No distractions, no cellphones |

No distractions, no cellphones

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

It’s spring, and as they say, we’re busier than a 10-peckered billy goat, the meaning of which you’ll have to decipher for yourself. But seriously, if you’re a rancher and/or farmer, spring is the time of year when it seems like there won’t be enough time to get ready for summer. Outside distractions are not particularly welcome, which include cellphone calls. When mine rings, it’s usually at the worst possible time.

There were about 200 calves in the corral, two fires heating branding irons and a ground crew that any rancher would be proud of. My big, blue roan Drifter and I were helping with the roping, dragging those smooth calves to the fire by their hind legs for their formal initiation into the herd. My right hand was full of bridle reins and a coiled lariat — my left held a loop built for snagging a calf (I’m a lefty), and with some amount of deep concentration, I was ready to pitch that hoolihan when my cellphone rang. Dammit to hell, who could that be? For your information, those calls rarely get answered and the messages seldom returned, unless they involve emergencies. Calves hardly ever get roped under those circumstances, either.

My friend Tim Hogen, who advises nonprofits on how to conduct capital campaigns (and a fellow garbage man from the day), occasionally tells the story of how, conducting business, he called me on my cellphone only to hear the bellowing of a corral full of cattle in the background. “Your credentials are legitimate,” he offered.

If you want to get in touch with me, use email. I can read that at my leisure and answer it the same way. And if I don’t want to read it, I don’t have to. Email goes directly to my office computer (not my cellphone), so I don’t get interrupted during the course of a day.

If you’re in business, I get the constant-contact thing, but even then, I think we overdo it. Back in my business days, late 1970s through the ’90s, I was married to the telephone. Before cellphones, I had a phone installed in my truck, which was dialed into towers on Aspen Mountain and Sunlight, just so I could get urgent calls whenever I wasn’t in the office or call others while driving down the road. With the invention of the cellphone, it became an invaluable connection to potential and existing customers. When I got home at night, I would slog through another 15 or 20 calls on the landline answering machine just to keep up. Brutal.

I’ve been going through an interesting transmogrification lately — a change that I find most pleasing to my general well-being. No, I didn’t quit drinking or drugging or give up bar-top dancers. Nope, I’ve been weaning myself off my telephone. My cellphone doesn’t work in Woody Creek unless I do a weird dance over by the hay barn to sometimes make a connection. So, I seldom get calls on my cellphone, and by the time I get to an area where I can check my messages, they might be a week old. That sort of takes the meaning out of “real time.” It’s taken about a year, but I’ve gotten to the place where I might let my cellphone lie with a dead battery for days at a time.

I keep a cellphone for emergencies, mostly mine. If you’ve checked around, you know that AT&T doesn’t work worth a damn down here in the valley, but it works great up in the mountains. I spend a lot of time alone in the mountains, riding, roping and moving cattle or skiing, so if I need some emergency help, I’d rather have AT&T as my carrier, knowing I could likely make the call. Whether anyone answers might be another matter — caller ID and all that.

Besides, not having a cellphone is akin to being a traitor to the cause, a malfeasance that gets the ugliest of stares, and people generally don’t want to do business with you without your cellphone number. I call it cellphone mania, but it includes landlines, as well. I can’t tell you how many people have told me my answering machine must be broken. “What answering machine?”

My cellphone is important in the winter, though, when I’m going skiing. My buddy Bob calls me most days to see if I’ve left for the mountain yet, and my daughter and I keep in touch, just ’cause, and my partner Margaret and I call to see where and if we’re going to meet for lunch, but those are personal calls necessary to our daily survival. Beyond that, I’m at a loss.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at