Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lessons from the Bulls for D.C.

Yesterday I hurried out into for chores. I was hoping for everything to be in order so I could finish as soon as possible and get on with the rest of my day. The morning went along really well, until I got to the pen with our two mature bulls. I turned the corner around the barn expecting to see their massive bull heads; instead I saw nothing but a big, gaping hole in the fence.

Instantly my day went from OK to bad, I had an appointment in town that morning and did not have time to mess with the bulls. Finding them was not hard; the cows let me know where they were. I hurriedly went to the calving pasture and found them in the brome grass pasture next to the calving pasture. The cows were plastered along the fence looking at the bulls grazing the green grass.

I knew I would have to do something pretty quick, soon the bulls would have eaten their fill and their attention would turn to the cows across the fence. I rushed back to the house and got a bale of the best alfalfa in my bale pile. Soon I had the bale in the feeder and called the cows up to the feeding site and away from the bulls and the rickety fence.

Part one of my hastily made plan worked and the cows quickly forgot about the handsome bulls grazing the tantalizing green grass across the every increasingly bad fence. Now on to phase two of my plan, getting the bulls back into their pen and that was going to be a challenge. I was going to have to drive them away from the green grass, across the creek and around the barn and other pens to their home. To make matters worse, my calling the cows to the alfalfa bale had drawn the bull’s attention. They were now standing at the fence looking longingly at either the cows, the alfalfa or, more likely, both.

I rushed down to start my version of a cattle drive. Did I call for help? No, Jennifer and the kids had gone to Grandma and Grandpa’s for a couple of days and I couldn’t call Dad. Why? Well, a couple of weeks earlier he had told me I needed to put an electric fence around the inside of the bull pen to deter leaning on the fence. Last week he had even sent the fencing supplies home with me. I was going to do it tomorrow (that of course was 7 tomorrows ago).

The two bulls are very different in terms of their temperament. 76 is more excitable and much quicker moving, while 77X is one of the slowest moving, slowest reacting bulls I have ever been around. I started driving them down the fence and things were going good. That was until we got to the creek crossing and the place where the trail branched. 76 was well ahead of 77 X and me and when he got to the fork in the trail, he took the left branch that led back to the brome field. 77X, on the other hand, stopped and wouldn’t budge. Both of them got words of encouragement and were renamed.

I left 77X and went after 76. After many branches in the face and after scrambling up the creek bank in the mud, I got him stopped and turned. We went back down the same trail and you guessed it, I got the same results. Meanwhile, 77X still had not moved and would not move no matter how much of a motivational speech I gave him. We made one more lap before my spirit was broken and I called Dad.

Did listened to my, now, breathless explanation of what had happened and asked me if I wanted his help. Of course the answer was yes. He then asked me if I had tried coaxing them in with a bucket of grain. In my state of panic, the idea of using bribery had not crossed my mind. With the Calvary on the way I hustled back to the barnyard for a bucket of grain.

Soon I was back to the bulls with my bucket of negotiation. I called to them and shook the bucket and rapidly their attention turned from the cows, alfalfa and green grass to the grain in my bucket. In a matter of minutes we made far more progress than I had in the previous hour. This all worked pretty good until we got almost back to the barnyard. Suddenly it occurred to 76 what I was doing (77X still was focused on the grain) and he balked. However, much to my relief, Dad arrived. With him behind and me in front we got the bulls penned. We then set upon getting the electric fence up and in a matter of 45 minutes the excitement was over. Soon I was off to town in time to make my appointment.

The 30 minute drive to town gave me some time to reflect on this little adventure and I think there are a couple of lessons for all of us in it. First, negotiation and finding a solution that will mutually benefit both parties generally works better than one party imparting their will on the other. Of course, I was a little arrogant to think I could impart my will on a couple of 2000 pound bulls with green grass, alfalfa and romance on their mind. Instead we found a mutually agreeable solution that included them in their pen with a couple pounds of corn apiece.

The second revelation I came to was much time could be saved if we would only ask for help. If I had not called Dad, I would still be out in the pasture doing laps with 76. I also would not have come up with the bucket solution in my addled, agitated state. I am also not sure if 76 would have given up and come in without Dad being there to convince him that following me and the grain would be a good idea.

It further occurred to me that my experience and the revelations it provided me might be of use and interest to those in Topeka and D.C. Especially the idea of not standing pat and trying to impose your will on another party who may not have any motivation to see things your way. Often I think the idea of compromising and finding a mutually agreeable solution is a lost idea. That would be were my second revelation of asking for help from a more intelligent source comes into play. So with that thought, if you are a legislator, my phone line is always open.

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