Back when I was a younger, less experienced (dumb) landman I had an encounter with The Cow. A lot of you reading this instantly know what cow I’m referring to. It’s that motherfucking scrawny piece of shit cow that had the dumb luck (or common sense, since we’re talking about The Cow) to take its last breath within sight of a lease road. It was about 5:15 on a Friday evening, and I was finishing a beer about to head out to meet the boys for happy hour drinks. It had been a good week. Nobody had tried to murder me!
When I saw my phone start ringing, the name on the caller ID had the (Landowner) tag that let me know it was one of the landowners on a prospect I had just taken over managing from another landman. He was an obsessively organized individual and he turned over all of the files he had on this prospect which included a contact list of all the landowners. He was also kind enough to warn me about this specific landowner (and his brother). Their names were listed in red on the contact list, with a note “don’t give them anything, it’s never going to be enough and they are always going to demand more.”
I didn’t want to answer, but this was the first time I had any contact with Mr. Buddy, so I answered.
“Mr. Buddy, how’s it going this evening?”
“Well, it’s going alright. I understand you’re the new landman out here?”
“Yes Sir, that’s correct. I’ll be managing the leases out in your area.”
“Ok great, well I’m glad I got your information. I called the old landman and he said to direct all further communication through you.”
At this point I had grabbed my keys, locked the door, and was getting into my truck to go meet the boys.
Me: “Sure thing. What can I do for you this evening?”
Mr. Buddy: “Well, one of my cows died…”
I was starting my truck, and there would have been silence here even if I hadn’t been waiting for my Bluetooth audio to take over the call…
Me: “Ok, I’m sorry to hear that.”
Mr. Buddy: “Yeah. So anyways, I think it died from the heat…but I can’t be sure…”
A sad story, but not my problem.
Me: “It’s been very hot and dry.”
Mr. Buddy: “Sure has…really hot. Really dry…”
I’m headed to the bar, just wondering when this guy is going to get to the damn point already. We all know where the conversation is headed.
Me: “Not much I can do about that Sir.”
Mr. Buddy: “No, I expect not. Unless ya’ll wanted to put up tents for the cows to get some shade.”
Ok…if this is his ask, this guy is smoking something. Our lease road runs along the edge of his property, not even through the interior. There is a large pipeline easement between our lease road and the rest of his property, and that pipeline isn’t ours.
Me: “Um. Ok. I don’t think that’s something we normally do.”
Mr. Buddy: “Right. Just thought I’d ask…”
At this point I’m already in the parking lot of the bar, the awkward pauses and dramatic pace of this conversation are starting to get to me.
Me: “What else can I do for you Sir?”Mr. Buddy: “Well, I want you to do something…”
Me: “And what is that, exactly?”
Mr. Buddy: “Pay me for my cow.”
Me: “Sir, did we kill your cow?”
Mr. Buddy: “I don’t know. Like I said, maybe it died from the heat.”
Me: “So you don’t know that we had anything to do with it?”
Mr. Buddy: “Look, I’m an honest man. I’m just telling you my cow died, and maybe it was the heat, but maybe its hip was messed up. Or its leg…”
Me: “Was its leg messed up? From what?”
Mr. Buddy: “Yeah, it was messed up. So maybe a truck hit it.”
Me: “Did you see a truck hit the cow?”
Mr. Buddy: “Maybe. I don’t know. I’m telling you, I’m an honest man.”
At this point we have gotten past the awkward initial phase and now I’m just wondering why the fuck this guy hasn’t said “a truck hit my cow” so I can go ahead and fill out a check request.
Me: “Ok. But maybe…nobody hit your cow, and it died from the heat like you said, right?”
Mr. Buddy: “No. A vacuum truck hit my cow.”
BINGO! We’re finally there!
Me: “What do you think the cow is worth Sir?”
Mr. Buddy: “It was about 7 years old, so I don’t know, it wasn’t my best cow or anything. I’d take $3,000, I guess.”
I’m not a cattle rancher, but I have friends and family who are. So I happen to know that nobody is paying $3,000 for a regular cow.
Me: “Sir, I can’t get that much money for a cow.”
Mr. Buddy: “Ok, then what can you give me? I think $3000 is plenty reasonable.”
We’re negotiating now, so I’m trying to compromise around $1,000 which is about the cost we’d paid in the past around this area. Willing to get up to $1,500 if I have to. So I try to set the bar low, because his initial ask for $3,000 is obviously his high…just need to find his low.
Me: “I can get you a couple hundred bucks. Also, you aren’t sure that we had anything to do with the cow dying.”
Mr. Buddy: “I TOLD YOU THAT A VACUUM TRUCK MIGHT’VE HIT IT! ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING?!”
The reaction was immediate and violent. Now he was sounding more like what that old landman had warned me about. I heard that these two brothers lived together on the property, and that whenever they got low on money they’d get drunk and would try to pull some shit to shake us down. I wasn’t going to get into a shouting match with this old man while I was sitting there in my truck in the bar parking lot, so I stayed silent.
Mr. Buddy: “…Are you still there?”
Me: “Yes Sir.”
Mr. Buddy: “So you need to pay me $3,000. Just mail me a check, that’ll be fine.”
Me: “I’m not going to be able to pay that much. I’m sorry. You have to work with me some on that price Sir.”
Mr. Buddy: “Then…I’m just going to sue you.”
We’ve gotten to the next level here. Threatening litigation means I’m going to have to let Houston know, but the second they get involved things are going to get complicated…so I tried one last attempt to reason with Mr. Buddy. I don’t know why I even bothered. He clearly had the need for $3000 and wasn’t going to come off it.
Me: “Sir. That would cost you more money than you would stand to recoup. Just work with me on that price…”
Mr. Buddy: “WANNA BET?! FUCK YOU!”
Motherfucker hung up on me! I sat there for a minute, waiting to see if he was going to call right back. No call, so I went into the bar. As I was recapping the conversation with the boys, one of them said “yeah, you pissed him off with a couple hundred bucks…but what a dumbass to not just say ya’ll hit the damn cow!”
The next Monday I sent an email to Houston letting them know that Mr. Buddy had asked us to pay for a cow. The response was, “normally we’d say just pay the guy and be done with it, but those guys are assholes. Just wait and see what they come back with.”
So I waited…
Part 2 coming soon