What Do I Know? I’m Just a City Slicker…

Two Things You Should Never Ask a Rancher

I have long said that one of my favorite aspects of my job is talking with interesting people. I interviewed a rancher earlier this week and he definitely qualifies as interesting. That is, if you consider somebody who, in addition to raising cattle, is a cowboy poet, musician, blogger, and Airbnb host who offers guests from all over the world western ranch vacations on his property, compelling. I sure do.

I was surprised to learn I’ve been committing a major faux pas, by the way. During the course of our conversation, I asked him how many acres his ranch comprises. That’s when he brought the hammer down. Very politely, I might add.

“There are two questions you should never ask a rancher,” he told me in his big, booming voice. “How big his property is, and how many cows he has.”

When I asked him why, he said, that’s like asking somebody how much money he has in the bank.

Sure wish I’d known that the last time I interviewed a rancher!  

When I was telling my supervisor (whose family also ranches) about this afterward, she echoed his sentiment nearly word-for-word.

“Don’t ever do that,” she said. “It’s like asking somebody how much money they have in the bank!”

OK. Maybe this is common knowledge amongst the agricultural community, but what do I know? I’m just a city slicker.

But a well-prepared city slicker. Next time I talk with a rancher, I’ll steer clear of those questions altogether.

Ranch puns. Gotta love ’em.

Be Still My Music-Lovin’ Heart

Yesterday was the closest things have felt to normal in about 15 months. First, there was a team lunch with the marketing department to celebrate some advertising awards we picked up. We all piled into one car, sans masks, and drove together to a restaurant. It reminded me of how workplaces used to function before the pandemic.

Then, after work, Tara and I headed downtown for actual live music. Be still my rock ‘n roll loving heart!

Well, okay, this happened to be a local country artist. But it was still fun, despite being a genre I’m not particularly crazy about.

When we moved here three years ago, we quickly discovered Summer Nights—a free concert series held in downtown Rapid City every Thursday evening between Memorial Day and Labor Day. They rope off a couple of city blocks and people descend en masse for music, food, and alcohol.

This being South Dakota, the lineup skews more toward country and country/rock. Hey, beggars can’t be choosers. Tara and I bonded over music and it’s always held a special place in our relationship, so we’ll take what we can get. Especially when we haven’t gotten any live music in almost two years. There are worse ways to spend warm summer evenings than cutting loose and enjoying free entertainment. After a few beers, they could be playing Bavarian show tunes from the 1930s and I’d be bopping along contentedly.

Besides, half the fun is in the people watching. Or maybe 70% if I’m being honest. Last night, we stared subtly. Snickered sarcastically at some, outright ogled others. And then compared notes.

My wife is funner than yours.

Afterward, we hit the Culver’s drive-through and enjoyed a late (for a weeknight) dinner on the patio after dark.

Such a great night, and the pandemic felt like a memory that, slowly but surely, continues to recede into the distance.



Categories: Entertainment, writing

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34 replies

  1. You can ask me how many cows I have. I won’t be offended.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You can ask me how much of an acre I have 🙂 haha

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s helpful information about ranching, who knew cowboys were so sensitive? In New Jersey you pretty much lead with your name and tax bracket.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How many beagles do you have?
    Lol

    Fun post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to ask the questions you did. I’ll remember that should I meet a rancher, which isn’t likely, but you never know who you’ll meet along the way. As for free live music, I’m not fussy because the price is right. Our local outdoor summer music series hasn’t started up again.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s quite interesting on the questions to not ask. I guess some people don’t like to be asked the square footage of their home? But then again, many like to brag about it!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Apparently the town has nixed our summer “Music on Main” series for another year… sadly. It’s held in the smallest little parklet we have so I can understand why in this town where it’s been about 50/50 pandemic versus hoax they are being cautious. We had some independent musicians step up and do “porch concerts” last summer. Maybe that will happen again at least.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting about the ranchers. Makes sense, I guess. And getting to talk with interesting people is.a.dream! Reminds me of the time I so so so wanted to be seated next to this goth guy on a plane. But I was not. In hindsight I realized I should’ve offered my aisle seat to the guy in the middle next to the goth guy, but I wonder if I would’ve had the nerve. Probably not. He just looked super interesting. He was making a point of smiling and saying hello to everyone he passed in the terminal. I would’ve talked to him then, but I was on the phone until it was time to board. He seemed to be making of a point of saying, “I know I look scary, but I’m a nice normal person, really.” I wanted to find out for sure. (The former journalist in me.)

    I’m cracking up, so I have to come comment before I even finish reading. I’ve already begun writing a post about the band I’ll be seeing tonight. I don’t want to spoil it, but you will appreciate the post, I’m sure. The part that I’m laughing about is you saying your live music was a country band. I hate country. My mom knows this. You’ll get the joke soon enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ll have to remember that should I encounter a rancher (which could very well happen with the places I go)!

    Honestly, Bavarian show tunes from the 1930s sounds way more fun regardless of sobriety or lack of outside entertainment, only because I’d love to see who’d play that kind of thing in this day and age.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My Chinese-American in-laws asked me how much I paid in rent the first time they met me. It hurt my lily white WASP soul, but I recognize that it’s my issue. Other countries/ cultures don’t have the same taboos. And yeah, no issues with the in-laws discussing money is in the bank, how much our house costs, or our acreage.

    It’s pretty entitled of your cowboy poet to tell a reporter who is interviewing him about his ranch to not ask questions about that ranch. It’s not like you asked him how many times he cheated on his partner (which would not be relevant to a ranching story). And why on earth is this forbidden? Is it because they don’t know or couldn’t count in the old west? Is it leftover from cattle rustling days, when you wouldn’t want folks to keep track of your herd size because then they’d know you stolen some of them cows? Or you wouldn’t want folks to know you’d had to sell some land to make ends meet? Or maybe they don’t tell anyone to avoid taxes or government regulations.

    Sounds like some pretty privileged men making rules to protect themselves and then insisting that breaking the rules is rude.

    Besides, these days Zillow could probably tell you their acreage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, to his credit, he was nice about it and I didn’t get any sense that he felt privileged…just the opposite. He said most ranchers are humble and don’t like to brag about things like that. Somebody who used to ranch told me, if you know how many acres they own, you know how many cattle they can support. And if you know how many cattle they have, you know how much money they can make. I think it’s a mindset—they’re the type to drive beat-up pickups even if they have a lot of money (though it’s such a hardscrabble life and the price of cattle is so low right now, it doesn’t sound like that’s the case with this guy).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Everyone has the right to say, “I don’t like to comment on certain things,” which is completely fine. If that’s your boundary, good for you. It’s insisting that everyone self-censor in order to make landowners (especially white, male ones) comfortable that I find objectionable.

        With certain ranchers using government land to support their cattle (without paying for it!) I’m not entirely certain owned acreage always equates to the head of cattle, though. And what about land that’s not owned but where law-abiding ranchers do pay for grazing rights? I think your question was completely fair, and yet it was deflected under the guise of “kindly old rancher instructing ignorant greenhorn.”

        Like

  11. So to cause a rancher to have a cow, ask him how many cows he’s had? No bull!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. That is so funny about the rancher and your poor etiquette. {kidding} I had NO idea either. We do have a dear friend who has been raising cattle his entire life and running a ranch (he is also a poet) but he works FOR ranchers and he never had an issue saying how large the ranch is or how many heads (of cattle) they have.

    We also love live music and can’t wait to enjoy it again. We’ve got plans for August to see some of our favorite singer/songwriters and I can’t wait!

    Liked by 1 person

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