Lee Pitts is a freelance columnist for The and Paso Robles Press; you can email her at [email protected].
The period before my wife and I started our beef herd in 1974 was one of the worst years in the history of modern cattle farming. Thanks to two seven-year droughts, one year when we had 74% of the breed thanks to a training program with the local Trichomonas (he taught us all about Trich), and another year when we decided to feed our calves to a packer and sell them, tripling our losses, I think that, all things considered, we had exactly one good year in cow and calf farming. And when I say it was a good year, I mean we had probably a 5% return on our investment, and we got paid about $1.25 an hour for our hard work.
Since my wife and I had never fallen into the trap of wealth, we didn’t know how to act when we were finally able to open a savings account. The first time we had to pay income tax on our livestock, I explained to my wife: You know we have to hide our happiness? We don’t want our landlord to think we’ve become members of the leisure class or to increase our already exorbitant rents.
Does this mean we should keep spending sub-optimally, my wife asked?
I’m afraid so. We can’t suddenly go to expensive dinners and tip 5%.
Even Taco Bell once in a while… she begged.
Only if you’re careful. I know how much you love nachos, but don’t go buying that huge pack of nachos that are advertised on television, or your friends and neighbors might see you and realize you’re inappropriate. You can’t change your shopping habits either. You know what the listeners are saying. If they suddenly see that you’re buying lobster and filet mignon and jelly and jam from Knotts Berry Farm instead of a no-name brand, they might realize that this cow-trading is a great way to get rich. And we don’t need any more competition.
You don’t have to tell me how the grocers spread the word. I was one for 30 years, remember? If I wasn’t working at the grocery store, you couldn’t play cowboy all the time.
I know, I’m just saying we shouldn’t change our standard of living. Of course, we will continue to serve crab burgers and potato chips under our own brand, we will continue to grow our own vegetables, and for the first time in the 47 years we have been married, we will not be able to hire a maid or a gardener. We can’t start wearing fake Rolex watches or fantasy jewelry; we will continue to straighten and reuse folded paper clips, write on both sides of paper, and pick up toilet paper hanging from trees the day after Halloween. And you can’t suddenly go to a beautician or get a pedicure.
Can we at least get a new roof and repaint the house?
Woman, are you trying to get the attention of the IRS?
I guess a new truck is out of the question then? Ours is 25 years old after all!
Especially not the NEW TRUCK! This is the first sign of overconsumption of cows in the country. No, we have to keep buying all our Christmas gifts at the dollar store and our clothes at Nifty Thrifty. They don’t have to send our clothes to the dry cleaners either, and I can’t suddenly be seen in Wranglers with pleats in them, for God’s sake!
I guess that means we can’t take our first vacation in 40 years? my wife wondered aloud.
I suppose you want to go to Vegas and have expensive drinks with little umbrellas in them, while our precious cows are suddenly left unattended at home? No, I’m not going to do that.
I thought my wife understood, until she came home with a brand new Carhartt® hoodie from the thrift store. Long model with zipper at the top. I exploded! Didn’t you hear a word I said? There will be no extravagances. Period.
I think I liked it better when we were broke, said my annoyed wife.
How do you load…
We’ll get through this together, Atascadero…