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The steer dilemma


When I was a senior in high school in Frederick, Oklahoma, my dad and brother purchased 100 head of Louisiana steers, and put them on our family farm northeast of town. The farm had been leased out for the four years my brother was away in college, and the fences were in bad repair. Within days of receipt of the steers, my brother was ordered to report to Ft Polk, Louisiana for 6 months active duty in the Army Reserve. This meant that, as the oldest boy in the house, I was assigned to assist my dad as cowboy and try to deal with the 100 steers, who clearly intended to head back to Louisiana.

The agenda each morning became for my dad and Ito arise at around 4:45a.m., so we could reach the farm by about 5:30a.m. and start feeding the steers, rounding them up from the many places they had torn down the fences, and then mending the fences.

My dad was committed to having me at school on time for my favorite class, Senior English with Mrs. Wallis. However, because of the great damage the steers were causing to the fences, we were often delayed and I would be a few minutes late for class. Each of my tardy appearances was greeted by a very dramatic welcome from Mrs. Wallis, as she sang out, “A dillar, a dollar, a ten-o’clock scholar, why have you come so soon?”

After a few weeks of dealing with the steer dilemma and trying to think of a solution, my dad, using much of his abundant common sense, devised the perfect plan. I recall him purchasing fifty or so parachute harnesses from a dealer in army surplus merchandise, then taking the parachute harness to T.O. Wright shoe repair shop, whereupon Mr. Wright constructed fifty steer harnesses. We then corralled the steers, paired them up, and affixed one of the harnesses to each of the troublesome pairs. We watched in amazement as the steers first fought for their independence, then came to realize that they would go nowhere until they cooperated. My dad’s wise solution not only ended the need for early morning fence repair, but also marked the last time I had to be welcomed into class by Mrs. Wallis’ song.

I have learned many lessons from this experience, which have served me well. I learned that a spirit of cooperation will get the agenda rolling along every time. I learned that my dad really needed my help and that he really appreciated it. I learned from my dad’s example that wisdom comes with age if you pay attention as you go along. After I had finished English with all A’s and was proclaimed by Mrs. Wallis as “one of her best students” (a title I am sure I share with several hundred others), I realized what a blessing it is to have teachers who are totally dedicated to their students and care about each one.

Honorable David Barnett Behind the Bench David Barnett Behind the Bench

By David Barnett

For the Press-Leader


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