It’s the end of the trail for Cowboy Logic

TOWNER, N.D. — Some days, I think I’m about the oldest 45-year-old guy I know. Maybe I am. An “old soul” has been a common description of me, and I take it as a compliment.

I’m certain the “oldness” is related to my father being just shy of 49 years old when I was born, and my mother was nearly 38. Having parents a generation beyond the age of the parents of most of my contemporaries was bound to have a soul-aging effect on me.

But I’m feeling my age now because I look at the calendar, count back and realize I’ve been writing this Cowboy Logic column for 21 years. How’d that happen?

On July 18, 1994, just a week ahead of my 24th birthday, Cowboy Logic got its first ink on page six of AgWeek magazine. I’d been writing freelance news stories for AgWeek and they asked me for something a little lighter to run on the editorial page. I had to be an old soul for them to give a 24-year-old cowboy free rein on 600 words worth of ink and newsprint every week.

Kind of like leafy spurge, but hopefully more appreciated, it spread from there. North Dakota Horizons magazine picked it to run on their glossy pages four times a year. I reached Canadian farmers and ranchers with the Western Producer published in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

I’m in the Capital Press out in Salem, Ore.; the Cattle Business Weekly in Philip, S.D.; and the Nebraska Fencepost, Ogallala, Neb.

I’ve had papers and magazines in Kamloops, British Columbia; Great Falls, Mont.; and Boise, Idaho, dedicate space to Cowboy Logic over the years as well. It’s probably run in a few papers that never minded tracking me down to send a little remuneration for my words, and that’s OK.

My mother wrote a column for about 30 years in our local weekly paper called “Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch,” right up until her passing. She wrote them out in longhand on a yellow legal pad and I think she got $20 a column.

Someone rather innocently asked her once what she had to pay to get that space in the paper. They figured it was like buying advertising. They were pleased to find out that she actually got paid a little for writing it!

I’ve been pleased, too, that a handful of papers and magazines around the Western U.S. and Canada have been willing to pay me for writing. Every dollar earned was welcome, especially that year I sold the steer calves for 62 cents a pound. The columns, and the speaking jobs that came from them, helped skid the ranch across the thin ice of the lean times.

I’ve always liked life best when it’s had a lot of variety. I had the variety of all that ranching entails from day to day, and combined that with communications work for a beef cooperative in seven states and two Canadian provinces; a sales career in animal health for a major corporation; 10 years serving as a state senator and two years as the minority leader; and a fellowship with a foundation that allowed me to study Norway’s oil development policies, travel to the old country and even helicopter out to a drilling platform in the middle of the North Sea. To say the least, my life has been blessed with variety.

Now, my wife and family and I are embarking on a new adventure as the appointed state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development agency. We’ll still have cows and horses, and the ranch will never be for sale, but I am stepping away from writing my Cowboy Logic column as I start my new work.

I leave several hundred columns and three books of my past columns in my wake, a website to find them, www.mycowboylogic.com, and 21 years of good memories. I’m not going too far, so we’ll see you around. And if we meet on a gravel road, I’ll smile and give the customary wave from the top of the steering wheel.

Happy trails, folks.

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