I was recently asked to speak at a fundraiser down in the south-central part of the state. Since it was for a good cause and just a few miles from where I started my teaching career some 40 years ago, I was happy to do it. The function allowed me to meet up with several former students and rekindle old friendships with a few old farmers I’ve known for a lifetime.
John was one of the first to shake my hand before the meeting started. I’ve been acquainted with John for close to 30 years, but I knew of his reputation at least 20 years before that. He has been a purebred cattleman all his life and has exhibited in livestock shows all across the country, and still continues to do so. As we were visiting before the meeting, while the large crowd of prospective donors filed in, John pointed to an older, gray-haired gentleman and asked, “You remember that guy, don’t you?”
The man looked vaguely familiar, but I had to admit that too much water had flowed under the bridge for me to place a name with the face. John got a big grin on his face as he reminded me that he was the judge that had presided over the only trial for which I had ever testified as an ‘expert witness.’ “Wait a minute,” I interrupted, “How do you know about that trial?”
“Because I served as an expert witness for the other side,” John responded.
Many years ago, when I was still teaching at a university, a cow that was stalled at the local fair in that town had been killed when a bull had gotten loose and run over the cow while she was tied, breaking her neck. Both the owner of the cow and his attorney were friends of mine and wanted me to be their expert witness since I owned cattle and had ‘Doctor’ in front of my name. Reluctantly, I had agreed to testify as to the proper and accepted methods for restraining bulls at livestock shows.
Unbeknownst to me, John was friends with the owner of the bull, and because of his vast experience in showing livestock, he was sought out to testify that the bull had been restrained properly and the incident was simply a tragic accident. As we visited the other night, John related to me… the rest of the story.
John and the judge were very close to the same age, and had grown up together and attended the same little, rural school. According to John, when he took the stand to begin his testimony, the judge asked, “John, do you consider yourself an expert?”
I can just hear John’s hillbilly drawl as he responded, “Well, your honor, you’ve known me since we were kids. I’ve raised cattle my whole life and I’ve shown cattle all over the country. If that makes me an expert, then I am. If not, well so be it.”
John said the judge’s next words surprised him as he asked, “Well, John, the next witness following you is Dr. Jerry Crownover. Would you consider him an expert?”
John answered slowly, “Well, sir, since I’ve shown cattle under him several times in my life, I’d have to say… well… uh… no.”
That day, after the verdict was rendered by the judge, I was relegated to the status of ‘non-expert’ and I must say it is a title I have managed to retain.
Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry about his books, or to arrange speaking engagements, you may contact him by calling 1-866-532-1960 or visiting ozarksfn.com and clicking on ’Contact Us.’


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