The Eyes of the Master Fit the Stock – Lessons I Learned from My Father

When I was a kid, my father often quoted, “The Eyes of the Master Fit the Stock”. (A little background: my father was a veterinarian. We grew up working at both his clinic and on a broodmare farm.)

The proverb refers to the master, the person responsible for the care, as responsible for the well-being of the animal (livestock).  That care is not a single event, but fitting stock means preparing the stock for some future event, which means knowing what the future may be and knowing where the livestock is along that path.  For example, preparing animals for winter requires managing pasture in the summer, while a racehorse has to be trained before it can race. Steers must be fattened before they are butchered. 

The term does not identify any outcome, but rather where the responsibility lies.  As animals can not read spreadsheets or attend training videos, they depend upon the master, either acting directly or through some other agent As kids, we did not understand anything about raising horses (except which end bites and which end kicks!)  As we got older, we learned how to care for horses and other animals, and while my father did not feed the horses every day, these animals remained his responsibility.  But every day, we were on the farm.  For most days, this involved chores around school, sports, or other activities, but the animals required water, feed, and shelter. Regardless of how one felt, the weather, etc., every day we were doing something on the farm. 

And today, I have a hobby farm.  I don’t have any horses, but I have a few donkeys, geese, turkeys, chickens, and sheep.  (I tried pastured pigs once!)  And yes, I am responsible for them.  I have to make sure they have access to water, shelter, and feed.  I look at the pasture rotation, warming, and breeding cycles, Every morning, I go outside and check on the animals.

bottle-feeding a sheep in my kitchen!


Yesterday, I listened to the following Art of Manliness Podcast “#731: A Futurist’s Guide to Building the Life You Want”.  The podcast made me think that I am the master who is fitting my life.  Like a horse, I will opt for easy when I can and not necessarily choosing the daily work to be as successful as I can be. 

Maybe my father’s real lesson was not about the animals (Sounds like the Last Lecture).  Maybe his lesson was teaching his children values about responsibility, observation, etc.,  but the ultimate lesson may be that one has to “look at the stock” every day to be successful.