There are many benefits to being a syndicated columnist. Although you work for a pittance, the gifts you get more than make up for the paltry salary. For example, I wrote that I had a barb wire collection and Dan from South Dakota, a longtime reader, sent me his entire barb wire collection. Years ago Jack, a longtime friend from Nebraska, sent me a really nice three foot windmill that he made from barb wire. Consequently when people enter my home they don’t know if they’ve entered a private residence or a barb wire museum.
Speaking of our home, due to all the nice gifts people have given me over the years our house currently runneth over. I hardly have room for all the books people have sent me because my bookcases are filled with my miniature anvil collection. Publishers have sent books hoping I’d give them a plug while many others have sent me books they wrote. I read most of them too and came to the conclusion that there are a lot of people out there who can write better books than what I find in Barnes and Noble. After Renaissance Magazine ran a couple of my columns they paid me off with a 1957 red Chevy Bel Air convertible. Too bad it’s only three inches long.
I collect practically everything and people have added to my knife, spur, bit, hat, bullet pencil, art and clock collections. Will and Deb donated to my branding iron collection by sending me one that folded up. Bob made me a miniature branding iron of my own iron and Range Magazine gave me a bigger golden version of my brand that I cherish even though it isn’t real gold. One of my most meaningful gifts was a cutting board Skinner made from wood from his own ranch and EC has given me 40 years worth of date books I’ve used to tell me where to be and when.
Butch sent me several blabs for my blab collection (they prevent a calf from sucking) and the Red Bluff Bull Sale Committee gave me a beautiful bridle, reins and Garcia bit. John sent me a favorite piece of art that is a pencil drawing of the stages a horse goes through to become a reined cow horse and Jerry, a great artist and cowboy columnist himself, sent me one of his original oils that will be worth a fortune someday when we’re both dead. As a Mad Jack cartoon fan I created a shrine of sorts with the eight he drew, colored, and signed for me. Jerry also sent me one of his original cartoons.
The Western States Beefmaster folks gave me a plaque with a clock on it, the Brangus Association gave me a Cross matching pen and pencil set, and Bubba from the Akaushi Association sent me a container filled with great tasting steaks. People must look at my skinny body and think I need fattening up because I’ve received everything from A to Z in foodstuffs: from almonds from Bill to zucchini from Glen. The bottles of wine people have given me would have filled a cellar.
Kind folks see how I’m dressed and try to dress me. Auction markets have given me a lifetime supply of caps and jackets, and Don sent me several Pendleton shirts (my favorite) and a beautiful Mark Dahl engraved belt buckle to remind me I’m really not a very good engraver. I wear a CAB jacket that Rick gave me and a Charolais shirt from Dennis and I have to be careful not to wear the Charolais shirt to an Angus sale, and vice versa.
Writers receive so much stuff I’m thinking of starting a registration service for writers like there is for newlyweds. That way you’d know we need a 72 inch TV and a satellite dish a whole lot more than we do a silver chafing dish. And it might put an end to the odd gifts I get like the box of flies I got one time. And no, they weren’t the kind for fishing. They weren’t from an irate reader either, but from a company that sells castrated male flies to decrease the fly population. (Imagine how small the Callicrate banders must be for them!) The gift was fleeting however because I turned them loose and never heard from them again.