My Papa, Henry Howard, was one of the finest human beings I ever met. He was wise, articulate, extraordinarily kind, and in his own words: “Invented before automobiles, telephones, cars, and computers.” Papa was 97 years-old when he passed in 2005 and I miss him terribly.
But I have my memories of Papa and they are fantastic. Among my favorite memories is my Papa’s love of modern technology. Many of his generation sincerely look, or looked as the case may be, on technology as the ruination of mankind. Papa always considered technology wonderful and understood technology often makes life better for everyone.
Papa certainly took issue with technology being used for harm, but many times he told me it was wondrous to see how quickly a new invention could help everyone live a little easier. Papa, after all, grew up in an era when most everything was done by the sweat of the brow and the sore of the back.
Papa was particularly infatuated with large machinery. Bulldozers and backhoes were his favorites of all modern inventions. He watched these pieces of equipment at work like most of us watch sitcoms. He found the VCR to be an almost magical invention. Not only can one watch a movie once–which in his day was a once or twice a year opportunity–one could watch one movie after another!
Still, Papa understood with advancing technology, much of the old-ways would be lost. He understood people would likely forget how to produce their own food, and worse in his opinion, how to preserve their own food.
He prophesied technology would be harmful on the family unit, and children especially might lose the opportunity to learn important life lessons from: “The round-table of a well prepared family dinner.”
He lamented people might well become addicted to modern ways and forget the importance of history–turns out he was right on that one.
Despite the possible problems, Papa was a true fan of modern technology–with one exception. Papa was a cattleman most of his life. To him, a man or woman on a horse working cattle, was something no technology could ever improve on, especially when it comes to branding calves.
“No technology can improve on working cattle from a horse,” he said. “It’s personal. Your cattle aren’t just your livelihood, they’re a part of who you are and what you are. If working cattle isn’t up close and personal, what’s the point. There is no old-fashioned way about branding cattle. The way it’s been done for generations is the only right way.”
Maybe because he was my beloved Papa–and I simply can’t find a single thing wrong with any of his thoughts on life–I must say I absolutely agree with him. There really is something personal, magical, and amazing, in carrying on the multi-generational tradition of branding, ‘the old-fashioned way’.
It requires skills no computer can match, It requires hard work no technology can relieve, And it leaves one with a deep and personal satisfaction that only comes with a lot of sweat, a lot of blisters–and a few saddle sores one will never find anywhere but from a hard saddle on a good horse.