Learning how to succeed in life on a ranch in South Texas

I grew up in the 60s and early 70s in McAllen, Texas located on Texas Mexican border . It was routine for us as teenagers to get a job for spending money or to buy that first car. Sometimes that job could be on a ranch or farm. This is story of one outstanding businessman who influenced us  for the rest of lives through our “part-time” job.

The late Harold Judson Brady
Young men need role models in addition to our fathers. Mr. Harold Judson Brady, Navy veteran and former wildcat oilman who then became a successful businessman, was one of the most amazing people I have ever known. He was stern but forgiving, commanding but understanding, was probably the most confidant and self assured person I have ever met. He had a colorful vocabulary and was always clear in his messages. Although the work was hard and sometimes took up a lot of our free time it no doubt kept us out of trouble that teenagers can often find. We learned how to overcome obstacles and deal with new challenges literally everyday. Planning, analyzing, and not giving up if there is failure at first were instilled in us.
Beginning in 8th grade and continuing through high school one of the most character forming experiences of my life was doing ranch work at the Brady ranch on Montecristo road in north Hidalgo County, Texas. At the strong urging of my father who believed in hard work and his friend Mr. Brady, his son Bob, my brother, and myself embarked on a journey. The ranch raised Beefmaster cattle breeders.
 
Example of a dehorned Beefmaster bull. They were breed to be not aggressive but living on ranch with predator around this was not always the case
Prior to this we had no agricultural experience being suburban kids growing up in McAllen, Texas. Suddenly we were thrust into cutting and making hay bales, working with cattle in squeeze shoots, and raising feed crops. We learned to operate all sorts of heavy equipment like tractors and trucks, to brand cattle and fix fences.
 
South Texas brush country
Texas brush country is very dry with little rain so irrigation is absolutely necessary. We grew alfalfa in traditional furrows on uneven land. Irrigation releases to farmers and ranchers were strictly regulated and could come in the middle of the night. This meant on a Wednesday night at 2am we could be out doing an irrigation. Because the land was not well leveled we used devices the locals called lunas which was a board with a waterproof canvas attached to divert the flow of water. As the water flowed into the field we would be running around in the thick mud that quickly formed moving the lunas around to insure an even distribution of water. At the beginning we knew nothing of the lunas or how the field would flood. We had to learn by trial and error and gradually gained experience over many times to get good at it.
 
Furrowed plot of land
Mr. Brady passed in 2016. His obituary said “He possessed a strong work ethic and was a tireless worker always enjoying a good challenge. Jud loved the outdoors, hunting, flying his private planes and most of all, being with his numerous and faithful dogs.”
Years later I like to think that a lot of what I learned at the ranch helped me become a neurosurgeon. Mr. Brady taught us a Christian lesson that live does require hard work to be successful as reflected in Scripture below:
2 THESSALONIANS 3:10-12
“For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in Christ Jesus in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.”

Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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