Hooter expected to be surprised but even he was unprepared for the sights he encountered winding his way down Uncas Bingelmeyer's lane. The cows Hooter saw were just as psychedelic in color as he'd imagined, but the sizes and shapes outpaced his own imagination.
Here was a red and white spotted punkin roller grazing contentedly alongside a giant solid red one; over there a couple of Longhorns, next to them a gray Nelore and a belted Galloway, then some Scottish Highlanders, Piedmontese and Belgian Bleu mixed in among the more traditional blacks, reds and baldies.
“Heya Hooter!” shouted Uncas through his welding mask, torch in hand. “Like I told you on the phone, you're in for a treat. Sure appreciate you coming.”
Hooter stuck out his hand. Uncas wasn't wearing gloves even though some of the slag spit from the metal he was cutting was still smoldering on the backs of his hands.
“Man, Uncas, I ain't seen you in a coon's age. I was glad to hear from you. Sure was sorry to hear about your folks, though.”
Uncas Bingelmeyer had moved with his folks, better than two decades ago, just across the Red River, where Uncas had said, “Texas can't hold me and Oklahoma can't claim me.” Until then, the family had run more oil wells than cows about 50 miles from Apache Flats, closer to Stem Springs.
“Thanks for the thought, Hooter. But you know Daddy, once he set his mind, that was it.”
Uncas had related the untimely demise of his folks to Hooter on the phone. Seems they were heading to town early one morning. As Mr. Bingelmeyer guided his Suburban up and over a set of railroad tracks, which set atop a fair grade, he spied the telltale headlight of a train cutting through the mist a ways off. The fact that the trains never blew their whistle here in the sparsely populated sticks always infuriated him because the law was the law and such disregard for it could get someone killed. So, from the picture window in his parent's house Uncas had watched his dad blockade the tracks with his vehicle, then silhouetted in the headlights, wave his arms furiously and shout at the top of his lungs, “I've got you now!” The redeye special had swept the elder Bingelmeyers to their new home far away.
The story hadn't surprised Hooter. He'd seen first-hand the stiff-backed refusal to give an inch the old man had passed along to Uncas. This was better than 20 years ago when Hooter first got to know Uncas as two of five kids thrown together from across the county to be part of an all-star 4-H judging team that would represent at an invitational contest in Denver.
From the start, it was plain to see that Uncas marched to a different bugler than the rest of them. He was more of a philosopher than a reasons-giver, and when it came to the actual evaluation of stock, his idea of form and function, his sense of priority, was so unconventional that the rest of the team could only wonder how he had ever managed to be placed on the team. Years later, Uncas would explain matter of factly that at all of those other contests, where he'd done so well, he'd just guessed because he knew the narrow-minded officials would never place the classes the way they were supposed to be, the way that Uncas knew they should be.
That was until the invitational contest. There, Uncas decided the time for games was over, he'd line them up the way his eyes and heart told him, no more guesswork.
It had been a world-class bust. Besides amassing the lowest placings score ever logged in any 4-H competition, as far as anyone could tell, Uncas had let the emotion of the day get the better of him: he gave his barrow reasons for the gelding class and his gelding reasons for the Angus heifer class, leaving those taking the reasons speechless, but less so than those who listened to him give the wrong reasons for the right classes.
By the time the contest ended, Uncas had become the Rio Rojo team's official outcast to everyone but Hooter. Hooter didn't understand how Uncas' mind worked, but he admired how unafraid he was to be so unabashedly wrong. They were never close, but they kept in touch over the years.
Out of the blue, Uncas called Hooter to announce he had a world-changing bull he was getting ready to promote, and he needed help.
The Eyes Have it
“Have you ever in all your natural born days seen anything like him?” said Uncas with a kid's excitement and a jack-o-lantern grin.
“No sir,” said Hooter, “He's unique alright.”
