This week B.C. celebrates the first-ever Cowboy Heritage week proclaimed in acknowledgement of the historical contribution of cowboys, cattlemen/women, ranching/agriculture to our province.
A nice gesture, which was pretty much totally eclipsed in the news this week by the goings-on of government (Premier Christy Clark and crew) and election hoop-la.
So we quietly celebrated ourselves (as usual) taking pride in our rich heritage, even as we continue to ponder and worry over our futures.
The advent of spring brings calving time; a season of new birth and replenishment for livestock herds, as well as new growth for ranch-land which fosters a sense of renewal and quiet pride for cattlemen/women.
It also signals a lot more work and the need for more hands-on-the-job.
In the past, acquiring extra help wasn’t too difficult — there always seemed to be folks seeking employment who appreciated the lifestyle, didn’t mind the long and inconsistent hours (calves aren’t born only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or the physical labour in exchange for a reasonable wage (on the lower end of the pay scale) plus room and board (generally).
The employer could generally expect familiarity with the calving process, the ability to operate farm equipment and machinery and a more than a passing knowledge of cattle, horses and the ability to handle them.
Not any more.
The prospective employee pool has dried drastically — there are hardly any fish in the pond (many seeking them).
Those with any skills and knowledge, or with practical experience seem to be as scarce as hen’s teeth.
Rural youth (who grew up in the lifestyle) no longer see a future in agricultural positions.
Years of seeing their parents work hard and struggle to get by have them opting out of the lifestyle.
Technology (satellite television/Internet) has shown them that there are many other (better-paying) options.
A somewhat sad commentary during Cowboy Heritage Week.