Barbed Wire by Doug Cooper: The 3 ranch essentials | TSLN.com

Barbed Wire by Doug Cooper: The 3 ranch essentials

It's probably an indication of a psychological weakness but I like to make mental lists of things that have proved to have value over time. Instead of a bucket list of what to do before dying, I think about what's worth keeping around. To make it a little more of a challenge I thought I would select things that require very little maintenance, have a long life span, and are not very expensive. I came up with three common items around the ranch that fit those requirements.

My list would start with portable livestock panels. I don't think a rancher can ever own enough portable panels. One of my regrets in life is that when I first had the chance to buy a set of portable panels, I didn't buy three times as many. Bringing the corrals to the cattle saves time and horses, not to mention arguments. Portable panels can improve a poor set of corrals, correct faults in even the best corrals and they last for years. Some panels might be too heavy, or too light, but they are never useless around a ranch. Panels even work fairly well to keep bar patrons off the street on parade day.

A steel gate is another valuable thing around a ranch. Having a strong easy to open gate is an enduring benefit. Maybe a steel gate is a little boring to some people but they have not lived with wire gates that cut their hands or had to strain every muscle to open and close a fiendish contraption. Some wire gates are all that is keeping a quarter mile of fence standing upright. I have always wondered why many ranchers subject themselves to a lifetime of using these miserable wire gates when they wouldn't think of living without satellite television. A gate that's too hard to close is also an invitation for some antelope hunter to leave it open. With a good steel gate on hinges, pretty girls and children can handle them without strong men feeling guilty.

Last but not least on my list is the lowly rubber tire stock tank. A little concrete to seal up the center of the tire and they are good to go for decades of use. Tire tanks are bullet proof for most guns, they don't rust and they are tough. I once installed a 10-foot round metal tank that only lasted for a week before two bulls ruined it while fighting. Tire tanks just shrug off abuse. We put in five 12-foot diameter tire tanks this spring and it's nice to think that they will still be working many years from now. I put in the first tire tank about 15 years ago and have not noticed any deterioration whatsoever. The fact that the tires are recycled is another plus. All the coal these tires once hauled pays most of the taxes in Wyoming so I am making out like a bandit to get to use what's left.