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December 2008

When I was growing up the term “investments” held little meaning for me. I came from a working class family who lived from paycheck to paycheck. We never bought anything unless we had cash for the purchase. What a concept, huh!

Most people say the largest “investment” you’ll ever make is buying a home. I’m here to tell ya that living with a cattleman has given the term “investment” a whole new meaning.

It all begins with land, which you continue to purchase as long as you can see to sign your name on the mortgage. Being a city-bred wife, my continuing ed classes in “ranch investing 101” from my home school instructor (guess who?) always catches me off guard. “Honey, let’s go for a ride in the country” should always throw up a red flag – especially right now. We’re in the middle of winter feeding, maternity ward calving check is every four hours and we’re already behind on preparation for the spring production sale.

Just before you arrive at the gate of the soon to be purchased acreage, your cattleman says to you “oh, by the way, I received a call last week from a fella who thought we might be interested in taking a look at some pasture. You know the size of the herd is really growing and “Honey, have I told you that leasing costs for pastures have risen?” She thinks, “Good grief ~~ at our age we need to be down sizing and burying a little savings in a can in the back yard.” He thinks, “I’ll get her out of the pick-up and take her on a little stroll along the beautiful tree lined winding stream, and she’ll fall in love with the place.” It’s a well known fact that career cattlemen never own enough land.

I can still remember the first birthday present he bought me ~ a typewriter. (Does that give away our age?) I thought, how practical for writing letters, typing recipe cards, etc. I soon discovered it came in handy for typing production sale catalog info and notes to bull buyers.

Since then, most special occasion and holiday gifts have come from John Deere or The Farm Store. Early in our relationship we had one of those “fry an egg on the sidewalk” heat waves. My cattleman came in from baling hay in our tractor with no cab with a beet colored complexion. I made the mistake of expressing concern for his health. My next birthday I received a 4040 John Deere. “You’ll love the cab, Honey!”

Some of my more memorable “investments” – I mean gifts, have been a scale monitor for weighing the cattle, new coveralls, a weed whip on wheels to mow under electric fence, a power washer for manure in the clinic, and a six wheeler so we could experience “togetherness opportunities”. What woman wouldn’t be thrilled to help round up cattle during a 2 degree below zero snowfall?

Every rancher seems to think a good cow dog is a beneficial “investment”. I was summoned to the porch one morning to observe an irrestible wide eyed little critter staring back at me. By mid afternoon we were calling him “Shep” and my cattleman had convinced me what fun the two of us would have at obedience class, meaning me and the cow dog!

Are cattlemen born with the “I must upgrade my equipment” gene or is it just something that develops? Is it like what motivates Grandmothers to arrive at Toys-R-Us at 6AM to get one of the only 3 remaining Tickle-me-Elmo’s for little Jeffrey for Christmas. At our house it happens some thing like this: “Honey, don’t worry about lunch for me today. Dan and I are going to run up to Nebraska to an auction just to see what they have”. As you see your cattleman heading out the driveway pulling the 24’ trailer you know he has “investment” opportunities on his mind.

Some days you think to yourself, “I could have had a fancy house in town within shouting distance of our neighbors, all the traffic noise, a little sports car that isn’t covered with a layer of dust and weekly bridge club with lunch consisting of little two bite sandwiches and carrot sticks”. Do you really miss an 8-5 office job where ½ of your salary goes for a stylish wardrobe and 3 inch heels that hurt your feet? Don’t forget the weekend fun of manicuring your lawn and watching all those intellectual Reality TV shows while waiting for a cold pizza to be delivered.

You have married a cattleman and “investments” will be part of your lives as long as he can draw a breath. I guess you’ll just have to be satisfied with your cozy little ranch house and driving your pick-up to the top of the hill to see the breath taking sunsets. You’ll happily continue to serve him hearty home cooked meals because you love him. He’ll think you’re sexy in a flannel shirt and you’ll find that being soul mates means checking the new born baby calves together.

In so many ways, you realize that you have become like the cattleman you love and admire. You’ve invested your heart in him and his way of life.

-Kathy Hogue


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