Hooter McCormick was in Austin, Texas and he was more miserable than a pinkeye cow in a porcupine patch.
“Hooter, now you can put this off a few days, if you're not feeling up to it,” Aunt Pinky had told him before he left Apache Flats, wheezing and hacking his way through last-minute instructions for Aunt Pinky.
Sneeze...Haaaack! “Just keep an eye on those heifers over the hill. They should have been calving by now. If you get into trouble, call Charlie.”
The freckles on Aunt Pinky's face shone like ebony diamonds on a blanket of snow, fading into pink, perhaps melting from the fire in her red hair; her blue eyes blazed: “Now, Hooter McCormick, what was our deal? I believe you told me if I came and helped on short notice I could handle things my way,” she said with an icy voice. “Of all the bald-faced nerve! I was calving out heifers before you dropped on the ground. I'm quite sure I can handle it.”
Hooter knew he'd insulted Aunt Pinky's sensitivity, unintentionally of course, but he was feeling too lousy to care. In fact, his own Irish temper was bubbling to the top.
Haaaack! Cough, cough, Sneeze!
“I know that aunt Pinky. You do whatever you want. I just thought that you might need a hand, that's all.”
“And why might that be, mister?” said Aunt Pinky, folding her arms in defiance. “Maybe you think I'm past my prime, too old for that sort of thing, is that it? It will be a cold day in Hades when I can't stay three steps ahead of you, and don't you forget that, Hooter. And another thing, did it ever dawn on you the reason those heifers haven't started calving is that you get what you pay for? You're just like your daddy always was, figuring you can trade your way into a profit. There aren't any short cuts. And don't expect any sympathy out of me on that cough. I made you a raspberry poultice and you never even put it on.”
Hooter knew by experience once Pinky was on the warpath anything you did or said was wasted effort. He stumbled out the door to climb into Peetie Womack's new DeVille, a jug of Tryquil in one hand and an extra handkerchief in the other. He hadn't wanted to make the nine-hour trip to Austin, but he and the other members of the Rio Rojo County Cattlemen's Association thought something had to be done and fast.
Worse than the Plague
To wit, a certain Ingrid Newkirk, president of that renegade organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had actually topped her organization's previous asinine fiction by coming out publicly in favor of Foot and Mouth Disease cropping up in the United States; a far more humane way for cattle to die than the ghastly way they were treated in the normal course of business, that's what she'd told every lame microphone willing to give her air time.
“That tears it. That just tears it!” shouted Hooter, listening to an MSNBC debate between Newkirk and an officer of the Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA).
“She's an idiot!” Hooter had shouted, “And an ignorant, mean idiot to boot!”
The TSCRA officer looked as flummoxed as Hooter, Peetie Womac and the other members of the county cattlemen's who had gathered at the War Wagon Saloon and Pool Hall—defacto headquarters for the group—to watch the proceedings.
What was supposed to be a debate, turned out to be PETA's Newkirk stepping all over the top of anything the TSCRA man tried to say.
“It's not his fault,” Hooter announced after Jackson flipped off the disgraceful commentary. He took a long draw on his Pearl. “I'm sure he figured he'd have a chance to reply to that garbage, thought there was such a thing as common courtesy, so he never interrupted her. And those prostitutes, called reporters, let it happen. They're as bad as that old hide, Newkirk!”
So it was after a quick and unanimous vote that Hooter had been chosen to go to the state house in Austin to demand action. Actually, both he and Peetie had been picked, but Peetie already was scheduled for an audit in Lubbock.
“I can't go, otherwise I would,” said Peetie. “But at least you can take my new car. You'll be more comfortable, especially nursing that crud you've got. It's got a North Star engine and an OnStar Navigation system,” said Peetie, beaming with pride.
“An On Star what?” Hooter had queried.
“You see that little button there, if you ever get lost or something, you just press it and there's someone on the other end to tell you where to go.”
“Sounds like one of my exes,” said Hooter between coughs.
“No, really,” Peetie had assured him. “I haven't used it yet, but they say it's the cat's PJs.”
So, here Hooter was tooling around downtown Austin, feeling like the running gears of nothing and trying to find the Capitol. Well, really, just trying to get to the Capitol, which he had been able to see for the past half hour, but between all the traffic and the Tryquil haze he'd yet to get there. Of course, stopping to ask for directions was out of the question.
Hooter remembered the button Peetie had told him about. He punched it. A sweet voice came out of nowhere. “This is Maggie your OnStar Advisor, how can we be of assistance?”
Hooter was impressed. “Well, Maggie, I bet I've been down every side street in Austin, Texas and half of them in Round Rock and I'll be a monkey's privates if I can get to the capitol.”
“So, that's where you're trying to go?”
Although Hooter seldom got sick, when he did he was sure that he was dying and as such his patience level dropped below the red line of reasonableness.
“No!” shouted Hooter, “I was really hoping to find Mickey Mouse somewhere in this Hell Hole. Yes! I'm trying to get to the capitol.”
Silence. Silence. “Sir, you don't have to use that kind of language, I'm merely trying to help you get where you want to go. Where are you at now?”
Hooter was gripping the steering wheel of the new Cad tighter than a kid with his first county fair balloon. “Lady, with all due respect, if knew where I was, then I wouldn't really need your help, would I?”
Silence. Silence. “Sir, I was just trying to make conversation. I know exactly where you are.”
Hooter started eyeing the dashboard with suspicion. “How could you know where I'm at? Does this thing have some kind of camera in it or, something? Where you at?”
A stifled giggle. “Sir, didn't they tell you when you bought the car that it is equipped with a global positioning device? We always know where you are.”
“I guess I missed that part,” said Hooter, calmer now. “Well, miss smarty pants, if you know where I am, tell me how to get to the blasted capitol.”
Three left turns and a roundabout right later, Hooter was herding the Caddy into a parking spot at the Capitol.
“Maggie, I'm sorry about before,” said Hooter. “You're the Cadillac crown jewel, don't let anyone ever tell you different.”
“That's my job, Mr. McCormick. I hope you have a nice day,” and she was gone.
And, that was the last pleasantry in Hooter's life for the next five hours. He was wishing he'd never found the Capitol at all. He'd yet to be able to pigeonhole anyone other than a couple of aides to listen to the horrific story about PETA's bio-terrorism hopes.
“Look, Lightening Rod, these people need to be locked up and they need to be locked up now before they hurt lots of innocent livestock and people,” Hooter had pleaded.
All he got in reply was: “Yes sir, we're aware of it sir, if you'll just have to take a seat, perhaps the senator may be able to fit you in...Yes sir, truly horrible sir, we'll look into it, if you'll just take a seat...”
Hooter was depressed, dejected and loster than a small ball in tall weeds. Then he had an idea. He went out and eased himself back into the plush seat of Peetie's wondermobile. He pushed the magic button. Same sweet voice: “Hello, this is Maggie your OnStar Advisor, how can I be of assistance?”
“Maggie,” said Hooter, mustering all the charm he could between coughs, gags and a torrent of sticky goo leaking out of his nose. “This is Hooter McCormick. Remember me?”
“Yes, Mr. McCormick, I remember you,” she said sweetly. “ Is there someplace else I can help you find?”
Hooter started grinning from ear to ear. “As a matter of fact there is. I need an address and directions for a lady by the name of Ingrid Newkirk.”
To be continued . . . .