How the art of whip making can make you thankful to be in agriculture.
In my last column in Central Florida Ag News, I shared a few words belonging to my good friend KJ Smith, a cow whip maker and a true artisan. His thoughts on why he is still making cow whips after all these years made me think about how lucky we all are to be in the agriculture industry, even with all its ups and downs, and it seemed apt to share as we approach the holiday season. Read them below, and see if you agree.
Thankful to be a Whip Maker
KJ Smith has been cowboying all his life, and still does it here and there, even though he’s officially retired. “The last ranch, I was on for 21 years,” he shared. The cattle ranch way of life is in his blood. “My granddad made cow whips…my dad helped him make whips.” Cow whips were needed about the ranch, and so they made them, and KJ learned to be a whip maker at a young age. “I guess if my dad had been a dentist, maybe I’d have wanted to be a dentist,” he joked.
KJ could be kicking back and relaxing at his home in Georgia, catching fish in the lake on a lazy afternoon, and retire from being a whip maker. Yet he still does it. He still roams the forests around his home scouting good handle wood and spends his time out in the barn braiding nylon. “It’s not for the money, that’s for sure,” he quipped, and then added, “making whips is something I do to make me feel like I’m promoting the cattle industry and its traditions.”
He went on to explain that “I get to deal with the best people in the world. I do this because of the people.” It really got me to thinking how right he was. It echoed thoughts I’ve had about my own work and travels with AgAmerica; no matter where I was located at the moment—Florida, Texas, Nebraska, you name it—and no matter where the people I’ve met were from, those in ag were really good people.
There will always be hurricanes and hungry bugs and tough pathogens to deal with, but ag people are still the best kind of people in the world. I’m with KJ on that one, and I’m thankful to be in the industry.
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Growing up in the Florida cattle and citrus business, Don Harden manages his family ranch of several thousand head of cattle and horses. He has almost 40 years of experience in the real estate business; 15 years of which were spent with a large real estate auction company specializing in agricultural sales.