by: Wes Ishmael

Sell enough feed to enough people for long enough, and sooner or later you're going to get snookered.

That's what Lonnie Johnson was lamenting to the boys in the backroom of his feed store one afternoon. They were holed up, trying to dodge the summer's ungodly heat that held on like a rabid bulldog with a poor disposition.

It was a fellow by the name of Purvis Lugbottom, who had blown into Rio Rojo County at the beginning of summer, tossing money around and moving cattle in and out at such a pace that folks began joking half-heartedly that it must be a half-way house for cattle rustlers.

Then, poof, just like that Lugbottom left in the night leaving nary a salt block but a long list of creditors.

“I should have known better,” Lonnie said in disgust, just before drilling a wayward ant with a stream of Mail Pouch. “Wish I knew where to track him down.”

Hooter slapped his knee. “I know just who can help you. Unless I miss my guess, they could find Santa Clause in a snow storm.”

“Who?” demanded Lonnie.

“Santa Clause. Even Scrooge has heard of him you old grump.”

Lonnie began turning red. It always started at his shirt collar and then spread up his face, like a meaty windshield cracking. “I mean who can track him down you half-wit?”

“It never gets old, how you walk into it,” said Hooter with a laugh. “I'm talking about the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, or the OTA as those of us in correspondence with them like to say.”


Hooter related a recent trip he'd taken to the Joplin sale barn in Missouri, via the turnpike from Oklahoma City through Tulsa.

“I swear, it never seems like I go through or come back on the same road through Tulsa,” Hooter explained. “On my way back this trip I must have zigged when I should have zagged. I ended up on a part of that turnpike I never knew existed. All through Tulsa, literally less than every 10 miles, here was another toll booth at 75¢ a pop.

“Anyway, I looked up from adjusting my radio and saw another toll booth in my rearview mirror, one I didn't see in time to stop; I wasn't going back. Not a week later, I got the friendliest letter from the OTA. I mean it. They told me how they appreciated me using their road, how their records indicated I must have inadvertently failed to stop at that one booth, and to remember the next time I was using their roads to be on the lookout for the booths. They must have an amazing system of camera and data management to find someone that quick and track them down all in the name of 75¢ they don't ask you to remit.”

Everyone knew Hooter so well, they had to ask, “And what did you do?”

“I mailed them 75¢ and a note pointing out that I realized they still lost money on me, having to pay the postage on the letter they sent me and all. And, I told them because of their kindness I was reciprocating and would not charge them my customary mail box toll, levied so that they and others who wanted to voluntarily communicate with me via mail could do so with the knowledge that my mailbox was in good repair, well maintained and whatnot. And I ended it with, ‘Long live Pork-Squatch.'”

“Pork…hiccup…pig squeeee …pork…huh?” slurred Delmar Jacobs who was already into his second afternoon thermos.

“Pork-Squatch,” Hooter said.

“Don't you mean Sasquatch, lightening rod, and what's he got to do with it,” Lonnie growled.

“No, Simple Simon, I mean Pork-Squatch, and it has nothing to do with you and your reluctant customer. Not everything is about you and your problems,” Hooter scolded.


Touching the Ephemera

It was fixing to be one of those chats. Peetie scooted his chair so he could rest his sore leg on a straw bale. Izzie peeled back the wrapper on some fresh Twinkies.

“The first time I heard the phrase was from Smitty Geronimo,” Hooter explained. Then, to answer the question their expressions were asking, “Pockets Geronimo had a nephew whose given name was Runs in Sand. We just called him Smitty. He was a different sort. If you asked him to add two plus two, he didn't have a clue. Show him the most complex mechanical problem, though, on paper or in real life and he'd have a solution quicker than you could blink.”

The boys were focused now. They all had deep respect for their late buddy, Pockets and would extend that to his family. Even Izzie had quit munching his Twinkie.

“Anyhow, Smitty was talking about the Great Spirit one time and this Yankee who was there laughed and said there was no such thing as God,” Hooter continued. “Before you could whisper Amen, Smitty had that feller backed into a corner and a knife to his throat. Smitty just kept saying real slow and calm, Pork-Squatch. I thought it must be some Apache cussword.

“Pockets finally got Smitty calmed down and the Yankee sent on his way. Later on I asked Pockets what Pork-Squatch meant.”

“Just because you see it doesn't mean that it's really there,” Pockets said. “Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it's not really there.”

Lonnie was the first to blink, directing another stream of Mail Pouch at nothing in particular. “That's real eloquent and all, but I still don't see what that's got to do with the OTA, nor and especially what it has to do with me tracking down this worm that walked out on his bill.”

The boys nodded in agreement.

“If you'd clean the wax out of that wind tunnel between your ears, you may remember a long time ago, about 60 seconds or so ago, when I said Pork-Squatch has nothing to do with your problem directly. Pork-Squatch isn't about solutions; it's about identifying the problem, the true problem, so that a solution might be found.”

Lonnie scowled and continued to turn a darker shade of crimson.

“You know how much damage the demagogues cause the cattle business saying stuff that isn't so?” said Hooter. “For instance, they claim there needs to be this GIPSA rule to protect the cattle producer, even though the alternative marketing arrangements they rail against, the arrangements that would be done in by the rule, are what has given folks the chance to produce something more than a commodity and receive more than a commodity price. So, the problem isn't the marketing arrangements, it's the fact that some folks don't want to use them even though the most competitive producers are.”

“Like folks wanting to run a particular breed of cattle where they have no business running them because of the environment and then blaming the breed,” Charlie said.

“Exactly,” Hooter replied.

The boys nodded again.

“You know how much money the government costs the cattle business by claiming something is so that isn't?” Hooter continued. “Like, all this squawking about how ethanol is a viable alternative, even though it's energy inefficient, increases the cost of corn and contributes to food inflation, not to mention contributes to hunger?”

The gang nodded.

“The problem isn't oil running out, it's all the policies preventing production of untapped oil reserves,” Hooter continued.

“Pork-Squaaaaaaaatch!” Delmar shouted.

“And all the while, nobody talks about why the cow business is getting smaller, notwithstanding the drought,” Hooter said. “The cow herd is about 30 percent smaller than it was in 1980, but beef production is about flat. At the same time the U.S. population has grown by about 37 percent. I don't know what the technical definition is for it, all I know is that there are 83 millions more folks in this country than there were in 1980 and none of them are wanting to eat more beef today than 83 million fewer of them did in 1980.”

“It's all Pork-Squatch,” Hooter said. “Folks deny the existence of a specific, known reality or they suggest realities that don't exist. Like Smitty was saying, just because you see it doesn't mean that it's really there; just because you don't see it doesn't mean it's not really there.”

“And?” Lonnie grumped.

“In your case, could it be at least part of the problem with your getting stiffed on the bill is that you got greedy, forgot your own policies because even though the guy was buying boatloads of feed, he never asked for a discount?”

Lonnie simmered.

“Best as I can define it, Pork-Squatch means I'm on to you,” Hooter said. “It means I can see through the clutter and glimpse the bottom line. It means I know what I've got to aim at, despite what others suggest. Since I know that, it also means that it's only a matter of time before I beat you at your own game.”

Delmar lifted his thermos cup, and said loud and clear: “Long live Pork-Squatch.”

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