I learned from the best (my father) how to trade horses, so when the opportunity to make a “horse trade” came along, I was ready.
It was time to select and buy my first 4-H calf, and my Dad wasn’t about to let me make a mistake. Being only about nine years old, that was a strong possibility. However, he always knew how to point me in the right direction.
He loaded me up in our old pick-up truck and hauled me over to our good neighbor (Lee Carter) to pick-out a calf. He was not only a reputable Angus cattle breeder but one of the finest people on the face of the earth. So, my Dad knew I was in good hands.
After picking out my favorite calf, I had to figure out a way to pay for it, not that my Dad was going to deduct it from my twenty-five cents a week allowance. But he was going to let me stew about how to pay for it.
Lee said he would only charge $100.00 for the calf, and he would even let me make payments. We didn’t need to find a scale or seek professional pricing advice, just a neighborly “handshake.”
As I pawned around about how I would pay for the calf, Mr. Carter suggested a horse-trade. “If you’re a chip off the old block, you’ll figure out something,” he said.
He and my Dad were really close, so getting the calf paid in full wasn’t really an issue. But they both wanted me to figure out something on my own, just as they both were instrumental in my formative years.
As I pondered the idea, I was listening to my Dad’s advice on the way home in that old truck. I suggested the possibility of the concept of trading my new colt, Trigger, for the calf. My Dad thought it was a great idea, as the calf was worth way more than the colt.
That being the case, I was pretty sure that my idea wasn’t going to fly, as Lee wasn’t into frivolous horses on his farm. Every horse on his farm was a workhorse, with a specific job to do. So, what use would he have of Trigger?
Trigger was the newborn foal of Sunshine (my own special pony), so it was more about the sentimental value than monetary value. This was the only colt my pony ever produced, which made it even more special. In my mind, this colt was going to be the “heir apparent” to my one and only pony.
To give up so much seemed like more than I was willing to part with. So, what was more important – my attachment to this colt or the responsible decision to buy the calf? Obviously, according to my Dad’s fatherly advice, I should propose the offer of a horse trade for the calf. He wasn’t sure Lee would even consider it, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.
When I called Mr. Carter and proposed the offer, his first reaction was, “YOU GOT A DEAL!” My Dad could hardly believe it, and I didn’t know what to think.
My first thoughts were sadness, which soon turned to excitement, as I knew my “baby colt” wouldn’t be far away. I knew that I might get a chance to break it to ride and maybe even figure out how to repurchase the pony.
This was wishful thinking, but just maybe… Just maybe, I could have my cake and eat it too – a phenomenon that has plagued me all my life – and explains how my tank went empty. There was also some prayer involved, so I was no longer afraid to make the deal.
Making deals became as much a part of my persona as that of the air I breathe. And for that, I’m thankful for who I’ve become.
“I am who I am” because of that horse trade. Had I not ended up with that particular calf, I may have never known the feeling of being a champion.
The calf went on to be Grand Champion at our county fair and started a string of many more champions to follow. Most of them were purchased from Lee Carter, but my Dad took me beyond the “Carter herd” to land steers good enough to compete at the state level on a couple of occasions.
The only downside to this horse trade was a failed attempt to break Trigger to ride. What was nearly a disaster, causing the pony’s leg to break, turned into a “God Send” that gave new meaning to “horse-trading.”