Sunday, January 17, 2016

Code of the West - Part 4

     By now, you're probably wondering how long we’re going to ride this “Code of the West” horse. The good news is that the end is in sight. We sorta figured that there couldn't be more principles than we could count on the fingers of one hand. You ropers out there will have to count the stubs,too. We’ll be putting out a special sixth edition for those of you from Star Valley…
So we have: 

To which we’ll add…

Principle #4 – We all screw up sometimes.

    Old Gerdes used to say that the only people who never make mistakes are people who never do anything. His point was that it was ok to mess up once in a while, as long as you owned up to it and tried to make it right. He was pretty forgiving of a dumb mistake, so long as you didn't try to cover it up and you didn't make it a habit. As a teenage hod-carrier on a crew of bricklayers, I appreciated that because I made some bonehead mistakes. But I learned to own my mistakes, and that taught me to be a little more forgiving of other people when they screwed up.
     I needed that lesson a few years later on my first real job in conservation. I worked on a wildlife habitat management area in central Wyoming. Ace was the boss. He was a tough old galoot with the work ethic of a beaver on meth. He learned leadership skills working oil rigs, and his tolerance for sloth or stupidity was zero. We had just finished putting in the first of three center-pivot irrigation systems, and he left me in charge on site while he went into town to pay the tab for it – the $50,000 tab for it. We worked until about mid-morning, then I drove over to check the pivot. I found it tangled up around a cottonwood tree, twisted and crippled on its very first trip around the field. I considered suicide, and I considered headlong flight, but settled on just telling Ace I screwed up. When he got back, he just looked at it and said, “It's ok, kid. S[tuff] happens.” We fixed the pivot, removed the tree, and he never said another word about it. Because Ace lived by the Code of the West, and I loved him for it. Still do.