Cornbread Thinks: Darren’s People

Before the boring part starts, if you don’t know Penny Youngblood and Nancy Pearce of Circle Y Ranch, you should. They do a lot for all cutters, the sport and humanity in general. Do your homework. Please.

During the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity, I was concierging around, minding everybody’s business, when I noticed a couple of blacked-out vehicles with chauffeurs. Being as they had the road blocked, I decided to mind their business, too.

They were looking for Mr. Darren Blanton of High Brow Cat fame, amongst his other notoriety. Election night in New York, he had invited them to come watch some cutting. It’s something not enough cutters do. Little did he suspect they would do just that.

I threw in with them as a poor substitute for Darren. The sale in the John Justin Sale Arena is all that was happening, so in we went. These people were some very serious republicans, and they were stuck with the NCHA’s token liberal. What could possibly go wrong?

The mom and grown daughter of the group are jumpers. Accomplished ones at that. They had never seen cutting. Poor things. We spent considerable time at the sale, with a little tutorial on what made the prices happen and how to decipher a sale catalog, and then we got started on the business of cutting, injecting some history of auctions and cutting. They were quick studies and immediately started asking the questions I like to hear from new people. There are many tells in questions.

The chil’ren got hollow and went to fill up, with a plan to come back for the Amateur and Unlimited finals later. I cold trailed them to the High Brow Cat booth in the exhibit hall in time to go inside for settling the first bunch. Perfect. My experience on how to introduce people to cutting is during settling.

Settling is our single best tool for developing cutters and fans. It’s relaxed, but there is much to see. How we describe cows is entertaining to most everybody. The cow boxes, cow lists, the judge’s boxes and the judging system, especially the built-in fairness, is enlightening. It’s all shown while explaining the Texas cow industry after the War of Insurrection. How today’s rules and traditions began, why artful work became point-earning … things admired and given compensation.

New people say, “Why,” more than a 3-year-old kid. Taking them back to the days of free cattle is captivating. I try to put them in the saddle in their mind’s eye. I tell them of people working mostly alone and risking all on a daily basis, building a new life far from war, death, destruction and events that destroyed the life they had. It was a time when a man’s hard work and sacrifice paid, and often very well. Where a body could not depend on others for meals and shelter. There were no real laws, except the laws of physics and Mother Nature. Unbreakable laws. Laws with swift justice, until it was time to realize their profit.

We need to tell of the roundups, the selling of cattle that people’s lives were risked to make theirs. We must explain how, in time, the offspring of those first cows multiplied because they carried a brand put there by group effort. How all differences were put aside because the herd belonged to everybody. For those 10 or so days, a few times a year, all people became one, a machine of the smoothest kind. No man bigger than another, no man not needed. Explaining the principles behind the rules. Why principles came before personalities. Why the right way was the only way.

When was the last time you invited someone to watch a cutting? Not watch you, but watch a cutting where you, too, are a spectator? Are you a spectator? Do you like to watch a cutting like you do a football or baseball game? Have you looked at cutting using your “fan” eyes and not your contestant eyes?

We are all pretty good at steering people once they become interested. To get anybody interested, we have to get them exposed. So, here is your New Year’s resolution. Invite some regular people to go watch a cutting. Put a meal in it. Socialize with them. Entertain them. Tell them our stories. Make them fans.

Cornbread Thinks: We are excellent at keeping our light under a bushel.