The bull in question had to be off the frame score chart, Hooter guessed. Hooter himself wasn't the tallest stalk in any field, but he would have needed a stepladder to see over the top the apparition that stood before him. A giant of a bull. From the side, longer than most with a suicidal plunge between hooks and pins, but as pencil-gutted and slab-sided as Hooter had ever seen. A fairly tight navel but plenty of hump. A scrotal circumference Hooter could only guess was in the teens if you squinted hard. Brindle with a white face and socks. From behind, some impressive muscle except that it ended before the cat-like stifles, and two hind legs so cow-hocked the bull could have straddled a wide ditch while standing flat. And a head that would give Alfred Hitchcock the chills.
“I call him Sir Loin-A-Lot,” said Uncas, beaming with pride. “Go ahead, just try to pick a hole in him.”
“Well sir,” said Hooter, still gazing in astonishment, “This is just me you understand, playing devil's advocate and all.”
“Yes,” said Uncas in the clutches of excitement, “Yes, that's what I want, yes, go on, and give it your best shot, just like the old days.”
“Well, he might be a little on the tall side for some, and a little light in the manhood for others.” said Hooter.
“I defy you to find a patch of prickly pair he can't get over with his unmentionables still intact,” said Uncas with a smile.
“And for his frame, some might want him to have more heart, maybe a touch more muscle.”
“See that's just it, you make up for the thickness with the height, either way you get the same pounds,” said Uncas, “But this way his rangeability is enhanced. He can squeeze in a lot of places other cattle can't, see a lot more country than others can.”
“That's a fact. And, I suppose some might expect him to be a bit more level.”
“Lots of people would,” said Uncas staring at the committee-built bull with fatherly affection. “And lots of people are wrong. How many deer you see that are level rumped? It's all about following Mother Nature.”
“And the leg structure, well, that might concern some.”
“Calving ease,” said Uncas without further explanation. “I have records.”
Hooter eased around the front of the bull, noticing for the first time that he was cross-eyed. “What is he, anyway?”
“That's the really special part,” beamed Uncas. “I'll have you know you're looking at the very first Bingelmeyer II composite. He's an eighth Angus, an eighth Hereford, a sixteenth Simmental, a sixteenth Maine Anjou, a sixteenth Watusi, an eighth Nelore, and the other seven-sixteenths is the Bingelmeyer I composite. That's the secret. That's the information I can't tell anybody, sorry.”
“I'd wager you a case of Pearl he is in fact the only one of his kind,” said Hooter with a grin.
“Can you imagine the heterosis?” said Uncas in a hushed tone, pulling Hooter to the side. “He can make the ground shake.”
“I don't doubt that,” said Hooter, eyeballing the bull's Clydesdale-sized feet. “What exactly are you planning to do with him anyhow.”
“I'm taking him to Denver. Put him on display in the yards and sell semen.”
“And you've already collected him?” Hooter asked because as far as he knew Uncas had never seriously considered using A.I., let along a defined breeding season.
Uncas walked over to a dusty, rusty old semen jug and gave it a shake. “Right here. I have a few straws already and after he's over his little problem we should have some more.”
“Problem? What little problem?”
“Well, for some reason the count and motility after the first few straws isn't what it needs to be. Actually, it just isn't. But even if this is all there is,” he said, shaking the jug again, it's all I need. Can you imagine what they're worth.”
Between the looks of the tank and the way Uncas—slight-built and not at all muscular—kept lifting the tank with one hand, shaking it here and there like a piece of paper, Hooter thought to ask: “Uncas, where'd you get that jug anyway?”
“Daddy won it at some meeting a long time ago. We still had it, so I figured why not send the stud's back to them. Besides, it was so cold it liked to tore up my fingers getting the straws out to out in this one.”
“Ummm…Uncas, did you get that tank of yours recharged?”
“Recharged?” said Uncas. “No, there's nothing wrong with it. I filled it with water first to check for holes, see?”
Hooter wasn't sure how to break the news to him that a bucket full of frog spit was more likely to get cows bred than the fried semen Uncas had in his tank.
“Uncas old buddy, I think it's time you and I had a visit about the joys of liquid nitrogen and whatnot” said Hooter, “But before we do, keep this is in mind: The whole world loves a barbeque.”