Tuesday, June 26, 2012

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right…

     When I was a young cowboy, full of knowledge (at least I thought so) …ok…full of mischief and full of myself; I worked on a large ranch between Milnesand and Crossroads, New Mexico. Not much more than wide spots in the road - either of them. It was desolate and it was cowboy country.
     One project I worked on that summer was building a new barbed wire fence to separate one big ol’ pasture in two. I did not like the work. Pounding steel posts into the ground with a ten-pound driver in hundred-degree weather was not my idea of romance. After all, I’d hired on to COWBOY! Although I did my job, I let it be known I figured the work was beneath me. I performed without enthusiasm.
     One day, the boss came by and watched me for a while. He then got out of his pickup and grabbed a post driver and went to work right there beside me. The first post, he drove in much quicker than I. Believing he would run out of steam from showing off pretty quick, I quietly smirked under my breath. Let’s see if he runs out of energy in a bit, I thought. He didn’t.
     For the next several posts, he drove in about two to my one. I then thought, “I’ll show him!” I was young and tough and in great shape and I went to pounding posts with a spirit of competition and enthusiasm! There was no way I was going to let a guy who spent more time driving around in a pickup than doing physical labor out-work me…I’d show him.
     We worked side by side for the next hour or more without saying a word…just driving in post after post in harmonious rhythm. Before long, I had a smile on my face and was enjoying the unspoken competition going on. Eventually, the boss stopped and grabbed a jug of cold water, offering me a drink. I took it. Water never tasted so sweet as it did that hot summer day with sweat pouring down my neck and muscles twitching from exertion. Without saying a word, he looked back along the long line of posts we had just driven in and smiled a smile of great satisfaction. I looked as well, out of curiosity over what he was smiling about. Every post we had just driven in together was straight as a string and equal in height. Perfect! The posts from my earlier work farther down the line were not quite as…perfect. I grinned. I knew.
     He was a very busy feller and did not have time to spend out there on the flat pounding posts in the ground. After all, that is why he hired guys like me; He had more important things to do. So it was no surprise when he turned to his truck to leave. Before he got in, he slowly looked around and spoke his first words since arriving. He simply drawled, “If it’s worth doin’, it’s worth doin’ right.” He nodded at me and drove off.
     I finished that fence a week or so later. The last portion of it was noticeably finer than the first. Not better necessarily, the part I built first would separate cattle just the same as the second part, but the second part looked like someone with pride - pride in what they do - had built it.
     I learned more about work ethic, ego, try, pride and life that afternoon than in any other period of my life consisting of the same time frame. I had a whole new respect for the boss and a new outlook on life…and during the whole lesson; he’d only spoke eight simple words. 


  1. This reminds me of the kind of lessons my dad taught. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank YOU for looking. These are the types of lessons most needed.


About Me

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Jim Olson is a ranch-raised cowboy, author and entrepreneur. Growing up on the high plains of eastern New Mexico he learned to ride young colts, tend to cattle and drive heavy farm equipment at an early age. 

Jim spent a few years competing in the calf roping event at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association level, qualifying for the circuit finals a few times. He lives on and operates a ranch near Stanfield, Arizona, once a part of John Wayne’s Red River Ranch, and also owns Western Trading Post, dealing in Cowboy and Indian collectibles. 

These great life experiences Jim now uses in his writing career. He writes stories about interesting and extraordinary people of the west including short stories of both fiction and nonfiction. He has a monthly column titled “Cowboy Heroes,” published by several Southwestern and national magazines. Jim has written three books and is working on other projects as well. He can be reached via the web: www.JimOlsonAuthor.com 


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