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THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HOOTER MCCORMICK -- BEEF BOWLING

by: Wes Ishmael

Little Hector Rodriguez helped Aunt Pinky roll a battered black bowling ball down an alley; she looked as excited as he did. Meandering its way to the other end, the ball peeled one of the glistening white pins off the corner before dropping into the gutter.

“Good job, Hector!” squealed Pinky.

“Only nine to go,” beamed the determined little boy.

Watching this from a distance, listening to the cheers and laughter all around, Hooter had to admit that Lonnie Johnson's idea was truly inspired, though out of character.

Lonnie is usually more solemn that a wet hoot owl. He's known for coming up with effective ideas, not necessarily fun ones. That's why the rest of the county cattlemen's association was surprised to hear his notion for helping to tutor the local mini 4-Hers about all things cattle and beef.

Almost before the question had been raised, Lonnie had piped up excitedly, “We'll have a Beef Bowl. We'll have a quiz bowl, and we'll have it at a bowling alley, get it? In order to bowl, they'll have to get a certain number of questions right.”

“So moved,” said Peetie Womac.

“Second,” chimed in Izzy Franklin.

“I'll bring the pun-pun-punch,” slurred Delmar Jacobs.

     

A Striking Education

A trip to the bowling alley may sound rather common in some parts of the world, but it's big news around here, especially if the bowling alley happens to be Rio Rojo Rocket Bowl about 75 miles away. Rocket Bowl is a private bowling alley owned and maintained by former touring professional, Zell “Fireball” Fredrickson. You either call him Mr. Zell or Fireball.

“It's not about technique, it's about speed,” Mr. Zell announced in numerous interviews back in the 60's when he was on a winning streak that ended as quickly as it started.

There are eight lanes at Mr. Zell's bowling alley, all old-timey with the ball return out in the open, and the need for a human pin setter. Scoring is done by hand, as it should be, not by some automatic calculator. Even the requisite pinball machines are from another age when electricity and magnets spun the wheels and rang the bells, not invisible electronics.

Though it may not be cutting edge technology, Mr. Zell keeps everything at Rocket Bowl in immaculate condition. That's one reason he's so persnickety about who can use the lanes. In other words, the public doesn't get in often. In fact, if Lonnie wasn't one of Mr. Zell's great-nephews, it's doubtful the folks at Apache Flats would have seen the inside of Rocket Bowl the few times most had seen it during their lives. That's especially true since Hooter had been here before.

“You remember our first time here,” asked Charlie, pulling up a chair by Hooter.

“You mean our only time besides this time.” said Hooter. “You bet. It didn't last long, but it sure was fun.”

“I told you Mr. Zell wouldn't appreciate you trying to rope the pins instead of bowl them.”

“I thought the object of the game was to see how many you could get down in one shot,” grinned Hooter. “If memory serves, I almost had me one of them strikes before ol' Fireball booted me.”     

     

The Right Wrong Answer

The bucolic scene of Aunt Pinky and Hector seemed a long time away jut a few hours ago, though.

Serving as emcee and quizmaster, Hooter had told the kids and their parents that both teams of four kids had to get at least 10 questions answered correctly for the chance to bowl. The competition set out at a blistering pace.

“What's the largest stomach in the cow?”

“Rumen!” shouted Bugsy.

“What is the primary trade organization for U.S. beef?”

“The U.S. Meat Export Federation,” said Baily Womac.

“What's a measure of cow fleshiness?”

“Body Condition Score,” announced Luther Callahan.

“What's a corn-based fuel?”

“White lightening,” said an earnest Homer Jacobs; his uncle Delmar was beaming at the answer.

“You idiot,” scolded Homer's twin sister, Sally, “It's ethanol.”

“What's the oldest ranch in the U.S.?”

“That's easy, it's the King Ranch,” said Fuzzy Franklin, Izzy's nephew.

“What's the most recent Asian country to resume U.S. beef imports?

“Trick question,” said Sally. “South Korea is resuming partial trade, just like Japan, not full trade, so there isn't an answer.”

The parents applauded with gusto.

“Yeah, that's a trick question,” hollered Peetie Womac.

“You might be forgetting the fact that you helped come up with the questions,” growled Hooter. “Next question. “What's traded at the Chicago Board of Trade?”

“Grief!” shouted Luther. “That and futures contracts.”

“Good job, you had me scared for a minute.”

On and on it went, the cherubic future cattle producers correctly answering the questions before Hooter could barely spit them out.

Members of the Rio Rojo Cattlemen's Association Quiz Bowl Education Committee were fairly well preening by now. They'd put plenty of time into crafting what they thought were meaningful questions. Unfortunately, they didn't spend as much time considering all the possible answers. Just like when a calf will decide to switch directions, fast and for no apparent reason, the tone of the quiz bowl changed.

“What's another name for black, white-faced cattle?”

“Money-maker,” said Frankie Roberts.

“That's not exactly the answer we were looking for,” said Hooter.

“But it's true,” continued Frankie, “Everyone knows Baldies make great cows and feeders.”

“Ain't that right,” agreed Luther knowingly.

“Yeah, just ask my daddy,” said Frankie with a glare.

“All right, all right, I'll accept your answer,” said Hooter. “Next question, what does USDA stand for?”

“My way or the highway,” shouted Homer.

“Huh?”

“That's what Uncle Delmar always says, that it's their way or nothing”

“It's true,” said Delmar proudly.

“O.K., let's forget that one,” gruffed Hooter. “Next question…Give me a definition of value-based marketing?”

“Buy ‘em cheap, turn ‘em fast and sell ‘em for the money,” announced Fuzzy.

“Ain't that the truth,” agreed Luther.

“Ummm, that's not what we had in mind, really.”

“Oh, you mean all that stuff about doing more to them so you get more for them when you sell them,” said Fuzzy. “Most of the time, there's more value buying a good weigh-up.”

“Well…”

“Yeah, what about cash flow?” wondered Hector. “Profit's one thing, but cash flow is a whole ‘nother deal nobody talks about much.”

“You've got a point,” said Hooter weakly. “Next question. Name the first beef breed imported to the U.S. that started out in France.”

“Charolais,” said Bugsy.

“Good girl, now we're back on track. Next question…What's another name for the National ID system?”

“Mr. Hooter,” scolded Sally, “You know we're not supposed to use that kind of language, especially in public.”

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