Baxter Black: Hirin’ a cowboy
November 22, 2014
There's an old saying that "A cowboy is born, not made." However, I'd like to propose that if you're hirin' a cowboy to help you take care of your stock, you might look twice.
You can't necessarily assume that because he's got a black hat and is broke, that he's a cowboy. He might need a little educatin' to your way of doin' things. Even a team roper can be taught to check cattle.
If you're hirin' him to ride pens in the feedlot, explain to him the rules; he'll have to take Thursday as his day off; no ropes or dogs in the yard. He's expected to help process, he'll have to ride either the oldest horse or the youngest colt on the place and he'll have to furnish his own saddle but the company's not responsible for damage or theft.
Then fill him in on the advantages of workin' for you. Tell him he can have every holiday off that falls on a Thursday. Housing is furnished; a cozy little ten-foot wide trailer house behind the barn. He'll get to share it with three other cowboys and an "exchange student" from Chihuahua. He'll get excellent medical and life insurance once he's worked for the outfit 18 months and, he'll gain experience.
Once you get him hired and have given him a $200 advance on his salary, put him with one of the cowboys that knows what he's doin'. Your good cowboy'll soon know whether the new man's got an eye for sick cattle.
If he's green but has potential, you're better off puttin' a little time into him. He might stay through the summer, who knows? But how do you teach a man to look at cattle? Mostly by trial and error. It's an art that's hard to put in books. Ridin' with somebody who knows for a couple weeks is good practice. Having the new man follow his pulls through the hospital helps. If the manager or cattle foreman or veterinarian will stop occasionally over his first couple months and visit him, he'll learn. Answer his questions. More important, ask him questions about his cattle and their problems. Don't climb on his back when he's not quite sure what he's doin'. Give him a little slack and help him learn.
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I'll also put in a plug for educational meetings on animal health. It's nice to send your top people to these meetings, but don't forget to send those who need it most; the cowboys.
Tom Hall told me one time when I was fumin' at a new hand for missin' some sick ones, "Remember," he said, "There's two things a cowboy don't know anything about; one of 'em's a cow and the other's a horse!"