Lee Pitts: Off-label use
January 7, 2011
Country folks are very familiar with the term “off-label use.” Many a sick rancher has given himself a shot with drugs intended for livestock, or used Super Glue to mend a bad cut instead of stitches. I even recall some ranchers using a chicken vaccine on their cattle, although I must warn it could make their beef taste bland.
Everywhere you look around a ranch things are being used off-label; working remarkably well for things they were never intended to be used for. I’ve used bed springs to mend a fence, a computer as a door stop and peanut butter to trap rats and raccoons. I’ve sat on hay bale bleachers at bull sales, used a Grandma quilt to clean off a newborn lamb and watered my stock in a bathtub. In fact, bathtubs find many off-label uses around a ranch as I’ve also warmed a calf or two in ours and also tanned some leather. I’ve used railroad ties to hold up bookshelves and fence pliers and a chain saw as a back scratcher. (Not while it was on, mind you). I’m quite sure whoever invented television never intended it to be used for selling cattle at auction, and haven’t we all seen county road signs being used for target practice?
The items used most often off-label around a ranch are baling wire, duct tape and a digging bar. Who amongst us hasn’t used baling wire to hold the pickup tailgate shut or a digging bar as a backstop in a cattle alley. Or in self defense?
In my shop I have dozens of screwdrivers of every description but I’ve often used a dime or a quarter when a screwdriver wasn’t handy. I clean my airbrush with Windex® and have used a Crescent wrench as a fly swatter, although not very well, mind you. I’ve heard of a .22 shell being used as a temporary fuse, a brand new lariat as a tow rope and a hotshot as an alarm clock when a rancher husband failed to get out of bed when his wife wanted him to.
Even the clothes we wear are used off-label. I’m pretty sure John Stetson never meant for his hats to be used to water horses or to fan cow chips, or a bronc. I’ve seen gloves being used as a nipple to bottle feed a calf and surely placing boots on top of fence posts like they do in Nebraska should be considered off-label. Perhaps the article of clothing used the most for other things than what it was originally intended is the cowboy’s bandana, wild rag or neckerchief. It can be used as a tourniquet, to tie the legs of a calf or, in my case, to hide the face of a real ugly person.
We also use our pickups off-label. I’ve used mine as a dog house, portable tack room, office, tool shed and as a poor replacement for a horse when I wanted to herd something into the corral but was too lazy to saddle my trusty caballo. I can almost guarantee that Goodyear does not condone, nor ever intended, for its tires to be used to hold down the hay tarp or as a urinal for male dogs. But they are.
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Animals are also used off-label. The AQHA surely would never approve of herding sheep or hogs while mounted on one of their kind, and I notice they don’t include instructions for roping a bear or a bobcat along with registration papers. Shepherds never envisioned that one day crossbred ewes would be used as “bucking” sheep for little tykes to grab fistfuls of wool and hang on for dear life in mutton busting contests. Pig racing is an exciting off-label use for little oinkers and don’t you know that Border Collies were never intended to ride herd on a bunch of kids? If cows could talk I’m quite sure they’d say that milk for human consumption should be considered an off-label use.
Some attempts at using things off-label fail. No one showed up when they tried to use an auction market in our state for a church and an auctioneer should never be invited to announce your fashion show. Cowboys make terrible irrigators and wives should NEVER be used as portable panels to plug holes in the fence. Otherwise you just might discover, like I did, that there is one other off-label use for the hot shot.