I lost my draft horse mentor a few weeks ago when my friend Paul Loyer passed away. Paul and a small group of breeders like him, the Amish, and Anheuser-Busch, kept the draft horse industry alive during the lean years of the ‘50s and ‘60s, so people like me could later enjoy them.
Paul taught me a great deal about horses, the fairness of competition, and life in general. His favorite saying was: "It's later than you think." This simple phrase is one of the most important things I ever learned.
In my life, I have been blessed to have had many fine mentors. My dad, my brother, and my first boss, Dr. Ed Laman, were great veterinary mentors. And whenever I write a "magnanimous" word in a column, I think of my Uncle Hugh, who has journalism in his blood. Before all of them, though, there was another.
One night a few days after Paul died, I received a phone call from a man who inquired if I had any yearling ewes for sale. I met this man at the Ohio State Fair last year. He was a grandfather who raised Southdowns for his grandchildren to show. Southdowns, with their calm and gentle dispositions, are a good fit for grandparents and grandchildren alike.
I told the man that although I did have quite a few yearlings, they were all sired by my ram that had produced hairy lambs. Until we know more about the cause of this condition, I didn't think he would want to buy any. He thanked me for my honesty and agreed.
As I hung up the phone, my first thought was of Jack. What would he have done?
Jack was a friend of my dad and a retired veterinarian. He didn't practice veterinary medicine for long, though, as he was more involved in the dairy cattle business as a world renowned breeder and judge.
Jack took me to many cattle shows and sales, and since he was a bigwig at the state fair, I was able to spend much time there and never be counted on the daily census, if you know what I mean.
Jack was nice to me, treated me with respect even though I was a kid, and was generous with his time and knowledge. He taught me how to judge livestock, helped me train my first Border Collie, and even helped get me started in the dairy goat business.
Jack also had a favorite saying: "The strong take it from the weak, and the smart take it from the strong." Of course, he was smart. Even though I was 11, I knew this was probably not the Golden Rule one should live by.
Jack was rich, too - probably the richest man I have ever known. He told me of some of his business endeavors, like the cow he sold seven times. I never did understand exactly how this played out, but I'm pretty certain it worked in his favor, probably seven times.
I don't want to give the impression that Jack was a bad man, because he wasn't. He just wasn't all good. Like the rest of us, he wasn't perfect. Jack, too, taught me a lot about life, even if some of that was how not to be.
Thinking about Jack made me remember a line I wrote in a thrown-away column from a few years ago: "Everybody has a little bit of Mr. Hyde in them; some just have more than others."
We all have good and bad in us. However, it's best not to spend too much time either as Mr. Hyde or with someone else's Mr. Hyde. When choosing a mentor, it's far better to choose the most positive role model you can find. I realized this a little more than a decade later when I met Mr. Loyer. I highly recommend that everyone have a Paul Loyer in their life. I'm glad I did.
Always do the right thing. It's later than you think.
Dr. John H. Jones operates a mixed animal practice in Delphos with his wife, Dr. Bonnie Jones. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, raises Southdown sheep, and is a director of the American Southdown Breeders Association. Questions about animal care may be sent to: Dr. John H. Jones, Delphos Animal Hospital, 1825 E. Fifth St., Delphos, OH 45833.