I haven’t really mastered my battle-picking technique, especially when it comes to living with teenagers. My wife is constantly getting after me for making unwise teenager battle-combat decisions, which always leads to an unwinnable skirmish with her. See, right there I’ve lost at least two battles that I never should have even been in.

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Freelance Writer
Paul Marchant is a rancher and freelance writer in southern Idaho. Follow Paul Marchant on X (@pm...

One of the things that made the Comanches such formidable foes for the U.S. Army and the Texas Rangers on the high plains of Texas and beyond was that they wouldn’t stick around if they thought they couldn’t win a fight.

Quannah Parker, the last great Comanche war chief, was a tactical genius when it came to horse warfare on the Great Plains. The Rangers and the Army could never quite catch him, and when he decided he couldn’t win any more, he simply turned himself in.

Once you can look past the tragedy of the wars and killing, his is a remarkable success story. He settled on the reservation in Oklahoma, built a huge house for his equally huge family, became a respected community leader and was one of the savviest ranchers and cow traders in the territory.

Quannah didn’t forsake his heritage, nor did he sell out to his enemies. But he did know how to pick his battles and optimize his resources. Because he knew how and when to fight, he rarely lost. He made things work as best he could in whatever situation he found himself.


A while back, I got in the pickup, and when I started it the wild sounds of AC/DC came blaring through the speakers. Obviously, one or the other of my sons had been the last to drive the truck.

A couple of my rules regarding the use of the pickup are that the radio is turned off before the key is turned off and that the radio had better be tuned to a country station. Both of those rules had been shattered.

To my everlasting credit, I kept two things: my cool and the station tuned to 99.9. I figured that there was little to be gained by blowing a gasket at my boys at that point, and it probably wouldn’t hurt for me to be immersed in top 100 hits of the ’80s, ’90s and 2K for half an hour.

After a while, I started to remember that I actually kind of liked some of the music. It reminded me of my younger days, which are further back than I’d realized. I’ve got to hand it to the boys.

They may actually be more sophisticated than I’d given them credit for. I found that it was pretty nice to find some common ground.

They’re equally adept at critiquing Eminem, Macklemore, Katy Perry and Maroon 5 or Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood (their big crush) and the King himself, George Strait. They’re as likely to be listening to Chris LeDoux as they are Three Doors Down.

While I won’t admit they’re as sophisticated in their musical tastes as their father is, I have to admire that they can be multi-faceted in their lives and personalities.

As a matter of fact, I’ve come to appreciate that I too am better off because of my understanding of things that are just a touch out of my normal realm. I actually have come to think of myself as somewhat of a renaissance man.

I love me a little REO Speedwagon or Journey and “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend” if I’m in a rowdy mood. It’s the kind of stuff they used to play over the loudspeakers as we warmed up before high school football games.

A little Air Supply was always good for a slow one at the dance after the game. How can you not like a little “Hanky Panky” from Tommy James and the Shondells. Charlie Daniels or Skynyrd and “Sweet Home Alabama” are always good for the soul.

I’m not particularly fond of their politics, but there weren’t too many Dixie Chicks songs I didn’t like. If I want to feel safe and mellow, I’ll always turn to Don Williams or Ian Tyson. And, in times of duress, nothing can take you home and give you comfort like some sacred hymns.

I’ve decided that it doesn’t always have to be one way or the other, even though sometimes it has to be. In the cattle business, we’ve certainly learned that different breeds can complement each other.

Just because you grew up on Herefords doesn’t mean you have to be an anti-Simmite, and there’s not much prettier than a pen of smoky calves on feed. Crossbreds and composites aren’t just buzzwords. They’re proven and successful principles.

As I’ve thought about such things, it’s made me realize that conversations and relationships should start with what we have in common, rather than our differences.

I’ll never be fond of Kanye West or download anything from Madonna, but they probably bought their guitar strings from the same place Porter and Dolly did.

The world’s problems surely and unfortunately can’t be over-simplified, but it certainly couldn’t hurt if people on opposite sides of an issue could start by looking for common ground to stand on before the words and arrows start flying.

Like Donny and Marie, you can be a little bit country and a little bit rock n’ roll. Quannah figured it out way ahead of his time.  end mark