Monday, April 12, 2010

Texas Ranch House

Over the weekend, I caught the last few episodes of Texas Ranch House. This is one of my rare forays into 'Reality Television'. From the start I could tell it differed quite a bit from the other 'Reality' shows that are designed to have constant contrived drama, to keep the viewers interested.

The setup in this educational reality TV series, is that a modern family and hired hands are placed on a West Texas ranch, to recreate the 1867 lifestyle.

The show highlighted for me the juxtaposition of modern day thinking and values, with those that were likely the norm in the late 19th century. It was an interesting program. I'll try not to cover too much ground, so that if you watch it in the future, this won't be too much of a spoiler for you.

So here are my impressions and observations...

Mr. Cooke, the 'landowner' in this show, is in daily life, a hospital administrator. He and his wife and two daughters play the family that owns the ranch. An experienced foreman and some of his crew are brought on to work the ranch for the season documented in the show. Additional ranch hands come from modern life, with no working experience on a ranch.

What struck me is that from the beginning, Mr. Cooke was running the ranch like a middle manager. His primary concern were profits for that season of work only. Like a typical middle manager, he often consulted with his foreman, then told his foreman what he wanted done, with little regard for the foreman's experience. Then he'd meet with his wife, who would give him new orders, and he'd go pass those orders down to his foreman. His foreman was visibly bothered by getting a conflicting series of orders, and having to go to the ranch hands and tell them of the changes. This bred a lot of uncertainty as to what they really should be doing, and a lot of talk about how Mr Cooke wasn't really wearing the pants. Further, there was much talk about how he was dishonest and kept breaking promises.

In an early episode (that I missed), it seems he had fired the first foreman because he wasn't 'loyal' enough and his crew were only loyal to him, and not Mr. Cooke. This loyalty theme, where the Rancher and his family complained that their hired hands were loyal to them, was in constant play. It never seemed to occur to them that this loyalty might be a two way street. They seemed to view themselves as plantation owners, lording over slaves.

The women in the show, didn't want to be typecast as women of 1867, and were constantly complaining that the men didn't respect them. It seemed to a small degree this was true. In a flashback scene, they showed the hands giving the two daughters a tough time, by joking about not helping them, as they tried to milk a cow. The two daughters didn't seem to know that they should tie the cow to a post before trying to milk it. It kept walking away from them.

Mrs' Cooke went so far as to hire a woman as a domestic helper, befriended her and then needled her husband into taking her on as a ranch hand, behind the foreman's back. That breach of trust didn't work out well and the cowgirl ended up bailing on the ranch hands during round ups, after she found out that it wasn't all fun and games.

Mr. Cooke showed his true colors later when Comanches kidnapped one of his hands and wanted cattle in trade for him. Cooke remarked that he didn't trade with terrorists. He'd trade for horses, but not a human being. When the Indians outsmarted him, by selling him back a horse that was the property of the ranch hand, he blamed the cowboy and proclaimed that he was keeping the horse.

I'll leave it to me readers to see what the women were doing to the ranch house, garden, etc... while the ranch hands were out 'having fun', driving cattle in the West Texas heat.

In the end, all of his ranch hands quit on him, angry about the constant betrayals. The Cooke family griped about the ranch hands lack of loyalty. The ranch hands seemed to have come out the experience a little wiser. The Cooke family learned nothing. They got a bad review all the way around by a three experts in ranch style living and 19th century living, and felt that they were treated unfairly in the assessment. The 'experts' didn't think that the Cooke family could make the ranch work for an entire year, because they were going to have a lot of trouble getting good help to replace the cowboys that they drove off the ranch.

I happen to agree with their assessment. I think that in 1867, those cowpokes would've taken their wages to the nearest town and regaled the townsfolk with tales of the wussy, running the Cooke Ranch. 'Wussy' is the descriptive term for Mr. Cooke used by the Tribal Leader of the Comanche Nation, that appeared in the show. In 1867, a man like Mr. Cooke would likely find his reputation preceding him as he went town to town, looking for new help.

Still Mr. Cooke was proud that he made a profit in that one season and failed to understand why that was no guarantee of long term performance. He saw his hired hands as replaceable slaves. A common way of thinking in the modern corporate world. He never understood that his own actions had repercussions. He found himself blameless, as did his family.

This show highlighted in my view why we Americans (Well in the USA and Canada), are going to have a tough time adapting to the energy downturn. So many of us have in the circle jerk so long, congratulating each other on how great and noble we are, simply because we were born on this continent, on the 'good' side of the Mexican border, that we completely lack the humility necessary to act as a community. In the Ranch House, the lack of sense of community and the understanding that the ranch hands were deserving of respect, would eventually lead to the Ranch's failure. This is a problem for the USA and Canada as respect for our fellow man, is in short supply. We will not be able to come together as communities for the most part, and solve our problems together.

Eventually, communities will emerge that pull together and work together. But for some time, they will be the exception.

For today and the foreseeable future, we are dividing by our owners, into groups that are set as enemies. We choose our tribes, and then our tribal leaders in the MSM, tell us what to think, how to think, who to hate and who to blame. And of course, they set us upon each other.

Just look at the talk on the financial forums about how the taxpayers are going to have to pick up the tab for the retired workers. Aren't the taxpayers and the workers the same people? How did we come to identify with the uber-wealthy, to wage an idealogical and economic war against ourselves?

Too many of us are the Cooke family, write large across America. At times I saw a bit of Mr. Cooke in myself. and I didn't necessarily like what I saw.


Update: I found this viewer exchange in which Lisa Cook defends her role on the show. It's worth a read.


At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

when clownbux are publicly laughed at that's when the real education begins. very few clownbux lovers will see that one coming. i am fortunate in that i don't have to work for anyone i don't like.

At 6:57 AM, Blogger Bukko Canukko said...

In the old days, maybe the ranch hands would have sold Mr. Cooke to the Commanches. Don't you wish that was an option now? Maybe that's what to do with bankster maggots. International kidnapping gangs! Nicer than burning them alive in their McMansions...

At 7:18 AM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7:19 AM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

Bukko, you're probably right about that.

The man playing the Comanche Chief had this to say during the negotiations...

"If this were 1865. I wouldn't be here with just two braves on the hill. I'd have ten braves up there. And ten to the East and ten to the West that you wouldn't see. If this trade didn't go through, I'd get five women out of this."

At 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just give the chief some clownbux, matbe he would let you keep yer wimin ;)

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Bukko Canukko said...

I was watching "The Outlaw Josey Wales" on VCR a few weeks ago. One of my favourite movies. We need a Chief 10 Bears to grab a few bankers and bury them up to their necks in sand. Remember that part?

At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're desciption of Mr. Cook as middle manager is spot on. He allowed himself to be manipulated by a very manipulative wife and lost total control of the ranch. His treatment of Jared at the end was full of disdain and really shoed his true colors. Why couldn't he just be fair with his workers and sell the horses at a fair price.....they might have comeback for another year. But, his downfall was giving in to his wife and the domino affect of that decision was evident.


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