Cattle Today

Cattle Today

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by: Lee Pitts

It's true, you know, what they say about one man being able to change the world. Every time I stand in the line at the post office I am reminded of the Unabomber who single-handedly was responsible for the rule requiring me to wait in line to have a two pound package mailed instead of just shoving it down the mail chute. Whenever I wrestle with a hard-to-open “safety cap” on a bottle of aspirin I think of the rotten scoundrel who first started putting poison in Tylenol capsules so that now just trying to open a bottle of aspirin will give you a headache. And now we must all take off our shoes and reveal our holy socks and smelly feet for all the world to see and smell just because some heel of a terrorist tried to turn the souls of his shoes into bombs.

I'm sure that female readers will agree that it is mostly men who have had the biggest (or should I say worst?) impact on our lives. Take Napoleon for instance. This little sawed-off stump of a man with his hand in his jacket is the reason we must tithe a goodly portion of our income every year to the federal government. You see, the British enacted the first income tax in 1799 to finance the Napoleonic War. We followed suit in 1894 when our Congress passed an income tax law requiring everyone to pay one percent of their income as tax. But in a rare bit of brilliance the Supreme Court declared income tax unconstitutional! (Our current Supreme Court could learn a thing or two from those guys.) But to our dismay and H & R Block's delight, we then passed the 16th amendment and in 1943 the feds started garnishing our paychecks. People who made over $200,000 that first year had to pay as much as 91 percent of their income to the federal government. And all because of Napoleon.

The very best bad example (or should I say worst good example?) of a man who changed the course of history is Samuel A. Maverick. It's because of him we have to have a branding every year.

Samuel Maverick didn't start out to be a bad person, in fact he was one of the original signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. He may have been that but he sure wasn't a cattleman. Maverick took a bunch of cattle to settle a debt and turned them loose on his el rancho south of San Antonio and then promptly forgot about them. He didn't brand his cattle and let them roam far and wide. Later he sold his outfit to one Toutant de Beauregard who to me sounds like he could have been related to that rat Napoleon. Beauregard then instructed his cowboys to brand all the cattle that roamed over Maverick's range. Whenever and wherever they found an unbranded animal they claimed it as a “maverick.” It didn't take long for the neighbors to realize that they had better brand their cattle before Beauregard did.

And that's the reason why once a year we must go through the highly stressful tradition of branding our calf crop. It is why we must spend a fortune on paper plates, plastic cups, donuts and an umbrella insurance policy. It is why we must ice down enough beer, soda pop and bottled water to float a battleship. It's why we must repair the corrals for the visiting dignitaries who do nothing but sit on the top rail of the fence and watch. Samuel A. Maverick is the reason we must borrow the neighbor's heavy metal panels, hide the calf table, make sure everyone gets their fair share of roping, mend the fences, clean the house, plate the ponies, buy medicine and feed a horde of invaders that would have scared away Napoleon and his armies.

By the way, guess what Mr. Maverick's real occupation was?

He was a lawyer. What else? Only a lawyer could cause so much work that resulted in so much carnage: gaping holes in fences, brands on upside down, bull calves with only half their manhood removed, more medicine left over than should be and a million dollar lawsuit from a visiting dignitary who fell off the fence he was riding. That's the lasting legacy of Samuel A. Maverick.

Don't tell me that one man can't make a difference in this world.


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