Signs of prosperity are starting to show up in cow country, such as...
#10 New Wardrobes: At the auction market I saw two old tightwad ranchers wearing blue-blue jeans and walking funny, as if they were stepping on red-hot nails. What really happened was they bought new Wranglers and their first new boots in 30 years! (Theyll get them broke in about the time the market caves in.) Ive also made note of the occasional new straw hat. In the case of ranchers who also happen to be grain farmers, were seeing some sporting new John Deere caps that cost $250,000 each! Actually, the cap was free but thats what the used tractor they bought cost.
#9 Jewelry: Dont be silly, its not for the wife, its for the horse, of course. They might even buy a new fake diamond choker... for the dog. Cattlemen are doing what theyve always done when times are flush: theyre buying silver spurs and silver studded horse jewelry. As for the wife? Some are actually wearing their wedding rings again because their husband was finally able to get it out of hock at the pawn shop.
#8 New Team Roping Horse: Tired of being laughed at when they go to neighbors brandings or local jackpots, one of the first things that a flush rancher will do is buy a $10,000 team-roping horse. But for some strange reason they dont do any better than they were doing before, which leads to the next sign of prosperity...
#7 A New Team Roping Partner: No more roping with one of their kids or their wife. If you have a high powered horse, you need a high powered partner. But for some strange reason they dont do any better than they were doing before.
#6 Fresh Wire: Sun reflecting off of brand new barb wire and fresh scabs and scars on ranchers arms is a sure sign of better times. Notice I didnt say that it was being hung on new t-post or new, old railroad ties. Lets not get too carried away!
#5 Elective Surgery: Times are so good were seeing ranch wives have more elective surgeries. Not face lifts and boob jobs, mind you, but a new disc in the wifes back damaged from bucking hay bales, or a new knee or two. And a hip here and there.
#4 New Squeeze Chute: At a cattlemans trade show recently, I witnessed an event I thought Id never live to see: A rancher actually bought a new squeeze chute! I thought the salesman was going to have a coronary event and I hear hes up for a big promotion! Some ranchers are simply tired of getting conked in the head by an iron bar, or run over by a crazy cow. But if you happen to see a cattleman with a new hydraulic chute, it means hes either hit the lottery or got a new banker who doesnt know anything about the cow business or his track record at the bank.
#3 New Bulls: I thought Id never live to see this but ranchers, who 10 years ago wouldnt give $1,200 for a range bull, are now paying $4 and $5 thousand! The $350 gummers and bad baggers that compose their cowherd didnt merit much when calves were worth $400, but now that those same old wenches are $2,000 brood cows and herd matrons, well, you cant just breed them to any old bull, now can you?
#2 New Household Appliances: When I was in Sears the other day a salesman told me ranchers are buying new appliances for their wives, such as stoves you dont have to chop wood for, vacuums you have to plug in, washing machines that have no hand wringers and chain saws to make her life easier! He even told me of one cattleman who bought something called a Wolf Range, which sounded to me like New Mexico, Idaho or Wyoming after the feds got through turning the devils loose.
#1 New Pickups: When I started in this business 40 years ago, it took the sale of 50 calves to buy a new pickup. Now lets see ... 50 calves at $800 to $1,000 equals $40,000 to $50,000. Darned if that isnt what a brand new pickup costs today!
Oh well.Cowboys never could stand too much prosperity.
Lee Pitts is a California ag producer and newspaper editor. See more of his work at wwwLeePittsbooks.com.