Most people get a pay check every 2 weeks or once a month, and Christmas comes once a year on December 25 for most. But a second Christmas comes in June for me that is very different, as it’s payday for myself and most ranchers, as well as grain farmers in the central part of California.
When Zee and I settled on our first ranch in Paso Robles in the the summer of 1958, it was a town of about 5,000 people. It was your typical agricultural hamlet that depended almost totally on how well the ranching and farming community did, and that dictated whether Paso Robles prospered or wilted that year. One grain farmer said, “This would be poor country if it weren’t for next year”.
Bad years meant that most purchases such as cars, tractors and house paint would be set aside till the following year when things would be hopefully better. One thing that couldn’t wait until next year were groceries. The market that we shopped at was Orcutt’s Market and if you couldn’t pay your bill, Don would carry you till next year when your cattle were sold or your grain crops harvested. Then these honor bound folks spent their first dollars on what they owed Orcutt’s Market.
Now let me tell you about something called, “Shrink”. That’s the loss of weight that happens in the hours just before the cattle are weighed. If a steer weighed 700lbs and he is sold for a dollar a pound he will lose about 1% of his body weight per hour or in this steers case 7lbs X $1 = $7.00. If you multiply this times 500 head it adds up to $3,500. And if by bad planning, your corrals being in poor shape, cowboys on horses that didn’t understand their job and turned what should have been a 1 hour job into a 3 hour wreck, the Shrink is now 1% X 3 hours X $7 X 500 head = $10,500. The cattle market today is twice this amount so the loss to bad management would be $21,000. This hopefully explains why a nice soul like me can turn into shouting raving bull and then the moment the last head is weighed, return to being a reasonable Humane Being.
Tradition dictates that the cattle buyer who represents the new owner sits down with the seller and they figure out how much is owed, and a check for that amount is written and I have just had my 2nd Christmas of the year.
Note to self: Jack, make it last til next June!