotating disk with holes in it that allowed for a different lock in each hole. By unlocking and removing one lock you could then push the bar locking the gate through the empty hole to open the gate.

When we started ranching we put a lock on every gate but quickly gave up on that practice because whenever offroaders, pot growers or hunters came upon a wire gate with a lock all they’d do is cut the barbed wire thus ruining a gate that took hours to make. I switched to metal gates but the trespassers just took them off the hinges.

To this day we have a drawer to a filing cabinet in our home that is filled with locks missing keys, and keys whose locks have gone AWOL. I suppose we could have the expensive brass locks re-keyed at the hardware store but we can’t find the key to the filing cabinet drawer! We also suspect that my personal set of lock picks dating back to my juvenile delinquent days is also locked up in that drawer.

I’m told by my appraiser friend Russell in South Dakota that ranch realtors in that state carry what they call an “open says-me” key. It’s a four foot long pair of bolt cutters. I think it’s a toss up on what would look more ridiculous on a horse, a pair of bolt cutters tied on behind, or a ring full of keys dangling from my belt that would make me look like a high school janitor.

Lee Pitts: Sticker Shock

If I appear to be walking a little funny lately it’s because it’s sticker season. It’s that time of year when all the foxtails dry out and attempt to attach themselves permanently to my clothing.

This time of year I find those seedy little thorns everywhere; in my boots, my socks, in between the sheets of my bed and all over the floor of my house. But they seem to have a particular affinity for my undergarments, like my socks and my underwear. Most people think I have a pained expression on my face this time of year because of the dry weather or the seasonal dip in the cattle market, but actually it’s because I am constantly being stuck in a sensitive place by a stiletto-like-sticker. And these burrs are starting to really get under my skin.

How, you may wonder, do I get a foxtail sticker stuck in my shorts? Normally that would be a good question, but then you haven’t met my wife. She is a great housekeeper and washes at least three loads of clothes a day, and mind you, there’s just the two of us. It’s this constant washing and drying that allows her to redistribute the stickers from the cuffs of her pants to my shorts, my socks, my sweatshirts and the bed sheets. The stickers are now very clean but this constant washing has done nothing to reduce their power to stick to everything.

Thus I have become a real fanatic about removing all the stickers prior to the spin cycle. You might say I have become a real “sticker” for not allowing the darn things in the house. I view fox tails just as I do cats and dogs, they should never be allowed inside.

Prior to entering our home we remove all shoes and socks in the garage and then we turn the cuffs of our pants inside-out because that’s the favorite hiding place of the stickers. Because I am a real sticker stickler and also because I wear the pants in our family (I hope my wife doesn’t read this) I am careful not to get out of the truck to open any gates during sticker season. I leave that up to the wife.

Besides standing funny at dinner parties, the odd sticker has caused me many embarrassing moments. None was more humiliating than what occurred last week when we went shopping at a big department store.

My wife selected a good looking pair of pants to try on and retired to the dressing room in the back of the store. The dressing room was more like a little cubicle with a door attached. Actually it was more like a half door where you could see the person’s feet but nothing else unless you got down on your hands and knees, which I swear I did not do. I suppose the doors were thus constructed so as to prevent thievery but that wouldn’t stop someone from wearing stolen clothes under the ones they came in with. This is just an observance, not that I’ve actually tried to do it.

Once my wife was undressed behind the door she yelled at me to bring a smaller size of the pants she had selected. The huge store was imposing enough but now I had to walk into the women’s section where there were no other men. Would a family friend see me and think I was a cross-dresser, transvestite, or something even worse?

Not only could I not find a smaller size, I couldn’t even find the same pants my wife wanted. I returned about twenty minutes later empty handed.

It was then that I saw it!

