Wednesday, June 7, 2017
A couple of the other guys started giving Mike a hard time. Saying he was just cleaning up to make himself look good in case the boss drove up. Mike replied that it just needed doing, so he was going to do it. One of the guys who accused Mike of looking busy just in case the boss drove up said, “By golly, we’ve worked hard all morning sorting those cattle. I don't need to look busy just so the boss thinks I’m working when he drives up. If he can’t look in those corrals and see what all we’ve done, without being told or shown, then he’s a bone-head anyway.” It was a feeble excuse to explain his actions of sitting there doing nothing while Mike picked up.
I watched this little exchange with interest. Being only eighteen, I was still very impressionable, and a little rebellious, so I was unsure which side to align myself with. After a little while, one of the guys who had been giving Mike a hard time, gave another little jab. He said, “You know, I’m sitting here earning the same money as you. Ha!”
To which Mike replied, “If you never do any more than you’re paid for, you’ll never be paid for any more than you do.” I later learned it was an old saying, but I thought that over for a moment and was convinced that ‘ol Mike was a sure enough wise one. A genuine cowboy philosopher.
After thinking for a minute, I decided to jump up and help out. While the two of us worked hard, cleaning up that dusty barn, those other fellows sat there on their duffs, giving us a hard time. Before long, we heard a pickup arrive. All of a sudden, those two guys jumped up and acted like they had been cleaning right along with us.
When the boss walked in, he looked around and commented that the barn sure looked great. One of the guys who had sat there giving us a bad time piped up and said, “Thanks. It just looked like it needed doing.” What a counterfeit, I thought, but didn't say a thing. Neither did Mike. Then we all went out to the corrals.
While looking over the cattle, I became more upset by the minute. I told myself it wasn't fair that the whole barn cleaning idea belonged to Mike and that he’d done most of the work. Then this other guy stepped right up to claim credit. It just wasn't right!
After a bit, the boss was getting ready to leave. I had a chance to pull him aside for a moment without being too conspicuous. I told him, “You know Sir, cleaning that barn while we waited was all Mike’s idea and he did most of the work.” I figured that was the right thing to do without stepping over the line and becoming a tattle-tale against my fellow cowboys.
The boss grinned and said, “I figure as much.” I was puzzled and asked how so? He explained, “Those two over there are lazy and suck-ups. While they do their jobs just fine, they wouldn't have the initiative to go above and beyond what’s expected of them. You—you’re too young and inexperienced to be a leader, so I figure it wasn't your idea. And I know ‘ol Mike, he’s the kind of guy who knows you’ve got to chop wood before you can have a fire. Watch his work ethic when you’re around him. It’ll do you good.”
At the end of the season, when extra help was no longer needed, Mike was kept on too fill an open position—the rest of us were let go. Later on, I heard Mike was promoted to boss and wound up overseeing a large cattle operation for a big-time operator. Those other two guys, well I heard they are still working for, basically what amounts to minimum wage. They spent their whole lives complaining about management and never doing any more that what was expected of them. And their paychecks still reflect it to this day.
Me. I’ll always remember that day. It was the day it finally sunk in, what several successful old-timers had told me along the way. The day I saw advice meet application. The fact that if you want to succeed, if you want to earn more, you have to go above and beyond what is expected.
Jim Olson ©2017
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