by: Wes Ishmael

Hooter wasn't much on New Year's resolutions. Any he'd ever made were distant memories before Punxsutawney Phil waddled from his burrow to predict winter's fortune.

He'd come close back in 1989 or so, deciding if he'd just save $2 every day, and then invest it correctly, over time he'd have a sizeable nest egg. Everything was going swell until September that year when he more than borrowed from his cache to pay entry fees during a long string of tough rodeo luck. He never got around to repaying it.

These days he had too many miles on him to pretend he didn't know himself better; too little hair left to beat around the bush.

That's what he told the other members of the Rio Rojo County Cattlemen's Association when they quizzed him about his resolutions during their annual Christmas gala.

“Seems like I come closer to shooting what I'm aiming at when I don't aim for it quite so close,” Hooter explained.

“Like when you're hunting,” Izzie laughed.

Lonnie spat a stream of Mail Pouch at the corner of Peetie's shop. “I don't know about that. I think conviction has a lot to do with it. When I went to quit smoking, that was my resolution for years before I finally got it licked. You have to keep trying.”

“That, and have the missus threaten to make you cook for yourself, plus figure it's OK if you light up just as long as it's not in the house or anywhere near her,” laughed Cousin Charlie.

Between puffs of his New Year's cigar, Peetie added, “Yep, conviction is part of it, but so is focus. Back in the 70's, mama told me she'd leave me if I didn't quit the cattle business. I figured she wasn't serious, plus she knew I couldn't. But I just quit talking about it, and she never mentioned it again. It wasn't the cattle business that she wanted to get rid of, it was me complaining about it. Just like Lonnie's wife, it's not the smoking, it's the stink. So, you've got to make sure you're aiming for the right thing in the situation.”

Izzie hadn't said much, though he seemed to be concentrating harder than most times. “You know what I think the secret is,” he said. “It's accountability. You don't mind letting yourself down sometimes, but you don't want to let anybody else down.”

“You mean we can trust you, but we can't trust you with yourself?” Lonnie said crossly.

“Exactly,” Izzie replied.

“That may be the most illogical, numb-headed…” began Lonnie.

“No, he's got a great point,” Peetie interjected. “Especially with this group here. Any of us that decided to try to get something done and wanted the others to help keep us on track, you can bet we would.”

Aiming for What You Need

So it was that each member who wanted to came up with goals for the new year, rather than resolutions.

Delmar Jacobs, well versed in the finer points of alcohol, began, “Fel-fel-fel, hiccup, boys. You know how I like my rum and coke? You know how my doctor said my stom-stom-stom, guts are in bad shape? I got to reading up on these soft drinks. No more cokes for me.”

Lonnie started to say something when Peetie stopped him. “So be it, Delmar. We see you trying to doctor up your rum, we'll stop you.”

Lonnie rolled his eyes.

“I resolve, er, my goal is to be more vocal and less quiet,” said Peetie. Understand that he's known as quite a conversationalist around these parts, so the boys looked at him in mild disbelief.

“What I mean is, being less quiet and louder when it comes to the government,” Peetie continued. “I'm going to keep my Congressmen on speed-dial, and every time they do something stupid, I'm calling.”

“That'll make for a long year and even longer phone bill,” Izzie chided.

“Yep. But think of it. If the sky is blue outside, but everybody you talk to is holding an umbrella and talking about the rain, you're going to think it's on the way. It's got to be the same for these political types. If all they hear is that ethanol and six-dollar corn are swell, or that cattle producers want government to regulate the market with stuff like banning packer ownership of cattle, that's what they've got to believe unless there's just as many folks telling them why that's wrong.”

“Point taken,” said Lonnie. Everyone was looking his direction in expectation. “Look, I've already given up smoking, kind of.” The boys kept staring. “Alright then, my goal is to be better than average.”

“But average is being right about half the time and wrong the other half, isn't it?” quizzed Izzie.

“Sounds about right,” Lonnie countered defensively.

“Well, if you're better than average that would make you wrong more often, wouldn't it?”

“See,” said Lonnie folding his arms and glaring at Izzie. “How about you Charlie?”

Charlie thought for a moment. “You know how Aunt Pinky had that health scare a while back? That got me to thinking. We all know we ought to put the first iron on the important stuff rather than the immediate, but how often do we actually do that? My goal is to switch it around, concentrate on the important stuff and let the immediate fend for itself.”

There were nods all around the circle.

Of course, had Aunt Pinky been there she would have told them they were wasting lots of time trying to sort the unsortable. “You know how you get something done?” she'd ask Hooter and Charlie when they were boys and not completing their chores fast enough. “Get started. Now!”

All eyes turned to Hooter. “Have you got any goals for the new year, Cuz?” wondered Charlie.

“Just one, though it's going to be tough for you or me to tell if I'm on track. This year, I take more chances.”

This, of course, was like hearing Geronimo reckon he might take a little more exception to the White Man.

“Lord, you trade cattle, isn't that gamble enough for you,” chuckled Peetie.

“I'm serious, Peetie. There's as big a difference between cash flow and profit as there is between making a business viable and protecting it.”

Hooter had their attention.

“You can't ride a bronc with doubt or soft-loop a steer,” Hooter tried, searching for words. “I don't have much, and anything I've got I've worked hard enough for, just like all the rest of you. When things got tighter this last year, I pulled my horns in some, didn't do things the way I'd normally do,” Hooter said.

“That's called common sense,” Lonnie said.

“Not like I'm talking about. Any of you with generations in front of you, they didn't have something to pass along by playing it safe all of the time, or by taking foolish chances. They made something worth keeping by taking rational risk when the opportunity was there. My goal this year is to take my business another step forward. If that means taking the chance of going down and out, fine; I'm going down swinging and believing it was the shot to take.”


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