It’s not very often a college kid lands a good job. It’s even more rare that they enjoy the job so much they just keep coming back, summer after summer; and then stay in touch with their bosses long after they have grown-up and moved away. My husband and I were lucky enough to find that job. And it turns out the second of our two bosses, Mr. Joel “Kerby,” is retiring in a few weeks. With a new baby, there is no logical way to make it to his retirement party, so he asked me to send any good stories we had so someone could share them for us. Since we had so much fun there, I figured I’d share the stories with the world wide web as well.
Real quick back ground here, we started our jobs at the Overton AgriLife Research center just a couple months apart. I was green! I wanted to learn, but there was so much I didn’t know about handling cattle, driving tractors, fencing, etc. Brandon had more experience, but some how seemed to always catch more trouble, because he didn’t do things Kerby’s way — and that is just no good.
Brandon’s worst day turned out to be one of our favorite stories. We were working cattle one hot summer day. We’d been at it all day and were pushing the stockers back to their pastures. We were all tired, and these tiger-stripes were thirsty and especially dumb. Brandon and I were out of our truck, because we had just closed the gate on our set of calves. Kerby was coming up to the pasture behind us, and as usual we walked that way to make sure none of his critters decided to pass the gate, rather than turn in. One calf acted squirrely and Brandon raised his arms, jumped a bit and “Hey”ed in his typical “listen up, cow” voice. Kerby immediately yelled from his truck “put your arms down A** Hole!” We were all shocked — even Nimr (our more crude, and direct boss). Did he really just say that? I was so mad I almost quit. At the end of that summer, Kerby treated Brandon to ribs at the Country Tavern. Brandon claims that was his, very tasty, apology… he also likes to rub it in that I never got any ribs.
Our project notoriously received the oldest vehicles; all on the verge of death… *sarcasm font* something about us driving crazy…weird. Because we got old trucks we had a few crap-out on us. One of those to die was the “project leader truck.” The transmission started to go, and apparently my sound effects, to describe it’s downward spiral, amused Kerby. He took me around to all kinds of people, the farm crew, random people down the hall, everyone who might care, to have me make the awful grinding whine of that poor dying truck. Then he sent me out with Amanda and told us “drive it til it dies.” I made it from the Center to the main gate of the south farm. Then I called Kerby and said “it died.” He and Brandon towed her back to the center and as far as I know she never moved again.
I mentioned I was green. I mean really green, but Kerby always believed in me. He sent me out to do things I had no experience with, and just trusted they’d get done. He taught me to drive a standard. Let me shred pastures for days with the little 5 foot shredder…because sending me out with the big shredder was a big, big mistake. (Hysterical phone call, and leaking eyes kind of mistake.) He tried in vain to teach me to back a trailer. And he taught me how to work cattle. Yes, Kerby was the perfect boss to force me out of my comfort zone.
Brandon came in with more experience, which apparently translated to “more bad habits to break.” Kerby was hard on him — really hard, some days. The fence tools had to be kept in just the right bucket. The lariet had to be wound back up just so. Fence repairs had to be virtually invisible (difficult at best when you are patching, patches.) And heaven forbid any of the gates be chained wrong at the end of the day! Kerby was the perfect boss for teaching perfectionism at the most extreme level (that stuck too, by the way.)
But I think what we both remember best is that Kerby is always good for a laugh, and he cared enough to push us to improve. Granted the pushing was probably largely selfish because, boy did we have room for improvement, but we appreciated his efforts in the end. I’m sure I owe the boss man a pie for telling on him…too bad he’s too far away to collect on that. Happy retirement, Kerby! And Gig ’em.
P.S. If anyone can weasel his home made vanilla ice cream recipe out of him for me, I’d be eternally grateful.