by: Wes Ishmael

Hooter learned a long time ago never to say never. When you owned a patch of grass and an entrepreneurial heart never always seemed to roll around sooner than someday.

In this case, he knew nothing about Yaks, couldn't remember seeing pictures of them, never dreamed of having anything to do with them, yet here were 37 head grazing in his North pasture. Specifically, they were F1 hybrid yaks.

“Breed a fullblood Yak cow to a beef bull and all the heifers will be fertile, but the bulls will be more sterile than a surgeon's ice box,” Herm McPike had told him. Herm was an old friend, known to experiment with different genetic concoctions, but never known to do anything more than once unless it paid.

“You know how they increase corn production,” Herm said, “how increasing yield isn't because of kernel size, ear length or number, but it's because of how many more plants they can stick in an acre? Well, I'm wondering how it works with cattle.”

To that end, Herm had flushed some fullblood Yak cows to a Lowline Angus bull. Besides mature size, gain and all of the rest, he wanted to see how well Yak-influenced cattle would hold up as far south as Texas.

All Hooter knew was that the calves looked like smaller, fuzzier versions of Holstein calves, what with their long black and white hair. That, and they were puppy dog gentle.

“Wouldn't it be ironic if these little fuzz-balls let us maximize production per acre?” Herm chortled when Hooter had phoned to let him know the cattle had arrived. “I'm not banking on it, but it would be.”

Irony is in the Eye of the Beholder

Hooter was thinking about that as he herded his pickup to a stop in front of Lonnie's feed store. It was rainy and downright blustery for this time of year. On such infrequent occasions as this he and the boys would gather for a game of 42.

“How's your new pets?” asked Lonnie without looking up. As he shuffled the dominos he added, “Ain't lost them out there in that tall grass, yet, have you?”

Hooter ignored the comment, for the time being, understanding that Lonnie and anything different got along slight less compatibly than Carrie Nation and a jug of gin.

“In all seriousness, how are they settling in,” wondered Peetie, genuinely interested in the project.

“Two weeks and no pulls,” Hooter said. “Appetite seems good, but I swear you can't tell where they've been in that pasture. I'll weigh them the end of next week to see how they're coming.”

Charlie pushed back his chair. “I was thinking about that comment you said Herm made about how ironic it would be if it turned out those little cattle could maximize efficiency…”

“The right kind of cattle,” interjected Hooter. “Just because they're smaller isn't what will make them more efficient.”

“I know, I know.”

“But I was thinking about what he said, too,” Hooter added. “But I was thinking about it in terms of the ironies of life and history in general.”

“Like what?” wondered Charlie.

“Like how it is that churches keep their doors locked,” growled Peetie. “Never have understood that, never will. Everybody's welcome, just so long as you show up at the right time.”

“Or how the war to end all wars wasn't,” said Charlie.

“Yep. Exactly that kind of stuff,” Hooter said.

Lonnie glared across the table at Peetie who was his 42 partner and at Charlie who wasn't. “Seeing's how you all are determined to chatter rather than play, I'm going to get a coke, anyone want one?”

“You were saying, cousin?” Charlie nodded to Hooter.

“Well, like isn't it ironic how that lady who heads up the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Virginia says she didn't know her dog was in the car, being the reason she left him in there during the heat of day and killed him. I mean any of you boys ever not know when a dog's with you?”

Everybody shook their head.

“On the other hand, unfortunately, some of us have had the experience of running over one. I feel for the lady. But I understand what you mean by it being ironic,” Peetie replied.

“Or like how the White House keeps clamoring about the People's Garden being organic and that being a sustainable form of agriculture,” said Hooter.

“Or like how it is that folks who want to be better off vote for socialism and against capitalism,” said Charlie. “Now, that's ironic.”

“No,” said Lonnie, chawing his Mail Pouch harder, “That's what you call moronic.”

Sitting Ducks and Whatnot

The bell to Lonnie's store jangled.

“Anybody home?” called a friendly voice.

Hooter called out, “We're in back, Skip.” Then with a wink to the boys, he whispered, “I asked him to stop by.”

Skip Newton was a representative for one of the animal health companies. Everybody always kidded him about being a Sunday cattleman or being akin to a used car dealer. It was just kidding, though. Skip new his stuff and they respected him for it.

“What's up?” announced Skip with a gleaming smile as he made the rounds shaking hands.

“Just discussing the mysteries and ironies of life,” said Hooter.

Charlie gave Skip a review of what they'd been discussing, except for the cattle experiment that had started the conversation.

“Or, like, for instance,” said Hooter, looking up at Skip, “wouldn't it be ironic if that newfangled vaccine you had me try ended up making healthy calves sick rather than healing up sick ones.”

Skip's face lost its color.

“I'm not saying they're sick,” Hooter explained with a serious tone. “But I asked you to drop by because ever since using it, there's just something strange about them. Wouldn't you say, so, Peetie?”

“Yes sir, I would. Can't say as I've ever seen anything quite like it.”

Skip looked like someone had kicked him in the gut. Given Peetie's years in the business, if it was something he hadn't seen before, it had to be serious. “Let's go have a look at them,” he said.

“I'll be along shortly,” said Hooter. “They're there in that north pasture.”


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