Cornbread Thinks: Learning People About Cutting

Yogi Berra once said, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humility.” That about sums up the National Cutting Horse Association Summer Spectacular so far. It has been hot, but it always is in summertime Texas. The difference is the humidity, very high. Horses and people sweat for the cooling of evaporation. The more water already in the air, the less it can take up. This makes us produce even more sweat, which means you have to drink lots of water. The trick is to stay ahead of water loss; it takes 24 to 48 hours to replace water if you get in deficit.

I’m really proud of everyone this show – very little complaining, lots of heads down working. The 5/6-year-old finals were outstanding. One of the best cuttings ever. If you weren’t here, you missed a special thing. Too bad, so sad.

I have guests at nearly every show who are new to cutting or have never seen cutting. Through the years, this has added up to a few hundred. I have developed a method to fit my madness. I like to start at cow change, maybe see the last horse in a set work but just as soon not. It gives me time to explain the history of the cattle industry after the War of Rebellion – how the entrepreneurs of the day turned 20 million head of wild cattle into a renewable resource industry that endures to this day. I explain the business of cattle and how the cattle we cut end up on menus of the world today. It’s about how this industry changed the world and still does. How a fair and equitable system evolved into an industry and now a sport whose rules go back to then. The mechanics of gathering thousands of head of wild cattle, sorting them, selling some of them while preserving the “factories” to produce next year’s profit. That the cattle drives weren’t transportation, but mobile feedlots which timed with the seasons. Which brings us to our 3-year-olds going to the herd in December. All things in sync with God’s plan and Earth’s turn on its axis.

I move on to explaining why a wild cow just could not be allowed to escape and run back into 15,000 head of nervous cattle. Why it is important for a horse to move quietly through these cattle and in exactly the way a rider needs. Why there is no time to see and then tell a horse how to stop a cow. Why a cow needs to be driven through the herd and brought out as close as possible to the branding fire. Explaining the rules to them, yet not. Explaining the “why” first. Conveying that these aren’t just pretty horses doing fancy things. They came from necessity and still are on many an operation. They are finely tuned and robust tools of a trade. Stradivariuses of the equine world.

Then I move to cow watching. It surprised me when I found that once the basics were covered, settling first and showcasing second, I caught their attention quickly. How we describe them, how the cow boxes are full of cow psychoanalysts looking for a “money cow.” As I point out cows and give descriptions, I urge them to pick a cow or three. If their attention lags, I ask them where their skunk tail or red hatband or smoke cow with the smear is, and they go to hunting.

Another trick is to spot a rider’s cow based on what the corner man says to them as they enter the herd on the far side. Then I tell my guest, “He’s on your dot nose,” and they are amazed when he cuts that cow. A trick as old as pulling the bridle in the sale.

Giving them the “why” and telling the “tricks” makes them curious. It also entertains them. We are entertainers. Very few of us would do this if we just worked at home by ourselves. We come to these events for a lot more than two and one-half minutes in the herd. We have to show people all of it, ’cause what we do is way cool, and you know it.

Very few people will pay $100 to eat a raw steak sitting on a 5-gallon bucket, but set fire to it, give them some greenery, some whiskey and a piece of pie, and they will pay $200.

Cornbread Thinks: People got to smell the steak first.