Thursday, August 18, 2011

How Longhorns Saved My Writing Career

Last time I pointed out some misconceptions regarding Texas Longhorn cattle. Let me tell you how I became enamored with this great bovine breed. And then I’ll address some misconceptions that still exist.

In the early 80s our country was suffering a recession - not as bad as right now, but bad enough. After a blow-up with my partner in the La Veta restaurant we moved to Colorado Springs and I went to work for a builder. This turned out to be another blunder as interest rates climbed to 18 1/2%. After two years I was once again looking for a job. A friend owned a mining company and hired me to run their off balance sheet financing. In order to do this I had to get a securities license which entailed taking a nine month course in order to pass the SEC exam.

Meanwhile wife Cy (actually Cyrenne but no one calls her that) went to work as the bookkeeper for the Texas Longhorn Journal, based in the Springs, which was one of two full color, high dollar magazines that acted as the breed publications for the industry. Her bookkeeping job morphed into an advertising sales job and she started attending sales and shows around the country.

I occasionally went with her and started learning about the traits that these critters could bring to the cattle business. But I was astounded at the prices paid for Longhorns. Many breeders were Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado oilmen and money wasn’t an object. But that changed when the oil business tanked. Suddenly Longhorn prices were plummeting  and advertising sales were too. When you could sell one calf to pay for a full page, full color ad there were plenty of advertisers. When it suddenly took the sale of five calves to accomplish the same result advertisers were scarce as hockey player teeth. Cy was struggling and I was going to school in Denver every day. Things were getting tight.

Then the SEC changed the rules for off balance sheet fund raising and my job was made moot. I dropped out of the school and was home licking my wounds one day when Cy came home for lunch. Now I’m pretty good at reading her moods. Hell, Helen Keller could read her moods from a mile away. You’ve heard of people who wear their emotions on their sleeves? Cy’s spill over on to everyone’s sleeves and other body parts. She definitely had a mad on.

She plunked down in a chair and stared at me. “That sonofabitch.” I was very relieved. She wasn’t mad at me. She went on to explain that she had what she thought was a brainstorm. Longhorn prices were down but people still needed to advertise and sell them. Why not start an alternative to the glossy magazine by starting a tabloid paper. She had run some preliminary figures and felt that it could be done and allow ads that would cost 25% of those in the Journal. She had taken this idea to her boss. He had laughed at her and told her it was the craziest thing he’d ever heard.

So she looked me in the eye and said “Why don’t you and I do it?” I had a degree in communications. I thought “Hell, why not.” As they say, the rest is history. We started Longhorn World. Soon we were traveling all over the country attending Longhorn shows and sales and visiting ranches. Then we'd rush home and put out a monthly publication. We struggled at first but we gained momentum. Two years down the road the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America who had wanted their own publication for several years offered to buy us out and move us to Fort Worth to run a magazine for them. We jumped at it and started the Texas Longhorn Trails. We ran that magazine for several years before we moved back to Colorado to take care of my mother in 1991.

During those Longhorn magazine days my appreciation for the Longhorn grew. I know raisers of Hereford and Angus cattle will cite many downsides to the Longhorn as a beef animal. They make some points that are worth looking into. I’ll address them next time as I finish my Longhorn trilogy.

In the mean time don’t forget that NO MORE BULL is now available as a soft bound book and I am offering it to readers of my blog at HALF PRICE for the rest of August. Just click on

We’ll talk down the trail.


1 comment:

Karen Emanuelson said...

Okay John, just checking to see if I will be allowed to leave a comment here.

Thanks for the interesting tidbit about the Longhorn breeders, their publications, shows, auctions, etc.

The whole world of "show steers" is kind of confounding to me (and the rest of my horse friends) but I'll tell you what--they are making way more money from those cattle than we make on horses!