Looking Back, Looking Ahead

By Ross Rutherford
Lubbock, Texas

Okay, I’ll say it. I love tradition and nostalgia. Always have and always will. Looking back on things through the prism of nostalgic spectacles (some call them “rose-colored glasses”) brings a certain comfort in today’s ultra-fast-paced world.

I grew up on a small, family dairy farm in the south Texas town of Jourdanton, once called “Dairyland, USA,” since there were 16 separate dairies within close proximity to town. Daddy owned the dairy from 1946 to 1975, and, for the last eight years, my brother and I were the “hired help.” As a kid, you find out really fast what responsibility is when you’re milking cows twice a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. A dairy has no “season.” With our small-scale business model, there wasn’t a feasible, long-term future for us as dairymen, so, as difficult as it was, we sold out and moved on to other endeavors.

But my dairy experiences and years in FFA did give me a deep appreciation for agriculture, and that led me to pursue an agricultural engineering degree at Texas A&M. Anyone who knows Aggies can attest to their undying devotion to tradition (some say bordering on insanity). Guilty as charged. As a member of the Corps of Cadets (Aggie Band), plus being an agricultural engineering major, I was fortunate (actually blessed) to be exposed to the three major facets of the land grant university system: military science, agricultural science and mechanical science (or engineering).

Yet over time, I’ve realized that the nostalgia I feel for so many things has to give way to new, improved and better ways of doing things. Change is the only constant in the world, and adapting to this change is what separates the survivors from those who fade away.

The cotton industry today and the specific facet of the industry that Lummus serves (cotton gins and gin machinery manufacturing) certainly have strong ties to the past. Lummus has played a pivotal role in cotton ginning history through its multitude of revolutionary products.

But everyone knows that you can’t move forward if you’re constantly looking back. Blindly doing the same thing over and over “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” is a recipe for disaster. I’ve been privileged to know and work with legendary industry pioneers who understood that you always have to be looking for the next better way of doing things.

Men like Lambert Wilkes, Calvin Parnell, Jr., Cliff Granberry, A. L. Vandergriff, Don Van Doorn and countless others. Men who knew the difference between “innovate” and “imitate.” Men who could apply the lessons learned from the past, so that mistakes weren’t needlessly repeated. This “tribal knowledge” within any industry truly does have value, but it shouldn’t be confused with holding stubbornly onto the past; rather, it should be used as a foundation for a better future.

And with that, Lummus continues to look to the future. Our move in 2011 to a more right-sized location for our corporate headquarters in Savannah, Ga., along with our move in September of this year to our all-new global parts manufacturing facility in Lubbock, Texas, are fundamental steps in positioning us to provide the finest ginning machinery, repair parts and technical service to our customers.

Being part of the Lummus team for the last 27-plus years brings me great satisfaction, considering all we’ve accomplished. But being part of defining our industry’s future, with its challenges and opportunities, is what keeps me coming back every day for more.

Oh, and on that “rose-colored glasses” nostalgia note – the all-too-vivid childhood memory of a frigid Christmas morning with a muddy, cocklebur-laden cow tail slapping me in the face is one I’m happy to forget.

– Ross Rutherford, Lubbock, Texas
  www.lummus.com
  ross.rutherford@lummus.com

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