Overlooking 1 key detail makes a simple task difficult


Neither had taken the time to observe that they were working on the side of the gate with the hinges.

Dr. Ronald Box is a brilliant veterinarian from Pecos, Texas. Ranchers and other veterinarians consider him the "go-to" doctor for difficult cases in West Texas and New Mexico.

Dr. Box also is a great storyteller, and recently told me of an incident that I thought typifies certain days in the life of a rural veterinarian.

He had pulled up to the locked gate leading into a large West Texas ranch. The owner was to meet him there, and they would go down to the pens together to palpate the cows and work the calves.

The owner, a highly successful rancher who had accumulated a fortune and had a passion for cattle ranching, called on Dr. Box to keep the animals healthy at all of his properties.

The owner soon arrived and, after exchanging a few greetings through the rolled-down window of his pickup truck, told Dr. Box to go ahead and open the gate so they could move down to the pens.

Dr. Box, who had not visited this newly purchased ranch before, noticed earlier that someone had shot a hole through the middle of the lock, but it was still holding. He asked for a key, but the owner shouted back that he didn't even know the gate had a lock.

After the doctor spent several minutes trying to jimmy the lock open, the ranch owner grew tired of waiting and stepped out to help. They each pulled a few tools from their trucks and managed to work the lock mechanism to the point that it finally slid open.

But it wouldn't swing open quite far enough for them to get the end of the chain loose. That prompted another trip to the toolboxes.

Here stood a man with an excellent college education and another who earned millions in business, but the two of them had now spent more than 30 minutes simply trying to get into the ranch so they could start working. Every attempt was fruitless.

It was beginning to look as though they would have to chop down the gatepost.

They were so absorbed in the task they hadn't noticed a cowboy ride up on his horse. He had come from the working pens inside to find out why the two were taking so long at the gate. They finally took notice of the cowboy when he spoke:

"The gate opens on the other side," he said, then quietly turned around and rode back to the pens.

Neither Dr. Box nor the rancher had taken the time to observe that they were working on the side of the gate with the hinges. They just saw the chain with the lock on it and busied themselves trying to open it.

"A bit humbling" was how Dr. Box described the experience to me.

It's no wonder that cowboys and ranch hands think that veterinarians and rich land owners can be a bit goofy at times.

Bo Brock

Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.

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