Difficult Co-Workers on the Ranch

There’s nothing more frustrating than having to deal with co-workers that can’t be trusted or relied on. They make working together difficult.                 

My husband and I try to help improve the morale of these fixtures in order to keep our cows on one side of the fence instead of both sides but the whole place is a depressing environment. A few hours of working with obstinate posts and fence wires leaves me feeling discouraged and despondent. There are too many problems to deal with that can’t be fixed without a lot of money, which our ranch doesn’t have an excess amount of and the work my husband and I do for these curmudgeons often goes unappreciated. Either we find that the same fence wires and posts have fallen down again or others decide to go down. 
 After a certain age, posts and barbwire don’t want to cooperate with each other. The posts get lazy and want to lay down on the job, putting the burden of keeping the rest of the fence uplifted, onto the wires that they’re supposed to be collaborating with. The barbwire in turn gets stubborn and refuses to hold the posts up. My husband and I frequently find signs of tension that’s been released at the expense of the rest of fence. Wires are found sagging, refusing to hold tight for the benefit of the whole or have completely snapped. Breakdowns are common among old fence wires. Every time a downed tree puts a little pressure on the top strands or cattle get pushy, wires and posts start to let go. They frequently let down their guard to bluff cows and leave the place wide open and vulnerable allowing cattle to walk all over them.  Despite how many strands of wire we strengthen back up with splices and clips, or how many unstable posts we reinforce, prop up, or re-attach with staples, many still go down at the slightest resistance. All it takes is a few heavy rotted off posts giving out to bring others down with them. Due to their numerous problems, neither is able to keep it together, and makes life miserable for ranchers. When my husband or I show up, we’re expected to fix every post’s and wire’s problem.  A work environment that’s plagued with challenges becomes drudgery and a headache to deal with. Cattle find the slacking or weak ones in a fence line and bully their way through. Old fences that should have been replaced a long time ago can’t be trusted or relied on. We don’t put much faith in adjoining pastures with barriers such as these because they have to be checked daily and cows are frequently found on the wrong side. Regardless of the similarities between certain fences and co-workers, deciding who I’d rather work with is not a difficult decision. I can put up with lying fences.  

I’ve not had many dealings with these types of co-workers much except when our cows’ behavior required a lot more fence fixing. Ancient fences have been more uncooperative than any human I’ve interacted with in order to accomplish an objective. What’s supposed to be a fence isn’t much more than old, rotted off posts and rusty barbwire cobbled together that resembles spaghetti. 






Column originally published October 18-24, 2009

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