BY LEE PITTS

Do you suffer from iron-poor blood? Do you start your whiskey-drinking with your morning coffee? Are you spurring your horse more and using a hotshot on your cattle instead of a paddle?

In other words, are you taking out your depression on your livestock? Does nothing excite you anymore, like a romantic evening with your wife or a fishing or hunting trip to the High Sierras? Do you often consider moving into town where you could pamper your better-half with an automatic dishwasher, indoor plumbing and a stove you don’t have to light with a match every time you want to use it? If so, then you could be suffering from “ranch burn out.”

If you think you’re suffering burnout symptoms, take my simple Burn Out Test and if you find yourself answering “yes” more than “no,” you probably have this much-dreaded and incurable malady.

1 — When you’re sitting on the can and catching up on your reading, do you reach for the AARP Magazine more often than your favorite livestock weekly or monthly cow magazine?

2 — Instead of jumping out of bed at 2 in the morning to check the heifers and to look at any new calves that are the result of your all-new powerful bull battery, do you tell your wife it’s her turn and roll over because you need your beauty sleep? Or even worse, do you just say to heck with it and let Mother Nature cull any hard calvers.

3 — Instead of weaning your calves 60 days before selling them as everyone in the industry says you should, do you load them up right off the cow and send them to the auction market and let them put up with all the balling and any sickness?

4 — Do you and your wife brand your calves on a table so you don’t have to feed half the county a free meal and then spend two weeks fixing all the damage your friends, neighbors and an assortment of hangers-on created?

5 — Instead of cementing in some new railroad ties and building a new loading chute and lead-up alley, do you just brace up the old posts because you calculate that you’ll be called to “the great roundup in the sky” before the termites completely destroy your working facilities?

6 — When you go to a bull sale, do you buy the first two “cheap” bulls so you can leave and get home by nightfall, even though one bull had a 106-pound birthweight and the other has already put two people in the hospital?

7 — Instead of growing your hay, did you sell your tractors, baler and shop full of tools and buy your hay instead? Have you stopped supplemental feeding entirely and let “survival of the fittest” cull your herd, or do you just cut your fences and let your neighbor feed your cows for you?

8 — Instead of getting all excited about your annual trip to Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo, do you give your tickets away to your veterinarian because “all the money you lose in Vegas stays in Vegas?” Did you use the money you saved by not going to Las Vegas on that $3,500 snappy massaging recliner at Costco?

9 — Have you sacked your saddle, turned your good rope horse out to pasture and bought a four-wheeler because besides using it to check your cattle, you can use it to haul your golf clubs around if you ever have time to take up the sport?

10 — Have you seen what ranch real estate is going for these days and pondered the possibility of selling out for $10 million to a plastic surgeon from Southern California who wants to turn your place, which has been in the family for five generations, into a preserve for wild horses, burly buffalo or rabid prairie dogs?

Would you actually consider doing this to your wonderful neighbors? They have involuntarily fed your cows, fixed your fences, helped put out your grass fires, returned your wayward bulls, branded your calves and worked your cows, knowing in your cold-blooded heart of hearts that they have never done anything to deserve such a fate?

Getting through this together, Atascadero