All posts by Jack Varian

End of an Era

Today I got to spend the whole day with my old friend, Nostalgia. It would be the last livestock auction to  be held at the Templeton Livestock Market. 1947 marked the start of business for T.L.M. as it would become known through out California. The auction takes place every Saturday, usually  around noon.

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Once a month preceding the livestock sale was the small animal sale, that was the outlet for all matter of livestock. From Lamas to goats, sheep to chickens, pigs to rabbits and any other livestock that has monetary value. Outside puppy’s, kittens and various house birds found new homes.

This special place over the past 67 years was the entry level work experience for teenage kids that wanted to be cowboys ,cattlemen  or maybe a livestock buyer. But all that worked behind the scene, in the pens in all kinds of weather and the length of time  until the sale was over, which could be 3 AM, they and their work ethic were always better for a T.L.M. experience.

Saturdays for the ‘Auction Yard Junkie’ who reveled to the sound of the Cornell’s (auctioneer) chant, the smell of the livestock pens, the vagaries of the weather, and the always favorite game of: guess if the Cattle Market would  be up or down for the week. 

T.L.M. Is a cattlemen’s club, a place to mingle with like minded friends. A place for families to gather for the things ranchers do, like rope, gymkhana and then  complain about who ever holds the reins of power. I will have to say, it’s usually the Democrats that get the biggest  tongue lashing. But folks from both sides of the political spectrum manage to justify why it’s OK to feed at the government trough, filled with different farm subsidies.

1958, its September, Zee and I have just started our career as cattle ranchers and we need cattle to be Cattlemen.

Well, my new neighbor who has been giving me lots of advice on how to survive in the cattle business said, “You need to go to the Templeton Livestock Auction next Saturday”. My friend asked me, “How many do  you need?” ” Well I think 100 head would be a good start”, I said. “You head over to the sale, it might take you a couple of weeks to get filled out but they are local cattle so you should get along with them pretty good”.

Saturday arrived and I was at the sale early. I wanted to have time to get an idea of what was in the offering. It wasn’t long before the owner came up to me and said, “Come to buy a few?”

“Yes”, I said, “I’m thinking of 100 head of 400 pound steer calves”. Walt Goodell said, “Go get a buyers number in the office. I’ll be in the ring and when some calves that I think will work for you I’ll wave at you and if you choose you can buy them”. With Adrenalin filling my veins I was about to become a Cattleman as a little bunch of 400 pounds steer  calves trotted in. And in a blur of head shaking and dread I heard the auctioneer say, “Sold! To you young fellow what’s your buyers number?” I was in BUSINESS! And 56 years later I’m looking back with no regrets.

Thanks T.L.M.

See Ya,

What Do You Do With One Wheel?

The guy that invented the wheel may not have profited from his invention because there weren’t many Unicycle riders back then. But I bet the second guy did. For he took two wheels, found a straight stick and stuck a wheel on each end of the stick, put a box in the middle and LEARNED that he could haul more in his contraption than on his back and called it a cart.

My wife Zee in our V6 ranch  junkyard
My wife Zee in our V6 ranch junkyard

This guy that invented the cart didn’t have the cart market to himself for very long, because another guy came along and logic told him that if he would take two axels and four wheels and join them with a stick perpendicular to the axels he could really carry a load, and the cart business took a dive and the wagon took center stage. Knowledge and Information were advanced.

With the four wheels up and running, this new wagon had one more problem to be solved. You couldn’t steer it. So the 4th guy looks at the wagon and thinks, “If I put a 5th wheel under the floor of the wagon box, and hooked it to the middle of the front axel the driver could now steer it. “

Our teamster now had to get his newly invented machine to move. So who was going to pull this wagon loaded with stuff?

Yes, they even had stuff back then.

Well he looked around and there she was, ‘his Sweet Thing’ standing nearby, and he asked her if she would pull the wagon. Because he was the Boss of His outfit she needed to just say YES.  but she said NO. I’m sure that’s how the present day Women’s Rights Organization got started.

To really change the impact man could make on our planet Earth, the wagon needed that something that wouldn’t argue about being put on overload. Enter the Ox. But the Ox had a Weak Link. He was slow, and as man learned more he hurried more.

The ‘need for speed’ was born.

You guessed it! Some guys spied a horse on a distant hill and said to himself, “If I catch him I think he can pull my Wagon!”  Catch him he did. And our first Cowboy was born.