The pants on the floor of my wife’s dressing room had a large, ugly looking foxtail sticker protruding from the cuff. I reached down and grabbed the pants and was extricating the sticker when a yell erupted from behind the half door. At the same time I turned and saw my wife walking towards me from inside the store and unfortunately she had her pants on. Evidently she had grown tired of waiting and had gone looking for me. I don’t know who the lady was in the dressing room but it appeared as if I was trying to steal her pants.

Needless to say, I will be glad when sticker season is over.

Loco En La Cabeza

I think I may have a slight problem. My wife thinks I’ve reached the point of being borderline crazy. I’ll give you just one small example and let you decide.

I’ve always been highly organized. Take my socks, for instance. I have them sorted in order as to how warm they keep my feet, from “walking on a red hot bed of coals” hot to “I’ve lost all feeling in my toes and my feet are turning purple” cold. It used to drive me crazy when my wife would get a “toasty” pair confused with a “turn up the heater” pair. But after 44 years she rarely makes a mistake and when she does I don’t always call it to her attention, showing that I’ve made great strides with “my little problem.”

I admit, I may seem a bit neurotic. The first time my friend John saw my shop he was blown away by its orderliness. All my screws are in one cabinet in old butter containers all of the same brand, color, typeface, etc. Of course, I have them arranged from shortest to longest. What really intrigued him was all my bolts are in small metal coffee containers and my wife and I don’t even drink coffee. He thinks I bought the containers and threw the coffee away. Silly man, I’d hardly ever do that. I have all my fasteners for my leather work in plastic prescription bottles, and on, and on. John says that one night he’s going to sneak into my shop and merge all my fasteners in one gigantic pile and I live in constant fear that he may do so. I even have nightmares about it.

Okay, so maybe I should be wearing a medic alert bracelet indicating that I have an obsessive/compulsive disorder.

It’s odd that I love the cattle business so much because it’s the most disorganized mess I’ve ever seen. The bulls won’t stay where you put them and the cow’s reproductive tracts aren’t indexable. And then there’s the changing weather. And yes, I believe the climate changes. It changed again today and, I surmise, will do so tomorrow too.

I used to hate buying bulls because it was such a crap shoot. All you had were three pieces of data (if you were lucky) and before a sale I’d arrange the bulls in order of birthweight, weaning and yearling weight. I’d pick out a couple bulls and go to the sale only to find the bull I liked best was out of the sale due to a broken appendage (not a leg) and the other bull was suddenly sterile. So I’d go home with two bulls I hated. Now we have a plethora of data which makes it easy to identify the best bulls but everyone else finds them too so they sell for ten grand apiece and I end up going home with two inferior bulls I hate. But I have lots of data proving their inferiority!

I’m also the kind of guy who likes to know that all my assets are safe and secure every minute but with cattle you may not even know where they are, let alone what they’re doing.

I have a friend, Caesar, who besides being a potential Trump deportee, is a great guy. I met him when he was working on a construction job nearby. Not being from the area, Caesar got in the habit of dropping by my shop at night for some fellowship. One night he came with a friend because Caesar wanted to show him my shop. The fellow looked at all the applesauce containers arranged neatly and all the tools hung up in their proper place and I could tell he was quite impressed. He picked out an unusual wrench to look at more closely but he hung it back up IN THE WRONG PLACE!!!

I don’t know if he did it on purpose and I tried real hard to just let it pass but it was driving me insane. I couldn’t help it, I tried to resist but finally I just had to put the wrench back in its proper place.

Caesar’s friend, not knowing that I spoke Spanish, turned to Caesar, placed a finger to his temple and said, “Loco en la cabeza!”

I figure the guy probably saved me thousands of dollars on a psychiatrist just to get the same diagnosis.

No Gifts Please

I was talking with a friend about things people collect when he told me about a fellow who collected running shoes that belonged to famous runners. His collection was world class and he was only lacking a pair from the most famous long distance runner of all time. At a birthday bash for the rich collector there sat a wrapped box with a big bow on it that contained what were rumored to be THE SHOES. With trembling fingers the collector carefully unwrapped the box which contained the final piece to his collection. Sure enough, the box contained the shoes the runner was wearing when he won his last Olympics: much to the collector’s dismay the box was empty.

