I learned a long time ago that most people can be divided into one of two camps. My wife taught me that lesson the first time we went grocery shopping together 45 years ago.
When we came to the condiment aisle, she had a preconceived notion that our mayonnaise needs would best be filled by Best Foods. But I was a Miracle Whip guy. Right there in the store, she informed me that Miracle Whip was for poor, homeless bums, while I told her that Best Foods was for rich, overeducated snobs.
My taste buds have not been tickled by Miracle Whip since that day.
As with the game of checkers, it's the same with commercial cattlemen – most can be divided into either Black or Red pieces. As in, the bigger band of Black brothers and sisters are more apt to own a tractor and do some farming, while the others bet it all on Red and only raise cattle.
Blacks are more apt to golf, while the Reds usually have a roping arena on their place. The Black contingent are more likely to have radio ear tags in their cattle, use a calf table and either freeze-brand or apply no brand at all. Reds still do it the old-fashioned way with real branding irons and a hot fire.
A Red's branding smells like oak or mesquite with a hint of cow manure; a Black's branding smells of disinfectant. If there's a red-hided animal in a Black's pasture you know it's the result of a recessive gene, but if there's a black-hided bull in with a Red's, cows you know it belongs to the neighbors.
Commercial cattlemen who prefer black-hided cattle are more apt to retain ownership, while Red's calves are sold on the video or are at the local auction market. A breeder of black-hides can tell you the birth, weaning and yearling weight EPDs of every one of his bulls, whereas a Red breeder can tell you the price of eight weights in Kansas.
Blacks own all their land while Reds lease theirs, usually from the feds. The Reds know that BLM stands for the Bureau of Land Management, but to the Blacks a BLM is a bowel movement. So you see, there's not much difference after all.
Black's squeeze chute is either blue or green, while Reds naturally prefer … red. Black's is a $15,000 hydraulic squeeze, but Red wouldn't spend $15,000 for a pickup, let alone a squeeze chute. Speaking of which, Black's work vehicle is a Yukon or Chevy Tahoe, while Red usually drives a Ford F150.
Black uses an ATV to check the cows but Red rides a Quarter Horse. Black owns a tractor that usually "runs like a Deere," whereas Red knows all that deer are good for is hunting. He swears there will never be a tractor on his place. Black prefers his saddle fully tooled, while Red rides a roughout.
Black supplements his cows with tubs, cubes or rations that were concocted by a consulting nutritionist. It usually involves distillers grains. Red feeds his cows rained-on hay and believes beer is for people, not beeves.
Black is a Cinch jean, boxer-wearing Catholic or Episcopalian who uses the latest iPhone. He or she bets on March Madness basketball and prefers filet mignon. Red wears briefs under his Wranglers, still uses a generic flip phone, is a big Dallas Cowboy fan and prefers a tasty ribeye.
When Mrs. Red dresses up, she wears Justin boots, while Mrs. Black wears shoes bought at Nordstrom’s.
Black is a staunch Republican conservative who still puts up a real Christmas tree, while Red hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan. At Christmas he puts up a fake tree because he's too cheap to buy a real one. Red is not a member of any organized church; she's a Methodist.
The Reds believe in "Red. Right. Now," whereas "Black Means Business!" Black breeders cheat by mixing in some Simmental blood when nobody's looking, while Reds cheat by blending in some Hereford blood. The only thing Blacks and Reds have in common is a hatred of white cattle.
(Author's note: The opinions expressed here do not intend to reflect the beliefs of the editor, publisher, owner or anyone else even remotely related to this publication – because some are Blacks and some are Reds.)
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers may log on to www.LeePittsbooks.com to order any of Lee Pitts’ books. Those with questions or comments for Lee may write to him in care of this publication.