Well, it didn’t take him long to invent the harness, and civilization would never be the same. The point I’m trying to make is that the wheel was invented with a little bit of information and a whole lot of ‘how too Knowledge’.

Today I have in my hand an iPhone 4. I’m told that this gadget has more information stored inside its 1/2 inch thick by shirt pocket long size than all the libraries in the World.

But information by itself, if you can’t use it, is worthless. Today we are raising an ever growing number of young people that are NOT taught how to put information to tangible use, and the educational community needs to address this problem.

So I elect myself to start with three suggestions.

  • 1st: We need to have a new job description for our colleges and universities when they go out in search of new teachers. Let’s not limit the field that can qualify to those with doctors degrees only. Let’s instead open it to all that want to be considered a candidate for the job, regardless of Degrees hanging on the wall. Then give the job to the best qualified person, who is capable of meeting the needs of students first.
  •  2nd: We need workable internship and apprenticeship programs that meet the expectations of the student and the expectations of the entity offering the opportunity. The program must be symbiotic in nature so that both intern and person or company profit from the experience, or it won’t work.
  •   3rd: Teachers Unions of our land need to consider the rights of a student to learn on a par with a teachers right to reasonable working conditions.

This month of September, with a few million kids heading of to institutions of supposed Higher Learning, and most wanting to go to the prestige university, worry not if you don’t get accepted. It may be a blessing in disguise. Because most of what they’ll teach you, you can dial up on your iPhone.

What’s missing today in most institutions of higher learning is how to transform  information into workable skills. The body of information one has with little knowledge of how to apply it will just be latent inklings of what could have been. Most employers today must see their investment in new additions as their payroll  ‘Payoff’.

Even though I have been critical of our houses of higher learning, for most kids, it’s still a good place to get 4 or 5 years older and they will be better for the experience. Hopefully today’s professors will still challenge their  students to make their imaginations ‘dream the impossible dream’ and their inquisitiveness is still asking the right questions.

If a person has PASSION about what he or she does I know there is a magic carpet in the mind  that will direct you to the places where lies the skills to turn dreams into reality. And the hard work necessary to achieve ones goals will not be work at all, just fun. Remember:

With passion there are no hurdles too high.

See ya,


Chemise Brush: From Friend to Foe

I’m listening to the local 6 O’clock news and our anchorman has just announced that 250 scientist’s say that we can expect our California climate to be 30% dryer over the next 20 years. Only time will tell how accurate this forecast will turn out to be.

Whatever the outcome, for better or for worse, I hope that common sense might be part of the solution. For me, I can’t wait. I have to move on while the problem is studied, investigated, validated and enough political hot air is belched into the atmosphere to raise our Global Temperature a few more degrees.

Fire has always played a major roll in the evolution of our planet Earth. But with the birth of each new generation of people these folks have decided that the cities held a greater promise for fame and fortune than life on our farms and ranches.

This means that an awful lot of decisions  that affect how I run my business, are made today by people who have little knowledge of the issues that confront me, and not by the people who live on the land.

 Bear with me; all this blabber will set the stage for my point of view.

First, we need to relegate SMOKEY BEAR, who most of us were raised with and taught to revere to some paragraph in our History books of “what not to do”. His management of our wild lands has been a disaster.

He needs to be sent to the scrap heap of irrelevance for changing our perception about fire, from a tool that helps keep our ecosystem in good health to a villain that turns forests into bleak waste lands of blackened trees, and the critters that inhabited these places meet their end in a confluence of smoke and fire. In Mother Nature’s world this does not happen!

While I’m on my soap box, we must rid our thoughts of slogans like, ‘Only you can prevent forest fires’, which further vilifies fire. These slogans that were thought up by some public relations person that didn’t know his ass from a hot rock are not now and never were valid.

With Smokey Bear out of the way, we can view fire in a more objective and scientific way. If we use our knowledge and good sense then reasonable policies can come to the fore that will use fire as part of the solution, and not part of the problem. Lets be smart enough to manage our wild lands in the 21st century and use Mother Nature as our mentor.

 I think I’m done venting for now.

So back to my solution on how to manage our Chaparral lands. Last winter my son Greg and his son Zack crushed about 100 acres of predominately Chamise Brush with a D7 Cat tractor and a D6 Cat tractor.

