Cattle Today

Cattle Today

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by: Wes Ishmael

Trenching a West Texas yard by hand can be akin to sharpening a chisel with a toothbrush: progress is possible but it's often invisible.

Hooter was thinking that as he surveyed the 12 feet or so of Aunt Pinky's back yard that he had creased to a depth of eight inches, then re-filled over the course of about six hours and a three-day odyssey that was strange even by Hooter's standards.

That's what he was thinking, along with, “Me and my big ideas.”

Miscommunication, Miscues and a Larcenous Heart

It all started with Hooter trying to help Bugsy recreate Benjamin Franklin's famous kite flying electrified key experiment for a science project. Bugsy's Mom, Claire—Hooter's girlfriend and fiancée in waiting for better than a year—happened into Hooter's shop just as he'd asked Bugsy and her pal to fetch an old tractor battery and some electric wire so they could experiment. Fearing for the girls' safety Claire was madder than a toothless raccoon set loose in a new bin of corn.

This had led to hurt feelings all around and Hooter successfully completing the experiment to prove a point, albeit burning up his brand new pickup along the way (see last month's Ben and Me).

Incidentally, Hooter was not shocked to hear that the warranty on his new ride didn't cover lightning-induced vaporization, at least not when the owner was using said vehicle as a lightening rod. Thank goodness for insurance.

In turn, this fiasco had led Aunt Pinky to siding up with Claire and demanding that Hooter apologize and make amends if he planned to remain a member of the family. Though the tally for and against permanent banishment was tight, Hooter did apologize, grudgingly. But that wasn't enough.

To make her point more stinging, Aunt Pinky demanded that Hooter refurbish the pasture fence next to her house if he intended to keep using the pasture. “It will give you time to contemplate how a grown man should act,” she'd said.

Since grass was tougher to come by than a politician with a conscience, Hooter had bit his tongue and agreed. However, he did so with the stipulation that he could extend the fence line to include Aunt Pinky's long dormant herb garden.

The deal was sealed and Hooter waited until Aunt Pinky's annual slot machine pilgrimage to Shreveport so he could avoid the commentary and tutelage he knew he'd receive otherwise.

The Domino Effect

Hooter had arrived that first day with some new corner posts, bootlegged creosote, lots of hope and the notion to exact a little familiar revenge. If he extended the fence line a few feet further than they'd agreed he reckoned he'd have a touch more grass ultimately, plus the digging on the edge of her yard should be easier.

It wasn't. Besides which, Hooter didn't know that when Aunt Pinky had a sprinkler system installed in her front yard a decade ago, she'd also had them lay pipe in the back yard, too, just in case she ever wanted to irrigate the aforementioned herbs.

At least Hooter hadn't known this until his tamping bar punctured the sprinkler pipe and created a mini geyser.

The only PVC pipe Hooter knew of for miles around resided at the back of Aunt Pinky's hay barn—the remnants of the original installation process. He knew this because he groused every year about having to avoid stacking hay on top of it. This meant he had to unstack and restack about three tons of horse hay to get to it, which he did.

Then, he'd had to spend about two hours on the phone tracking down the glop he needed to cement the stuff together.

All of that done is when Hooter had discovered that he hadn't just punctured the pipe in the section he'd hack-sawed and replaced, but he'd created a hairline crack farther back. Thus, the 12-foot trench.

Not one to be denied, rather than move the original hole that had created the problems, Hooter reckoned the surest way to avoid repeating the disaster in the future was to drop in a little dirt and set the post on top of the pipe, though shallower than he would like. In order to have a solid-walled hole to set the post in he'd opted to fill in the trench first, which he'd just completed when his cell phone started chirping.

“Hooter, what are you doing lollygagging around? I hope you've got that fence fixed.”

“Just about, Aunt Pinky.”

“That's just what I figured, give you one thing to do and you take a week to do it.”

Reflecting on the time wasted for one little section of fence, Hooter wanted to tell her in no uncertain terms that all of the grass in Rio Rojo County wasn't worth the frustrating journey he was finally within sight of completing. He couldn't though, not without revealing the cause for his troubles. So, he simply replied, “The digging's a little tougher than I figured.”

“Why, Hooter McCormick, a few rocks shouldn't be any trick for someone capable of coaxing lightening to his brand new pickup.”


“Now listen, Hooter, that fence needs to be done by tonight. I found a few cows yesterday and the truck should be there by this evening.”

“Cows? Aunt Pinky. I was fixing this fence so I could use the pasture.”

“And you can. For Heaven's sake, it's just four measly head.”

Hooter could tell by the growing excitement in her voice, though, there was more to the story.

“I finally found some buckers,” said Aunt Pinky like a girl getting invited to her first prom, and by the boy she had in mind.

“Oh, Lord.”

Aunt Pinky was a closet PBR addict. It wasn't the bull riders or the bull rides, it was the bulls themselves that wound the spring on Hooter's blue-haired aunt. For reasons Hooter couldn't comprehend, in her golden years, Aunt Pinky harbored dreams of raising a bull that would make Bodacious look like a bucket calf.

Hooter was contemplating that as Aunt Pinky described how she'd come by these championship bloodline cows, still solid-mouthed, she added, while absent mindedly nodding a greeting to Izzie Franklin who had dropped by.

“Oh, there's a bull, too, Hooter, not for breeding, but to get our feet wet.”

“Our feet wet? Aunt Pinky, where do you propose we stick him?”

“I know you'll figure something out. I'll be back tomorrow night, can't wait to see them. Bye-bye.”

Hooter was trying to absorb all of that and trying to figure where he'd keep what he could only suppose was some broken down rodeo bull reject. That's why he only heard Izzie out of the corner of one ear.

“I swear, Hooter, you must be getting old. You call this a post hole? It's not deep enough to bury a gopher much less a corner post.”

Hooter turned just in time to see Izzie drive the tamping bar deep, and watch as the fountain started all over again.


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