Conner and I got off to an early start this morning, along with Noble Research Institute Livestock Consultant Bryan Nichols, Agricultural Economist Dan Childs and Research Associate Josh Gaskamp. When 5 a.m. rolled around, we loaded up in the car and made our way toward Combine, Texas. Combine is home to the Triple R Ranch, a stocker operation owned by a man named Chuck.
After surviving Dallas morning traffic and a quick breakfast at McDonald's, we arrived in Combine where Chuck greeted us in an old Ford pickup with jump seats in the bed. For anyone who doesn't know, jump seats are cushioned seats bolted to a metal frame that is attached to the walls of the bed of a pickup. Since there were six of us and only four seats in the cab, I quickly did the math and realized those jump seats had "scholar" written all over them. Conner and I hopped in the bed and held on for the ride as Chuck drove us around his place.
As we drove through the first gate, it became apparent that Chuck had a beautiful piece of land as well as some good-looking cattle. I also began to think the boys in the cab actually got the raw end of the deal as they were missing out on the awesome 360-degree view that Conner and I had from our perch. Triple R Ranch had recently received a lot of rain, so everything was green and wet, and seemed to sparkle in the morning sun. It was quite a different view than this West Texas girl is used to seeing.
We continued to drive down dirt roads and through pastures the rest of the morning. Conner and I watched cattle graze, attempted to identify plants and grasses, passed by tanks, and looked at soybeans, but mostly we spent our time dodging branches, digging bugs out of our ears and holding onto any handle we could find. You might say our little adventure was similar to riding a bull while being on a safari, and that sounds just like my kind of fun. I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend my day than out in the sunshine marveling at Mother Nature while learning from a producer about his operation.
Almost four hours later, Chuck drove us up to the same spot where we had met earlier that morning. Conner and I were finally able to listen as Dan, Bryan and Josh visited with Chuck about lease negotiations, financial decisions, feral hog traps and the future of Chuck's operation. Chuck then led us into town where we ate at a Mexican restaurant and visited some more. When it was all said and done, we thanked Chuck for having us and started the 2 ½-hour trip back to headquarters.
Conner and I had a blast today and would do it all again in a heartbeat. It is awesome to see how the consultants interact and build relationships with cooperators. It is even better to get home after a long day and love what you did so much that it didn't even feel like work.
Finally, I would encourage everyone to ride around in jump seats at least once. You can't beat the view.
Courtney Hemphill is a 2014 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture from Lohn, Texas, where her family farms wheat and cotton, and runs a small commercial cow-calf operation. She is a senior at Texas A&M University, majoring in animal science.