The greatest long distance runner in history ran barefoot!

I enjoyed the story and the conversation turned toward the science of gift giving. I casually mentioned that my wife and I had just enjoyed our 44th wedding anniversary and my friend asked what I got my wife. “I got her exactly what the shoe collector got. Nothing! It’s the same thing I give her every year for her birthday and Christmas. Nada! In fact, I think not giving presents to each other is the secret to our long and happy marriage.”

The reason we refrain from giving gifts is not because I’m the world’s biggest tightwad, which I am. It’s just that my wife is an easy-keeper and already has everything she wants. And it’s at my wife’s insistence that we don’t buy frivolous gifts and I ALWAYS do what I’m told. The last piece of jewelry I bought my wife was her wedding ring, which she doesn’t wear because it gives her blood blisters when digging post holes.

I bought flowers for my wife once and she sneezed the entire time they were in the house so I don’t waste any more money on roses or fancy floral arrangements. Besides that, flowers wilt and it’s against my better business instincts to buy anything that’s for pleasure, is fleeting, or dies. Except for cows, of course.

I’ve heard that some men give their wife gifts from a place called Victoria’s Secret. I understand they sell lingerie there, which just tells me the man isn’t buying it for the wife’s pleasure but for his. Besides, I think buying underwear for your wife could be a little tricky. If you buy a size too large she’ll think you’re calling her a cow, but if it’s too small it may rip when she tries to put it on. Then you won’t be able to take it back for a refund. It’s tricky, much like buying livestock panels for your wife as a present. Are you saying she doesn’t do a good job plugging holes in fences and needs to be replaced?

This is not to suggest I don’t give my wife random gifts throughout the year. I once bought her a box of See’s Candy but by the time I gave it to her someone had eaten 75 percent of the little chocolates so the only ones left were the coconut ones, which she hates. We don’t buy gift certificates for each other any more because I once used the gift certificate she gave me from Tractor Supply and I turned around and bought a gift certificate for her with it. She eventually bought some fly spray with it so the only one enjoying our gifts to each other was my horse Gentleman. I also gift wrapped a library book once I knew she wanted to read but I told he she had to read it within two weeks or it could get pricey.

The gift that really cracks me up is when someone sends you a nice card that says, “In honor of your birthday we have donated $50 in your name to blah, blah, blah.” In other words, “As a gift to you we’re taking a tax deduction for your birthday.” It’s similar to the time I offered to send my wife to artificial insemination classes in Kansas for her birthday so I wouldn’t have to buy any more expensive bulls. I even offered to pay extra for her to stay an extra week and learn how to preg check our cows. It’s what you get for the gal who already has everything.

Lee Pitts: Hear It Roar

My environmentalist neighbor has a real dilemma on his hands. He spent a wad of money covering the roof on his house with solar panels to generate enough electricity to power his house, lower his electric bill and advertise to his green buddies that he’s selling power back to the detestable electric utility company. Instead of paying a bill every month he actually expected to get money back from the bankrupt power company that provides our power. That was the theory anyway. Needless to say, it’s not working out exactly as planned.

The problem is that since purchasing the house 20 years ago he’s planted milkweed for the Monarch butterflies, ripped out his lawn to save water, removed all fences so the invading hordes of deer would have free roaming and planted a row of pine trees for nesting birds. I think he was trying to win the “Big Greeny Of The Year Award.” The problem is the row of trees he planted have grown so tall they’re now covering up his solar panels so he’s not even generating enough power to heat his hot tub, let alone get a hot check from the power company every month.