Several things I have observed since the crushing have  caused me to question my need to Control Burn:

  1. By leaving the crushed Chamise on the soil surface, over time, it will decompose into organic matter thus increasing soil fertility.
  2. By having the brush in contact with the ground, in case of a fire, it will be a colder fire that won’t tend to carry so much heat up into heart of our Blue Oak trees as some live with Chamise. Therefore reducing the chance of being killed in a fire.
  3. By leaving the now crushed brush on the ground when our rainy season arrives, the rain that falls will be slowed down by this mass of sticks all pointing in different directions each acting like a little fish hook to ensnare a drop of water and then send it underground to provide the needed moisture for the green growing season.
  4. A mature Chamise stand is a desert to most all grazing animals I.E. deer, cattle, rabbits and horses. But with the brush on the ground, grass and forb seeds can grow now that they have been exposed to sun light.
  5. The already existing organic matter on the ground won’t be lost in a fire.
  6. I won’t be adding any smoke to the atmosphere just in case, it helps cause Global Warming.

I hope that the pictures accompanying this blog will further explain what I’m trying to accomplish:


Also take note of a pass I made with my Bulldozer through a Chamise Patch about 10 years ago. Notice all the annual and perennial grasses that have in filled and some Chamise is sprouting again.


I don’t want to miss lead anyone into thinking this is the only solution for our Brush lands, as I believe there are many. I support the use of fire as an option but in my case it wasn’t necessary. I hope that my words might just keep some of us from returning to the emotional Smoky Bear thinking that lacks logic, patience and common sense.

See Ya,


What’s In a Sack of Cow Feed?

Years ago, I’m not sure when exactly, you could buy a sack of livestock feed at most Feed Store. The sack was made of a cloth that was a profusion of gaily colored flowers, so that if you were handy with a pair of scissors and a sewing machine a woman could make herself a dress nice enough to have a night out on the town.

That’s and era that we will probably never see again, as most folks don’t know what a Sewing Machine looks like and scissors are meant for clipping coupons out of the local super market flyer.

Anyway the sack of feed I bought had attached to it a tag that if, “taken to heart”, by its reader was way more valuable than the feed inside. I would like to share it with you:



Christmas Comes Twice a Year at the V6 Ranch

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.

This truck is like Santa's sleigh for a cattle rancher
This truck is like Santa’s sleigh for a cattle rancher

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.

So our day in June arrived and cattle were to be gathered at daylight and then driven to our cattle corrals where they would be weighed and loaded on to the new owner’s trucks.

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.

This is the scale that weighs the cattle before they are loaded onto the trucks to be shipped.
This is the scale that weighs the cattle before they are loaded onto the trucks to be shipped.

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!
See Ya,

Reflections and Observation While at The Mid State Fair 2014

I’m going to start right out and toot my own horn, because at this stage in my life victories in the rodeo arena are few and far between.This year my partner, Duane Baxley and I won the two ropers over the age of 60 calf branding at the Mid State Fair country rodeo. This validates that at the present time there are enough parts in the old body, still working well enough to allow me to swing my rope, catch a calf and dally up. Hurrah!

Saturday night at the fair was dedicated to the Country Rodeo finals, where the top 6 contestants from each event in the daytime country rodeo compete against each other. I was thoroughly entertained. The show had “Cotton the Buffalo Bill of modern times Rosser” written all over it. It was pure old fashioned fun.

Zee and I followed up the Rodeo with a stroll through the commercial buildings full of the ever loving salesmen selling pots and pans, while promising that he will turn any guy like me, who can’t even boil water into a master chef. All that’s required is a few of his pots and pans. But I like not being able to boil water so we walked on by. Eventually we made our way to the photography and art work in the building behind Maynard’s Mountain that are done by a lot of locals. It always amazes me how good they are.

Next it was time to look at all the livestock, to see the wonderful young people that are testimonies proving kids and animals are a wonderful mix for each other. Turning a corner at the Livestock Pavilion there appeared before my eyes one of these fear mongers dressed up as a wash stand and with a sign attached to it. The sign read,’Have you visited the Animals? Team Sudsy says. For your safety you should WASH YOUR HANDS after visiting animal area.’

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Use soap and water for 20 seconds while singing the A.B.C. Or Happy Birthday song.
Don’t forget to wash between fingers and under fingernails, back of hands and lower arms.
Dry hands with a clean paper towel.
Thank you, your health and safety are our main concern
– California Mid State Fair.

At first I thought this sign must be a prank.That somebody with a good sense of humor placed the sign to bring attention to the imbecilic, ridiculous lengths this hand washing fetish has gone to at the Mid State Fair. After asking several bystanders if this was a prank, I was assured it wasn’t. I don’t know where to start with trying to reply to written words that are so DUMB!! But I’ll try.

