Photo by Austin Snedden

By Austin Snedden, Ranching Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Austin Snedden
Austin Snedden Ranching Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

There are folks that have an unavoidable magnetism, or so I have heard.  There are people that have a magnetic personality that people are drawn towards, and it isn’t always defined by exceptional looks or astounding intellect.  Folks like former president Bill Clinton and people like the late actors Betty White and Andy Griffith were all attributed with having magnetic personalities that drew people in.  I have never been accused of having any magnetism, in fact the closest I have gotten is people saying that I am polarizing.  Regardless of my lack of personal experience when it comes to having a magnetic personality, I have experienced ranch magnetism that is absolutely undeniable. 

Probably the strongest ranch magnetism is the draw that stock trailers have on nails and screws. I try to imagine how difficult it would be to stand up a three-inch nail in the perfect position on purpose so it would puncture a trailer tire rolling by, but somehow the magnetism of the ranch trailer can summon that nail from the nearest junk pile and command it to stand at a forty-five-degree angle as the tires approach.  I could have the most experienced beach comber scanning an area with the most sophisticated metal detector, find nothing, and I could drag my trailer through the same spot minutes later ending up with two nails, a screw, and a fence staple in my tires.  The magnetism of the tire is not confined to metals. On this ranch, we have had anything from coyote teeth to salt brush be drawn by the magnetic pull of the self-destructive trailer tires. All this time we have been checking tire pressure—maybe we needed to be checking polarity as well.

Horses and abrasions have an astounding and disturbing magnetism to each other. They have the most amazing way of finding something to cut themselves on.  You could drive a herd of five hundred cows through an active junkyard, including one with an operating car crusher, and not one would receive a scratch. But you turn ten horses into a wide-open field of 500 acres and at least two will find a way to lacerate themselves.  These amazing athletes can jump ditches and run at top speed safely and effortlessly, then find the only piece of wire in a square mile to cut themselves on while grazing. It can only be explained by raw magnetism.  The more valuable the horse, the stronger the magnetism is to abrasion.  The horse that tries to buck you off every time and steers like a truck without power steering is almost entirely immune to the abrasion magnetism. In fact, that one can run through the junk yard with the cows completely unscathed.

The magnetic pull of the side view mirror on a pickup has a draw that no bull can resist.  The only thing a bull enjoys more than denting a door panel is rubbing off a side view mirror.  I am convinced that the magnetism of the side view mirror would exist regardless of its placement, but to further enhance it, the engineers that design pickups put the mirrors on the side of a four-wheel drive pickup at a perfect scratching height for a bull’s back.  A longtime friend that helps on the ranch, Bob, is known for his dry wit.  Bob and I were at the corral, and we look over and see a bull attempting to fold the mirror of my truck forward towards the hood.  We were not in a spot where we could go run the bull off quickly, so as the bull was pushing the mirror forward, I asked Bob, “Can truck mirrors fold in that way?” Bob responded, “Yes they can, but it means you have to get a new one.”  

Magnetism is simple. Positively charged items are attracted to negatively charged items.  Understanding what makes a magnetic personality is somewhat more difficult, but nothing compares to the lack of understanding ranch magnetism.  Trying to understand ranch magnetism is like trying to drive a nail into a ten-ply tire, unless on accident, it is almost impossible.

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