My neighbor is a new age wing nut and limousine liberal with a few sunflower seeds missing from his trail mix, if you get my drift. I hardly ever see him outside and when I do I must hide my eyes because he’s kind of a nudist who goes around wearing nothing but a goofy smile and his underwear. To prevent encounters with the guy I told him that I’d already killed 5 rattlesnakes this year and he didn’t come out of his house for three months.

We’re not exactly bosom buddies so I was surprised when I got a call from him wanting to know if I had a chain saw and if he could borrow it. I was hesitant to do so because the last time I loaned him my grinder and a cutting disk he nearly cut his hand off. He’s not exactly what you’d call a tool guy or an outdoorsman.

My neighbor was very upset and really didn’t want to cut his trees down, “thereby creating an imbalance in the natural ecology of our community.” He’d even checked into hiring an arborist to move the trees but that was cost prohibitive so he decided to cut them down himself. I asked him why he didn’t just hire a tree company but he said they were his trees and he must do it himself. He didn’t want some stranger “putting them down.” He talked as if he was euthanizing an old dog or favorite horse. Putting them down himself was the only honorable thing to do.

He later admitted that he’d seen how tree companies cut trees and he didn’t like the way they let branches fall to the ground and “get hurt.” So he got the needed permits from the county (it costs $200 per tree, seriously) and asked if he could borrow my chainsaw. I told him I was going to be gone but I’d leave it behind my front gate and he could just come and get it.

In hindsight I should have left him the operator’s manual also because a couple days later he called and said my saw wasn’t working well and he’d only been able to cut off a couple limbs with it. I figured something must be wrong with the carburetor as it was always conking out. It could have also been old fuel or a bad spark plug. So I told him to leave it behind my gate and I’d give it a good tune up and leave it back behind the gate the next day.

Two days later my neighbor called and said the saw wasn’t working any better. I was puzzled by this because it was working just fine for me, so I told him that I was in my shop so he should bring it back and we’d see what the problem was.

So my neighbor shows up, thankfully not in his underwear, and I put the saw on the ground, pumped some gas into the carburetor and pulled on the cord the requisite ten times and, “Vroom, vroom,” it roared to life.

My neighbor jumped back a few feet and said, “What’s that noise?”

Lee Pitts: Gone But Not Forgotten

My friend Woody always has been forgetful. In fact, it’s why he got fired, but I’ll let him tell the story.

“I had this real good ranch job working for an absentee owner who lived in Chicago. He was pleased with my work and I was happy with his money. Then one day the owner writes me from the windy city saying he’d read an article that said breeding our heifers to a Jersey bull would eliminate all our calving problems on the ranch, of which we had none. Either the heifers lived through the experience or they didn’t. It was no problem really!

“The owner bought a Jersey bull and told me to go pick him up. Now, up until this time my vision of dairy animals was of docile creatures that walked single file into a milking parlor and gave up their milk willingly in exchange for a hand full of grain. And when I first saw “Bright Eyes”, as he’d been named by my boss, the bull certainly fit that description. Bright Eyes was fawn colored with six black points with a slight dish in his head. He couldn’t have weighed over 1,000 pounds. The only thing missing was a locket around his horns. He sure looked peaceful enough until we went to load him in the Gooseneck®.

“In the process of loading Bright Eyes he put one horn through the radiator of the truck and tore the back door off the trailer. We chained the door closed and all the way home I thought at any minute that bull was going to explode through the roof of the trailer.

“His disposition didn’t improve once we got him home either. That sorry excuse for a bull was a man killer, and simply the sight of a human being was enough to send him into orbit, pawing and bellering. I can’t even begin to count the number of times he charged me on my horse, upending the two of us on several occasions. It got so bad I took to carrying a four-ten shotgun with me along with shells filled with a light load of buckshot and powder. When Bright Eyes charged I’d pull the trigger and knock the dust off his head. It didn’t seem to hurt him none but it didn’t seem to dampen his enthusiasm for charging me and my horse either.

“Needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to the day when it came time to take Bright Eyes out of the heifers to put him in the bull pasture. I tried everything for safety sake including roping Bright Eyes from the top of the Gooseneck® and from the bucket of a backhoe, but I still couldn’t escape his wrath. Then one day I did manage to get a rope around his horns, but instead of pulling back and admitting defeat he took off after me and my horse with his head down and nostrils flaring. My horse was just barely staying ahead of the raging bull as we raced through the thickets. I knew I’d better do something quick as my legs were getting shredded in the dense brush and my horse was tiring fast. I devised a plan on the run and when we neared the closest tree I turned my horse and circled that tree five times, the result was that the Jersey bull was snubbed right up next to the tree’s trunk. I tied the outlaw off, figuring I’d return the next day with the Gooseneck®.

“But a funny thing happened the next day. After recalling all the near-death experiences I’d had with Bright Eyes darned if my brain didn’t go blank and I completely forgot where I tied up that SOB. It’s a real medical condition called temporary amnesia, I think they call it. And darned if I could recall any landmarks or discerning features that would jog my memory.

“After about two or three months it came to me in a dream where I’d tied Bright Eyes up. Sure enough, I found that old bag of bones tied right where I left him right next to a tree, my rope still around his horns and a defiant smile on his sun-bleached dead lips. When I informed the boss I’d simply forgotten where I’d tied his prize Jersey bull, he went beserk. And that’s how I got fired from The Lone Tree Ranch.”

Lee Pitts: Grounded

One of my biggest regrets in life is that I never got my pilot’s license. I often wonder what kind of career I’d have had if I took the money I spent on getting a college degree and spent it instead on auction school and flying lessons.

I’ve always been mesmerized by small aircraft and I come by it honestly. I grew up in a small town two hours north of Hollywood and many of the stars kept their planes at my hometown’s famous airport because it was seldom fogged in. Steve McQueen had a couple large hangers filled with fast cars and even faster airplanes.

I got scared off flying a little because a couple of my idols had their brilliant careers cut short when they crashed, including Will Rogers and Jim Croce, a favorite singer of mine. Richie Valance also crashed in an airplane called American Pie, which lent its name to a famous song by Don McLean.

The first time I ever flew in a small plane was when my wife and I were going to school in Australia and a nice lady took us up in her Cessna and showed us Australia’s Gold Coast from the air. I was immediately smitten. After that I flew in small planes almost on a weekly basis because many purebred auctioneers flew their own small planes to get from one sale to the next and I often hitched a ride. I could either spend eight or ten hours driving or two hours flying. It also often meant I could be home with my wife every night instead of sleeping in some lonely motel. I announced a video sale once a month for over 20 years and my friend John Rodgers hauled me to most of them all over the west. We flew in the fog, in the snow and one time over Donner Pass in smoke so thick we couldn’t see a thing. Johnny called the tower in Reno and asked what we should do and the air traffic controller suggested prayer and told us to try and avoid crashing on anything expensive or inhabited.

I also flew with ranchers like Jeff Lane of the Bell Ranch who later died in a crash. I flew with auction market operators and with cattle buyers, including one who I later found out didn’t even have a license and whose plane was really an engine mounted on a coffin. The world was a safer place when his plane got stolen on one of his trips to Mexico to buy cattle.

I loved flying in small aircraft because it was convenient, fast and interesting. But it could also be dangerous. One time we landed with only a teaspoon of fuel left in the tanks and another time we almost crashed in a cemetery. (I remember wondering how they’d ever get all the bodies straightened out.) Then there was the time we were running late to get to a bull sale and we couldn’t land due to fog. Johnny wanted to try landing but I insisted we stay in the air because most accidents are caused on takeoff and landing. As long as we were in the air we were safe.

One time we took Ellington’s King Air to Ogallala and we started icing up over Wyoming and had to get down real quick. We ended up landing in Rock Springs at one a.m. and just try finding a motel room at that hour of the night. I even got to fly in a Lear Jet a few times and if I owned a plane it would have to be one of those magnificent machines.

