IT'S THE PITTS -- THE DEATH OF SUPERSTITION

by: Lee Pitts

I've never been very superstitious. I've never used the services of a fortune teller, shaman or palm reader and I think the predictions offered up by a star gazer are as reliable as the defroster in my old 1964 Chevy pickup was. And Chinese food advice is as hollow as the inside of the fortune cookie it comes in.

I don't eat black-eyed peas on New Year's, or any other day for that matter, and other than having a fear of heights, I'd have no trouble staying on the 13th floor of a hotel, if they had them. I even wore jersey number 13 when my basketball coach in high school assigned it to me. I don't carry on my person a lucky penny, four leaf clover or rabbit's foot and black cats and ladders don't scare me.      

Knock on wood, of course.

I don't know why these superstitions have been handed down from one generation to the next or why farmers and ranchers in the old days thought they were so important for their economic and physical well being. I can't for the life of me understand why otherwise smart people would plant their crop only when oak leaves were the size of a squirrel's ear, or that planting a cow's horn on your property would make your land any more fertile than a good load of cow manure would.

Fortunately, I don't believe that kid's today have a working knowledge of all this balderdash and they are much too smart anyway to believe in such witchcraft. We're all getting better at understanding that sometimes positive results are not the result of silly superstitions, but of simple science. Take, for example, the case of what I call "The Curse of the Dead Champions."

Many years ago there was a bull sale in the west that many ranchers thought was jinxed. This was because the Ideal Range Bull, the bull determined to be the best of all the entrants, seemed to always die shortly after some rancher had paid a lot of money for him. Every year when I'd arrive at the sale to work ring, a rancher friend who everyone called “Speedy” was eager to tell me of the latest misfortune to befall last year's champion. According to Speedy, past champions had died of strange diseases, been run over by a train, shot by deer hunters, stolen by a drug ring and one was drug to death, if you can imagine that horror. Every year's death seemed to be more horrific than the last and word of the dead champion's jinx spread like wildfire.

It got so bad that ranchers didn't want to buy the Ideal Range Bull because they knew he'd die soon. So the best bull often brought half of what lesser bulls brought later in the sale. Livestock insurance salesmen who usually competed to write policies on valuable bovines stayed away in droves, not wanting to write a policy on a bull everyone knew would die of some freak accident or disease before the year was out.

Normally, purebred breeders would consign their best beast to this prestigious sale but when they saw the winner bringing way less money, they took their best bulls elsewhere. Naturally, this disturbed the sale manager. He became so distraught he was ready to hire a voodoo High Priestess to get rid of The Curse of the Dead Champions.

I never thought the curse was real and I tried to use my investigative journalistic talents in tracking down all the rumors. The trail always went cold on me when I found that the buyer of the Ideal Range Bull for the past six years had been an order buyer, and he wouldn't say who he was buying the bulls for.

Then one day I was on my way to a sale when I saw a ripping set of calves in a friend's field by the side of the road. Then as I passed his bull pasture, I thought I noticed a few brands I recognized, and a few bulls looked faintly familiar to me. That's when I put two and two together and used science to conquer superstition. Every one of those jinxed deceased champions that died such terrible deaths had come back to life and were resting comfortably in Speedy's bull pasture.

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