Salt lick on the water barrel, the cow enjoys this special treat

By Austin Snedden
Ranching Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Cattlemans corner Austin Snedden
Austin Snedden

When you are forty miles from town and a sixty-year-old galvanized tank is leaking water at ten gallons a minute, you get unconventional. The spring that feeds the tank runs about two gallons per minute. Plus, it is hot, the cows are drinking and the tank is leaking.  This leaking tank has to be full so the water can run on down the line several miles to water more cows.  I am no mathematician, but I need something unconventional.  There isn’t a YouTube video that shows you how to drive a half rotted hundred-year-old cedar fence post into a hole in a tank (couldn’t watch it out there anyway, no Wi-Fi).  There isn’t a textbook that tells you how to mix clay dirt with moss to shove in the hole of a leaking tank.  Unconventional methods are pretty conventional on ranches across the west.  You might drive by that tank for years looking at that unconventional cedar post patch that just doesn’t look like it belongs there, and thinking you should change it, but the leak is bone dry. Sometimes unconventional does the job better than conventional, as long as you look at it for the job it’s doing and not get mired in the fact that it is different just because it doesn’t fit into the mental box we have for things. 

Far rarer than an unconventional tank patch, is an unconventional politician. In 2016 the United States economic tank was leaking; we were leaking careers and businesses to other countries because of bad trade deals.  We were leaking our security because of appeasement patches with despotic dictators. We were leaking the lives of our troops into undefined global engagements.  The U.S. electorate stepped up and appointed an unconventional fix to these leaks.  For decades these leaks had been expanded by conventional candidates from both sides of the political aisle. They all talked about the leaks and their different conventional solutions for them, but generally these conventional patches made these leaks worse. We got comfortable with “conventional” because it looked like the patch we had always seen.  What we had were tank patch salesmen who had never patched a tank. To them, the leaks weren’t really the issue; they just wanted to sell patches.

The thing about driving a piece of wood into a hole in tank is that it is not politically correct–the wood sticks out for everyone to see. Thankfully, out in the country we don’t have everyone wandering by trying to remove it because it doesn’t look conventional.  If we had tank patch salesmen wandering the countryside like Washington D.C. has politicians and lobbyists, no grassroots patch would survive. Like tank patch salesmen, politicians can’t be having people elect problem solvers that didn’t come through their hierarchy of power.

When we elected Donald Trump November of 2016, we elected an unconventional repair method to fix many conventional leaks.  From day one, the run-of-the-mill tank patch salesmen in D.C. didn’t like him.  Even though the conventional political patches that the swamp dwellers have been selling for a century have always failed, and often put more holes in the tank–they still were all shocked that we selected a different repairman.  The politicians became even more irate when some of the unconventional patches began to work.  When President Trump began patching leaks like he said he was going to do, the political patch salesmen began punching new holes in the tank and blaming them on him.  There was a hole made by the swamp called “Russian collusion,” and many more. Even though the D.C. patch salesmen make their living selling leak repairs, they enjoy splashing around in the swamp made from a leaky tank far more than keeping the water in.

I probably shouldn’t compare our great country to a sixty-year-old galvanized tank, but just like the people inside our country, the water in the tank is what makes the tank itself important. A tank that won’t hold water is no tank at all, no matter how great it was in the beginning. Even some folks who like that leaks have been fixed are still not comfortable with the unconventional delivery of the patch.  Our country has seen many repairs to our tank in the last four years that we have heard talked about for decades.  There is more work to be done, especially in the largest sector of U.S. agriculture, which is beef cattle.  Among other federal agency grazing reform that the Trump Administration is already working on, I am confident that this “America first” president will address the current USDA labeling laws in beef that allow foreign producers and corporations to profit off the USA brand at the expense of USA ranchers.  I think this tank needs four more years of competent, unconventional repairs.