Although I also flew in commercial aircraft on a regular basis it just didn’t hold the same allure for me as small planes did. The last flight of any kind I took was a United flight from Denver to LA that ended up being twelve hours late and I got home at 5:30 in the morning. Finally having lost my courage, and in no mood to tempt fate any longer, I haven’t been in a plane of any kind now for five years. And there’s no place I want to go to bad enough to put up with any more fog, mechanical failures, 350 pound fat guys in tank tops sitting next to me or being groped by the TSA.

Lee Pitts: The Marketing Power Of Me

I’ve noticed that some of my fellow cow columnists have taken to endorsing products to supplement their income from ag periodicals and weekly newspapers who, up until now, have made it possible for all of us to live such lavish lifestyles. I guess the hope is that farmers and ranchers will see the columnist’s picture, read their endorsements and that goodwill will then be transferred to the products being promoted. These celebrity cowy endorsers are quoted as if they are Plato, Socrates or George Clooney.

I suppose you’ve noticed that I have not lent my name or image to any company in return for cash. There are several reasons why, number one being no one has ever asked. It doesn’t help that I absolutely hate having my picture taken and I’m not exactly what you’d call “photogenic.” Seeing my photo attached to a product could have negative consequences. For example, if some squeeze chute manufacturer made me the face of their company and put my picture on the tailgate of their chutes you can imagine the increased difficulty you’d have in getting cows to voluntarily enter the squeeze chute. Likewise, if a manufacturer of cattle trailers put my picture on their products you’d never get your cattle loaded. You think your horse is balky now about loading, just wait until it takes one look at me on the trailer!

If a supplement maker put my mug on their tubs cows would stay away from them in droves. This could be a huge selling point to cattlemen in that it could reduce rancher’s yearly supplement costs dramatically, but I doubt the supplement makers would see it this way.

I think BIG business is really missing the boat, like the constipation industry. Why wouldn’t a big drug company who sells anti-constipation remedies think of me first as their spokesperson? Just one look at my photo on the label of a product would be enough to scare the you-know-what out of any constipated cow. If Oprah can advertise for Weight Watchers and Lindsay Lohan for some rehab joint I can surely be the face of constipation.

I know you’re going to find this hard to believe but not a single cattle breeder has ever asked me to endorse their bulls! I see other well known people being quoted using so and so’s bulls and it really hurts my feelings that no one has ever asked me. Oh, that’s not entirely correct as I did have one “sort-of” endorsement deal with a top notch Angus breeder. For years I worked ring at his annual bull sale. I really liked his bulls but never owned one because they were way out of my price range, which topped out at fifty bucks over beef. But one year when the cattle market was in the doldrums at the end of his sale the bulls started selling within my price parameters. After I bought my first bull and announced the buyer as US Cattle Company, which all the locals know is my outfit, I noticed the breeder got flush in the face and had to be revived.

I ended up buying eight bulls and immediately after the sale the owner came running over to me and whispered, “We have to talk. If word ever gets out that you’re using my bulls it could ruin me. Please promise me you WON’T tell the auctioneer when you sell your puny calves at auction that they were sired by my bulls.”

“I think we can come to some sort of financial arrangement,” I said. “How much are you willing to pay me for NOT keeping your bulls in my front pasture where everyone can see your brand.”

“But that’s blackmail,” he replied.

“Oh, that’s harsh! I prefer to think of it as an un-endorsement.” Despite his protests, we came to terms and the deal proved quite lucrative for awhile but the purebred breeder fell on hard times and just a few years after I bought his bulls he dispersed his herd. (I hope the two incidents were in no way connected.)

This was such an eye-opening example of the marketing power of me that I decided to capitalize on it. So, to any business owners who know that I use your products please be advised that I’ve acquired the services of an agent and I am now signing what I refer to as “anti-endorsement deals.”