Part of that job made me the “crash dummy” at colt starting clinics and also for the array of horses and colts that came in for training. One of the most interesting things about this particular boss was his general outlook on stock. Every bull was named Richard (when they misbehaved they sometimes got nicknamed), and every cow was named Lucille. I remember feeling like a nervous border collie on steroids, while my boss would ride along and simply talk to “Lucille” without an anxiety in the world.

Whitehurst billy
PAS / Makale Livestock LLC

More than once I would ask if he needed me to sink spur and block potential detours; his only response was “only if you think you need to.” It seemed every time I asked him if a colt he just handed me would buck, the response was “only if you think he will.” Sure enough, if I thought he would buck, he would, every time.

I don’t recall John’s colts ever bucking, though, and somehow the cows all went where he wanted them to with no effort involved. Over the years, I have noticed that I worry less and have come to expect things to just work out. When I am expecting the worst and planning for things to go wrong, they inevitably do. I used to really sweat the little things and try to have the perfect setup to avoid any disaster.

Guess what? I quit worrying about trying to make things happen perfectly and began relaxing and letting things happen the way they unfold. I still take common sense precautions and use some forward planning and thinking, but lie awake at night wondering what I forgot. I’ve noticed I have fewer things go wrong with less effort and less stress than I ever have.

Wrecks still happen every now and then, but they don’t seem to be as detrimental as they used to be. Age and less hair (some getting gray too) seem to have a way of bringing the wisdom that comes from experience to the forefront in life. A lot of that experience was the result of bad judgement, lack of experience and too much youthful energy.


Our mindset affects more than we give it credit all too often, both with stock and with life. Now, when I’m out moving stock with my kids, I get asked the questions: “Dad, are they going to hit that open gate where we don’t want them to?” “Dad, is he gonna buck with me?” More and more, I find myself saying to them, “Only if you think it.”  end mark

Billy Whitehurst has spent several years as a working cowboy, rancher, land and livestock consultant, BQA trainer and university extension educator in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. He currently resides near Cardwell, Montana. Email Billy Whitehurst.