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Lets start with a typical and hypothetical teenager, father/son conversation. Now I’m a grandfather, but for the moment I will play father.

Father: “Son have you been touching your steer?”

Son: “Yes dad I’ve been touching him every day for the past 6 months. I’ve been feeding him, washing him, and teaching him to lead.”

Father: “Well son I know this may sound a little strange but at the fair all contact with livestock must be followed by going to one of the portable hand washing stations where orders are clearly written on how to properly wash your hands.”

Father: “You must report to the hand washing stand and wash your hands for 20 seconds while singing the A.B.C. song or the Happy Birthday song.”

Son:”But dad it’s not my birthday.”

Father: “Then sing the A.B.C. song.”

(I think it’s smart of them to give the option because most livestock touchers weren’t born on July 26.)

Son: “Dad you know I felt pretty stupid sing the A.B.C. song for 20 seconds it seemed like a long time.”

Son: “I was also wondering if there are enough wash stands so all 1,000 kids can wash their hands without waiting in line for hours on end. Do you think it would be all right with the Neat Freak Police if there was a crowd at the Portable Wash Stand and we only sang our song for 10 seconds?”

Son: “Dad I have another wonderment. Wouldn’t we be more apt to get sick on the Board Walk with all the people standing next to one another and breathing on each other?”

Son: “Dad I’m not done yet. I was wondering if all the kids at all the other fairs in the U.S.A. have to report to the portable wash stand after touching their animals like we do?”

Son: “I was also thinking that if all the kids at all the fairs washed their hands every time they touched their sheep or goat or cattle wouldn’t we use an awful lot of paper towels? And that means somebody is going to have to cut down a lot of trees to make all those paper towels.

Son: “And one more thing Dad. I understand that Salmonella and E Coli don’t find livestock to be a friendly place to hang out With. But if that’s not true then the artist behind the photograph at the art exhibit, showing a pig being used as a pillow by his teenage owner to take a nap on, needs to be tracked down and told that sleeping on a pig can be hazardous to to that teenager’s health.”

See Ya!
Jack Varian

To the Environmental Protection Agency and The Army Core of Engineers:

As much as I would like to sit on my haunches and just see what happens I know that’s a luxury that I can’t afford. The stakes are so high that I must take this iPad in hand, and hopefully for the health of our nation try to bring some modicum of common sense to the E.P.A.’s latest power grab.

It is complete arrogance of this agency to think that it has all the scientific knowledge that is necessary, and it’s positive belief that Mother Nature is in their camp that they are now ready to tell us as we the people that it is in the best interest of us as the the citizens of this land we call America to LISTEN UP.

Gina McCARTHY who is an over the top, arrogant Nit Wit, who couldn’t pour water out of a boot somehow or another has been inserted into the job as head of the E.P.A. She has the gall to think that along with with another irrelevant agency, The Army Core of Engineers are all knowing all seeing enough to take charge of all the rain that falls on all our 50 states so that we of lesser minds will all be saved by their superior intelligence. What I get from their “don’t worry we will take care of you” is that we can now live with tranquil confidence that all’s well with planet Earth is this:

I want to shout as loud as I can for everybody that has ears to hear that it “ain’t so!

I don’t know how “We The People” were so asleep at the switch to let this kind of lunacy go this far. I guess we only need grab any history book for the answer. This world has spawned many of the same ilk like Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Jim Jones and his Kool-Aid and I’m sure there are thousands more sociopaths that knew they had the correct path to lead us all to Nirvana.

So to all you believers with Common Sense, I employ you to write to your Congressman and tell them this utter nonsense has to STOP.

Hope you all join the fray,

Jack Varian

A Letter to Uncle Sam

Dear Uncle Sam,

Since I got this new-finagled typewriter called an iPad it has made letter writing much more convenient, especially when it takes care of most all of my misspelled words. I’ve decided that I’m going to try expressing some of my feelings to you about our United States from never to sometimes.

In regards to my last letter, just a few days ago where I thought it might be a good idea to tell the E.P.A. to back off a little…Well I believe it’s still a good idea. So I want to shine some light on the premise that melting some of the vitriolic talk that expels reason would be a good thing.

I believe that we the people are moving toward a cynical and fear filled territory where nobody seems willing to listen to the other guy. Where conspiracy theories carry more weight than the Laws of Physics. Where Common Sense plays an ever-smaller role in our daily lives.

