Monday, August 25, 2008
DRAMA IN COW COUNTRY
THE 180 MILE APOLOGY
Yesterday a big-time cattleman drove 180 miles to personally apologize to me for the rudeness of one of his employees.
I reel in astonishment because the offense was not grievous –just a few vaguely accusatory words which did not seriously offend me. He could have phoned the apology. He had my number.
This incident is worth writing about because it shows the incredible power of a personal connection. What would cause a hardened rancher to feel the need to drive 180 miles. one way, to make a personal apology.
Here’s what happened: A friend and I are camped on National Forest Land in a very large meadow leased for grazing by a prominent cattleman who lives 180 miles away. A small herd of about 50 longhorn cattle graze the meadow. These are special cattle used in rodeo roping events. they are a rowdy bunch of adventurous cows that range the full extent of their pasture and more! They escape! Every day they escape by jumping a cattle guard; a pretty amazing sight to see. Then they wander the forbidden territory, the greener grass, a few hours until they get thirsty and want to come “home.” For some reason they are hesitant to jump back, so they cluster at the gate wanting to be let back in. So we open the gate and let them in
Last week the cattleman dropped by my rig and I reported the leaping cows. My neighbor, a high-tech sort, had filmed the jumping cows and showed the action on his computer. The cattleman visited me for an hour or so and as I often do, I “got the story.” He’s a friendly sort and we exchanged phone and e-mail info. On two later occasions my neighbor and I phoned in a report. He was most appreciative of our efforts because he cannot legally put a gate at the cattle guard and rebuilding it is bureaucratically unfeasible. (lots of red tape) Furthermore, he cannot legally authorize me to open the fence gate. I let him know I understood the dilemma and would “handle” the situation. So my neighbor and I did the sensible thing he cannot do: leave the gate open till the cows come home.
OK Here comes the Drama: One day the hired guy comes by and sees the gate open, thinks we’ve let the cows out, speaks a bit harshly to us and huffs off. He doesn’t know the facts and won’t listen. He reports our “offense” to the Forestry Service and they come pressuring us to leave. We decline because we know our rights–two weeks anywhere.
When the owner hears of this he is appalled and makes the long drive to personally apologize and straighten the matter out.
What made the difference here, I think, was that one hour talk where we made a personal connection. Someone showed an interest in his story and it touched him.