It's Saturday morning at 4:45AM. While most people all over America are still deep in sleep's warm embrace, James "Jimmy" Johnson is shoveling down a hearty breakfast before he gets to shoveling other things around. He gets dressed in his usual jeans and flannel shirt to spend the day working under the hot sun. He's a rancher, and the term "weekend" doesn't mean much to him.
By 6:00AM, Jimmy's in his heavy-duty Ford pickup with his dad, "Papa" John Johnson, the owner of Johnson's Crossing Cattle Company. Papa negotiates the winding gravel roads and the narrow highway, taking the two of them from the family's ranch to the pastureland the family uses for the herd during the winter.
When they pull up to the pens, Jimmy and Big John (he's got a lot of nicknames) hop out and greet a bunch of other ranchers and cousins who'll be helping out today.
After feeding and a little inventory—paperwork is an important part of running a business—at 9:30AM the mission is simple: move the cattle from Solo field to Skywalker field (Big John is a big fan of Star Wars).
They rotate their cattle to different fields in order to fertilize the fields, and give the cattle fresh grass to munch on. Jimmy and two of his cousins get to herding while Papa John barks out orders. They're good at their jobs, but John's a perfectionist.
It's hard work, but this is the best part of his day. Jimmy's on a horse, and he loves riding horses.
There's always a few defectors that try to break out of line and start a rebellion, but Jimmy is quick to get them back on track. He spends most of the herding towards the back of the pack, letting his cousins do the heavy rustling. He learned this technique from his dad—why do all the work when someone else is getting paid to do it for you?
Soon they reach the gates to Skywalker field.
Jimmy's younger cousins are responsible for opening the gates and thinning out the line as the cattle are herded in. This generally creates a bit of a fuss, as cattle aren't interested in marching in an orderly two-by-two fashion, but the job goes pretty smoothly with only a little yelling from Big Papa.
The process takes several hours, but by 2:00PM the cattle are all happily within the gates to Skywalker field and starting on lunch. Jimmy decides to follow in suit.
It's beef meatball sub. Wouldn't you know it.
By 4:00PM, the herd is grazed and Jimmy's cousins are headed home with the horses. It may be twelve hours after they started, but it's still not quitting time. Jimmy and Big John Johnson still have a stop to make—time to head into town with today's local sales for the butchers they contract with. No better meat than straight-off-the-cow.
At 5:30PM, the Johnsons roll up to their house and park in the driveway. Jimmy hops in the shower while dinner is being made downstairs in the kitchen. Mama Johnson's had a busy day too—as the accountant and head money manager for the ranch, she spent the morning reconciling the books, haggling with vendors, and making the odd sale or two. She also makes a mean pot roast.
After dinner, Jimmy and the folks settle down to watch TV. If it were summer time he'd be out with friends, but after a day like this he just doesn't have the energy. By 8:00PM, Jimmy is snoring in bed, wiped out from the day but proud to be carrying on the ranching tradition that's been the life blood of the Johnson family for the better part of a century.