By Chris McClure, Contributing Editor

There are times that challenge even the most optimistic individual in a way that makes it difficult to hang on to their optimism. The glass may be half full, but the sandstorm that just swept across the Plains left it muddy with pieces of debris floating on top. It’s enough to make you consider another way of life.

A number of things come to mind as I view those muddied waters in quest of answers to the questions in my mind – things like, “How can I figure a breakeven with these feed prices?” Or “Where do we move the cows as this drought continues its inevitable course eastward?”

What is it that comes to mind? Well, I think about alternative feed sources, different ways to market cattle, finding lease places, investing in a trucking company … ways to overcome the odds that seem to be building more barriers than I can reasonably expect to overcome.

So, what is my point? I guess it’s the same one a college professor once made to me, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” I’m sure that offended a few cat lovers out there, so maybe I should re-phrase that to, “There’s more than one way to skin a beef calf!” Now, that puts an entirely new spin on things; perhaps our traditional channels to the consumer need a little shaking up.

There are lots of folks exploring new ways to bring beef to the consumer. The proliferation of “buy local” and “farm to plate” initiatives are astounding. It is a sign that our modern educational (read that indoctrination) system hasn’t been as effective in rural America as it has been in the urban areas.

What do I mean by that? We are taught to conform rather than to innovate. There are still innovators in the cattle industry. Historically – and here I’m looking way back into time – there have been a handful of powerful elites who controlled the wealth on this planet. The bulk of humanity was coerced into serving them and lived off the crumbs that fell from the table. Then, about 245 years ago came the Great American Experiment in which the little guys rose up and said, “We are tired of living off of the crumbs and want to build a system of government that is ‘of the people, by the people and for the people.’”

The result was a slowly growing powerhouse of economic growth. Now, after all these years, that growth is “bad” because the self-proclaimed ruling elite no longer control it. However, they are working hard to change that through an overhaul of our political system.

Yeah, I know, I’ve gotten into trouble here with some readers for occasionally straying into the political arena, but the reality is that what happens in government profoundly affects our ability to conduct business. Nothing good ever came of more government intervention or control. In fact, the entire strength of the economic juggernaut that is the United States of America is due to putting power into the hands of the people – not the government.

I suppose this entire commentary seems a bit negative, but it isn’t really. Yes, I’m venting a bit, but in my mind, I see mice. Yep, I said mice. Mice live off the crumbs that fall from the table. They are truly opportunistic in their behavior. They live under the very feet of the “rulers” of their domain and thrive on the waste that is inherent to the system built by the “dominant” species in their environment.

Maybe my intent is to say that opportunity is out there. We can get hung up on all the negatives and allow them to weigh us down into submission like some beast of burden who was goaded into carrying the excess baggage of the ancient traveler, or we can look for ways to capture the pieces that fall from the table of the bloated behemoths that surround us.

Most of y’all won’t like being compared to mice, but we truly are. Mice come in all shapes and sizes. Different species of mice exploit different niches in the environment. In spite of the fact that we “feed the world” with our agricultural expertise, we really are just mice in the larger scheme of the global economy. We live off the crumbs that trickle through the floorboards. What we need to do is find ways to cause more crumbs to fall and perhaps gnaw a hole or two to make sure those crumbs fall into our hands.

I’m always about opportunity. I’ve always been one of the “little guys.” I’m not afraid to be a “mouse” in a world of global corporate cats. They have their role and I have mine. As long as I remain vigilant for opportunity and danger, I will get my share.