THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HOOTER MCCORMICK -- P.R. AND OTHER HORRORS

by: Wes Ishmael

Anyone who knows G.W. understands that he would rather use a toothbrush to scrub the inside of a squeeze chute—in subzero weather—than have anyone entertain the possibility that he's not taking care of business.

His pride and meticulous attention to detail are what make G.W. (not his real name) such an effective seedstock producer.

G.W. understands breed differences—he can recite results from the germplasm studies at the Meat Animal Research Center clear back to the first cycle. He knows pedigrees for the breeds he works with (none of them Angus) going back to that first pair on the Ark.

G.W. knows how to utilize data, including the latest genomic tools, to increase the odds of churning out bulls that will help customers take their herds one direction or the other on a reliable basis.

G.W. also has the eye. He's a stickler when it comes to structure, feet and legs, udders and all of the rest.

It's the same with his commercial herd, which G.W. uses to prove his genetics and management. That's how he started, after all.

In both commercial cattle and seedstock, G.W. covets disposition most of all. He makes no excuses or exceptions. If a cow even appears she might be wondering what it would be like to cross her eyes at him, she's gone—not to the sale barn, but to the local packing plant to salvage what's possible.

This all explains why G.W. was so flummoxed when a long-time customer told him the bull G.W. delivered less than a month earlier had turned into a man-eater.

G.W. trusted the customer and knew it must be true, no matter how unlikely. The customer trusted G.W. and knew how gentle the bull was when it arrived.

Gone Nuts

So, G.W. delivered a replacement and retrieved the bull in question. He was completely stymied. The bull had always been calmer than a baby with a new rattle, one of those you had to lean against to get them to take a step.

Now, here the bull was pin-balling back and forth across a stout catch pen, meaner than a one-eyed sidewinder at a pogo stick convention. By the time they were able to get the bull loaded, G.W. figured they could have used three horses, five ropes and a couple of swamp dogs.

G.W. set sail for the closest kill pens about 50 miles away. About 20 miles up the road, the temperature gauge on his new rig was glowing hot. Steam was just starting to roll from beneath the hood. Fortunately, he could already see a small town's gas and convenience store just ahead.

G.W. parked and popped the hood. The bull kept on doing what he'd been doing since being loaded: snorting, bellering and ramming the sides of the trailer as if enough volume and velocity could exact some sort of justice.

A lady at one of the gas pumps actually screamed when she heard the racket; roared off with her eyes wide and gas cap dangling.

A young punk-rocker type at another pump gave G.W. a thumbs up and shouted, “Heya Pops, that is soooooo cool.”

G.W., of course wanted to climb into a hole. The only saving grace, he figured, was that he hadn't yet had the truck in to have his ranch name and phone number painted on the doors.

He was waving steam away, trying to ignore the bouncing and shuddering caused by the bull, and surveying the incomprehensible boxes, fans and wires that pass for engines these days.

“That seems like an awfully new outfit to be in that kind of shape,” came a kindly voice over G.W.'s shoulder. “Ever done that before?”

The voice belonged to a man that G.W. would have guessed to be near 80, but a classy, slender, bright-eyed 80, leaning casually on a cane.

“Nope,” G.W. said.

“I had a shop most of my life. Mind if I look?”

“Nope.”

“Ben, hook up the hose and back the truck over here if you'd be so kind,” said the old man gently.

G.W. had been looking at the engine. He turned to see a younger, middle-aged version of the older man.

“I'm Benjamin Browning, by the way. That's my son.”

G.W. shook the proffered hand and said who he was.

“Unless I miss my guess, bad as it always looks, I bet we can have you back on your way in less than an hour, and that count's cooling time,” Mr. Browning said with a grin.

While waiting for Ben, a happy looking sort with a name tag on his shirt emerged from the store, obviously the proprietor. “Problems, Mr. Browning?”

“Only for a short while, Elmer. Meet our new friend here.”

As G.W. stuck out his hand, the deafening roar in the trailer got even louder; the shaking and shuddering got more urgent. Another piece of G.S. died inside with every womp and thump.

“Look, I'm so sorry,” G.W. said. “I had to stop. I'll be on my way as soon as possible.”

Elmer grinned and nodded over his shoulder. “Don't hurry on my account. You're good for business.”

Sure enough, as Elmer wandered back into the store, G.W. looked to see a veritable parade of locals maneuvering into the parking lot. Others were leaned up against their cars, pointing and talking quietly. The bull was putting on a show and the crows wanted to see.

G.W. simmered. If he was ever faced with such a situation again, he'd shoot the bull and pay for disposal. This was just too, too much.

The Smallest of Worlds

Other than Elmer's indirect allusion to it, and the gawkers, no one had made any mention of the ongoing catastrophe in G.W.'s trailer.

As he tinkered, Mr. Browning said over his shoulder, “Ben, don't stand there like a post, tell this gentleman about your new career. The only way folks ever know if they can use your services is if they know what those services are.”

Ben turned a little red. It was obvious he wasn't the chatting type. Not rude about it, just no compunction to say anything that didn't need to be said.”

“Daddy, I'm sure this man has all of the services he needs.”

“I'd like to hear, Ben. What is it you do?” G.W. asked.

“I'm an AI technician and semen distributor,” Ben said sheepishly.

G.W. didn't think the pit in his gut could grow any larger or his heart sink any lower, but they did.

“Your own or an affiliate?” G.W. stammered.

Ben told him.

Good Lord, G.W. sold semen through them. He knew lots of their people as friends. “Yes sir, I'm familiar with them. What territory do you cover?”

It went on like that—Mr. Browning tinkering, G.W. trying to be polite and ask questions that would keep him from having to answer any, and Ben struggling to make conversation.

Finally, the voice under the hood announced, “Well sir, I think you're all set to go.”

G.W. could have kissed the old man.

“You might want to take it to your dealer,” Mr. Browning said. “This seems to be a flaw with these engines. I'm guessing you'll receive a recall notice in due time.”

“Sure, you bet,” G.W. sputtered. “How much do I owe you?”

“You don't owe me a dime,” Mr. Browning said as he wiped off his hands. “I still enjoy tinkering; just glad we could find the problem. If you know of anyone who could use Ben's services, though, we'd appreciate you telling them.”

“Daddy…” Benjamin was completely embarrassed.

Mr. Browning winked at G.W. “Best be on your way. You've lost enough daylight as it is.”

G.W. shook their hands and was scrambling for his door handle when another mighty thud rocked the truck and trailer.

“I meant to ask you,” Mr. Browning said in his kind voice. “What kind of bull you got back there anyway?”

G.W. is as honest as they come. He couldn't believe he said it: “Just some Angus bull a friend of mine needed to have hauled off.”







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