What I see as a very partial solution is for some entity of importance I.E. our U.S. Congress or a member of Congress to start to question our Partisan Frontal Attack. It is a winner take all, no compromise approach to solving the problems that come before the various legislative bodies of our land.

Here Sam, are two destructive practices, fostered by government that digests part of one’s tranquil brain cells. For example, this hand washing fetish that abounds today. It has created a nation of Germ Freaks that spend far to much time looking into every corner and crevice for a Germ waiting to devour said freak.  Sam I don’t mind washing my hands after a days work, not so much for the health benefit which is negligible, but to keep my wife who doesn’t want my dirt scattered about the house making it dirty.

Ever since we Omnivores climbed out of a tree (or fell out we), decided that living on the land was a more stable place to prosper in and we had less of a chance of being judged “out of his tree.”
Upon leaving the tree being unemployed was not an option. For that meant starvation, so everyone worked real hard learning to eat a diet of bugs, roots, leaves and then topped it off with a nice steak. While they were doing all this hunting and gathering to live they did a lot of bending, digging, running and walking called exercise that was part of their survival package.

Fast forward to the 20th century, school boards across the country with not enough money have decided to trade out P.E. for the installation of junk food vending machines in order to make a few bucks.


This Out of the tree life style has served us well until up until the keeper of our health, THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, decided that meat and dairy had Cholesterol, the demon that has caused many of our Heart Attacks etc. But now according to a new article that I read in Time Magazine meat and dairy are now on the O.K. to eat list. That there is more good stuff going on than meets the eye, hidden inside a nice juicy steak or a glass of milk.

I think that the business community, the advertising world and the government all use scare tactics to sell their agendas. As I see it the only one that could be asked to tone down the rhetoric is government. The other two, in order to make a profit will mostly likely not change.

Now I’m not against profit as that’s what pays my bills. But on the other hand, we just can’t afford to sweep our countries emotional turmoil under the rug. For if we do we will all see more aberrant behavior, more obesity and a yet to be discovered collection of things that won’t be good for society; pick your poison.

A possible alternative: Somebody invents a supper pill to take away all our cares so we can live in the Land Of Same. Ugh!

Your friend,

Jack Varian
P.S.  Sam, I wrote this while wearing my Rose Colored Glasses

Thirty Minutes is More Than Enough

“I think I can still multi-task” popped in my head this evening as I watched some young lady on Wheel of Fortune had just won $30,000. That information entered through my Hearing Aid, while my eyes, peeking through my glasses, at the same moment caught sight of a small article about a most loathsome corporation suffering from a bad case of The Peter Principle.

The article stated that anybody or anything, no matter how big can rise to It’s level of incompetence. In my view, Wal Mart is now giving for all the world to see a text book definition of how The Peter Principle works. The latest edition of Barron’s Financial Weekly bold types Wal Mart’s Woes. Wal Mart, the world’s largest retail stores, cut its earnings guidance for the year after posting its seventh straight quarterly decline in U.S. store traffic. Meanwhile, JC Penney reported that sales improved for the third quarter in a row.

It wasn’t but a year ago that JC Penney was almost in a free fall and the Wall Street Vultures were salivating about how they would carve up the Penney carcass. But a new C.E.O. came on board and took the company back to basics by putting customer service first.

Well I just spent as little time as possible in our local Wal Mart store getting two 50 pound bags of my dog families favorite meal. I will have to give Big Wally credit for keeping my dog’s favorite meal on their shelves of course, but the kudos stop there. As I load my 100 lbs of manna into my shopping cart that has one square wheel which causes my cart to go Ka-Bumping and pulling in an annoying right direction, the main concourse is so crowded with stuff that it’s more of an obstacle course than a road to the cash register.

As I look about most all of the customers have a set to their jaw much like mine. One of,

“Lets get this trampling of my dignity over with as quickly as possible.”

Why do we put up with this abuse? I hide behind the fact that there’s always a place to park. The downtown of most cities have been gutted by Wal Mart, Target Ect. and the price for this deluge of Made in China goods is supposed to be cheaper.

Well, the newspaper article said that Big Wally’s store traffic has been in decline for 7 quarters. This says that some of stout heart are saying enough is enough and have moved on. One of these days I’m going to quit whining and stand with these stout hearts, put a smile on my face and go buy my underwear at J.C.Penney’s.

See Ya!