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Bad Bull

Back in the day we pumped gasoline for customers, washed their windshields and offered to check under the hood for them. We had a mechanic who actually repaired cars, air was free and we were called a service station.

Fire houses were community hubs, meeting places and service stations too.

I think times were better then and can be again if we get back to meeting and coming to know our customers, internal and external. Successful businesses and fire departments know their customers. Many of our customers were local farmers and if you paid attention you could learn a lot from them. Sometimes while teaching us they also made us laugh. Farmers and Firemen know how to enjoy fixing things.

One vegetable farmer was always kind and nice until July. His temperament would then change and his bent over and tired gate was a sure sign it was July. We called his condition the July strut. His sore back always recovered and we knew he didn’t enjoy being grumpy; he was in pain, worn down and tired of being tired. We didn’t like it when he was down, but we always enjoyed his comebacks.

The Mother of another local farmer told us that her son would rise in the very early hours of the morning and stare out of the window and complain that it was taking too long for daylight to arrive so that he could go to work. One day his pickup truck broke down on the highway near the service station and he was seen walking at a fast pace back to his farm. A fellow stopped and asked him if he needed a ride. The farmer quickly waved off the offer of assistance and replied “No thanks, I’m in a hurry.”

One of our most interesting farmers was a fellow named Joe. Joe used a Volkswagen as his farm car. He built a general purpose wooden box and mounted it on top of the car. Sometimes he carried tools, or bales of hay or bags of feed for his cows in the box and sometimes it was just a place for his English Setter to ride.

During the hunting season, a game warden came upon Joe’s VW parked on a logging road and soon found Joe perched in a tree stand nearby. Joe was questioned and then accused of hunting over bait. He had left both doors of the VW open and there were several salt blocks on the back seat. Joe explained his situation to the game warden with his usual flare. He told the game warden that he climbed the tree and kept an eye on the car. When a deer crawled into the back seat to lick the salt blocks, Joe would climb down the tree and sneak to the car and slam both doors before the deer could escape. He received a hard look from the game warden and a warning but no citation.

One day at the service station, I heard a horn blowing and the driver was blinking his headlights and waving me out to meet his truck at the pumps. It was Joe. I could see the problem immediately and I stretched the gas hose as far as possible and pumped as much gas as I could into Joe’s tank as he drove by. He never stopped the truck and he told me he would be back later to pay for the gas.

Joe was moving a bad bull that he had purchased at the stock yard in Richmond. The bull didn’t like riding in the truck and by the continued motion of the truck Joe managed to keep the bull off balance enough to prevent him from breaking the sides off of the truck and escaping. Joe did return to pay for the gas and he said that the bull was very well behaved once he was pastured with the cows.

Sometimes in the Fire Service we tend to treat people like they are bad bulls. When people can’t envision their destination, they will not automatically follow and they will automatically resist. They will focus on the discomfort of the journey instead of the journey itself. They will snort, bellow, and make a mess and attempt to escape from their captivity in uncertainty. They are confused by confusion and they may not be bad bulls at all.

When a leader sets out on a trip of uncertainty they shouldn’t be surprised when they travel alone, people resist and don’t follow. Good leaders lead with an appreciation of the need for communications, understanding, freedom, compassion and walking in the boots of others. They create the path in the pasture that all the others seem content to walk.

Bulls require quality hay, good grains, dry shelter, a little company and strong fences. People need quality care also. With information and sincerity and a lot less bovine scatology, they will be more receptive to change and content to stay on the path, in the pasture and off of the fences. Even perceived bad bulls, with a July strut, may come around and tire of being tired and grumpy when everyone around them is enjoying themselves, their care and their station.

Leaders make sure they are prepared and fueled up before branding a bad bull as bad.

When you are broken down, don’t walk past those willing to help mend broken fences.

Keeping people off balance is unbalanced leadership.

Who is in control, you or the bull?

Taking care is more than just leaving the doors open.

Good bulls don’t make a mess of the truck or the barn. They are focused and content with their mission.

No one enjoys being tired of being tired.

Heed warnings, sooner or later you will have to stop somewhere.

Good bulls treated badly always look for opportunities to comeback.

Are you feeding or baiting? There is a difference.

Leaders provide special care for the internal customers who take care of the external customers.

Remember who has to repair the damaged fences.


Thanks for reading and sharing.

You have a great day – it’s a GREAT day for it and that’s no bull.

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