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It’s The Pitts: Off on the Wrong Foot

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

When I was hired as a field editor for a prominent livestock weekly, I was 21 and greener than a gourd. 

I’d only been inside an auction market once, had no idea how to load film in a camera, never took a journalism class in my life, hated selling ads, didn’t know how to type and didn’t know a pronoun from a Pinzgauer. Other than this, I was totally qualified for the job. 

Why would anyone in their right mind hire me I wondered?

It didn’t take long to find out. I was hired as an independent contractor who paid all of my travel expenses and got to keep one-third of every ad I sold to purebred cattle and horse breeders, of which there were very few in my territory. 

I had exactly two good accounts, but another field editor had already glommed on to one of them and was trying to get my boss to give him the other one too. 

I was what old-time cowboys called a button, an Arbuckle, a shorthorn or a chuck eater. I was a pilgrim put ashore in Indian country, and all of the other field editors and magazine reps at the time were at least 20 years older than me.

I admit I made a couple tiny blunders in the beginning. I puffed up like a toad when I got my very first photo credit on the front page, which clearly showed one of the biggest advertisers at a sale with his arm around who I presumed was his wife. 

Imagine my surprise when I got a memo from the publisher informing me the guy’s wife was now suing him for divorce. But what did I care, the big advertiser wasn’t my account – he belonged to the guy who was trying to steal any decent account I had.

Then John Wayne’s cattle manager wrote a letter to the owner of the paper demanding I be fired because I’d hinted some of the extremely high prices for bulls at “The Duke’s” bull sale seemed to somehow be linked to feeding cattle at Wayne’s Red River Feedlot. 

Instead of getting a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism, I got a scathing memo from the publisher.

I finally got smart and quit after I subtracted all of my expenses from my total sales and discovered I was making about 13 cents per hour. When the publisher told me my writing wasn’t up to the high standards of the paper, I told him one day I’d show him by starting my own paper – and this is exactly what I did.

This meant I had to get out of my comfort zone and travel the entire country working ring at bull sales in return for big advertising budgets. I felt I needed to make an immediate impact, so the first time I went to Idaho, I had a bull order for what would have been the high-selling bull, if only I hadn’t insisted on looking at him ahead of the sale – he was a dink.

It had been a real wet winter, and the bulls were in a feedlot. I wondered why none of the buyers were out looking at the bulls. I charged in and immediately discovered why. Much to everyone’s delight, I immediately sunk up to my knees in the muck and the mire. 

When I lifted my right foot, I left my boot buried beneath two feet of brown quicksand. I had no choice but to insert the left foot so I could get my right boot back. Then I heard a giant sucking sound, and my left boot joined its partner.

This was not the impression I’d hoped to leave. I eventually unstuck my boots and carried them ashore with me right before the sale started so I had little time to get hosed off. 

For the entire sale, every time I took a step, the gooey stuff would ooze out of the top of my boot like a pumping action – squish, pause, squish, pause, squish, etc. 

The folks at the sale seemed quite amused, but not so the passengers on my Delta flight home who scattered like quail once they caught a whiff, leaving me an entire row so I could stretch out and catch some much needed shuteye.

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