by: Wes Ishmael

It was a month last Tuesday when Hooter sold his smartphone to Cousin Charlie for $29.76, no more and no less—trading his dependence on communication technology for what he hoped would be a simpler, less vexing daily existence.

In fact, he felt freer than the busted elastic on a size 4 sock shoved on to a size 12 foot. No emails in need of perusing or answering. No voice mails in need of reply. When he unplugged the phone after supper, no calls either.

Most of all, he figured he'd eliminated any easy path for would-be hackers to jangle his debit card, making the bank freeze them again—that was the final proverbial straw that launched his current odyssey. Not that the debit card mattered now. Hooter ran it through a hammer mill, opting for cold hard cash and good old-fashioned checks.

“The kind of currency they have to look you in the eye over,” Hooter had proclaimed to the gang at the feed store.

There were a few ruffled feathers during the transition, of course. Some of the folks outside of his innermost circle, unaware of his electronic tee-totaling, got worried when they couldn't reach him for an extended period. There were a couple of frantic telegrams and one visit from the county sheriff.

"Some feller up in South Dakota named Sammy Beaverteeth thought maybe you'd given up the ghost," explained Sheriff Tucker over a glass of iced tea. "Couldn't rightly say whether that notion made him happy or sad."

"That would be the Chief," Hooter explained. "He was probably just worried that he'd lost his source. He's crazy for mesquite wood, says there's nothing like it for roasting pheasants or marshmallows."

Hooter had some of his own fur rubbed backwards along the way, too. He'd forgotten how hard it could be to write a check, especially when you were on the road. For that matter, it seemed like cash was a foreign concept at some places.

The goo that binds

Then, there was the mustache wax. Hooter wasn't the vain sort, but he believed in keeping his facial hair under control, at least by his standards. In other words, he didn't use just any mustache wax. As his hirsute brethren will attest, you find what works and stick with it. Unfortunately what works often outlasts the companies that make the stuff. Hooter had been ordering from the same outfit for years now, made by a fulltime fireman and part time farrier in Mississippi. He'd feel plumb naked without it and unkempt besides.

Problem was that Hooter forgot to order a supply before going old-school on his communication. He could never catch the supplier on the phone. And, his electronic abstinence was such that he refused to leave a voice mail. So, he sent off an order and check via snail mail. With his wax supply down to a few scrapings left in the can, Hooter got to thinking he might could plug the gap by making a suitable substitute.

"Who knows," he told Cousin Charlie. "If it works, maybe it'll be an extra sideline; necessity being the mother and whatnot.”

How hard could it be after all?

Delmar Jacobs had beehives. In fact Hooter had a couple of bricks of beeswax from him that he used to lubricate the thronging chisels for his leather projects. Surely, it was just a matter of figuring out what to mix it with and in what proportions.

With the closest libraries at least an hour away, and having exiled himself from the Internet, this would be experimentation and discovery at the highest levels. Besides, he had Aunt Pinky, who was a kitchen chemist of the most elite order. She'd finally started talking to him again after he promised to give her a phone call in the evenings since she couldn't reach him.

"What happens if I need you?" she'd grumped. "I'm not a spring chicken anymore, in case you'd bothered to notice."

Hooter had noticed. She was his first and last consideration when he decided to jettison the technology, which included his mobile phone. He finally reasoned that, if anything, Aunt Pinky would construe his being less accessible as a vote of confidence in her own continued independence.

"Any idea what goes into mustache wax?" he asked on his way home.

"A lack of pride,” she scolded.

By now, he figured she'd come to accept the hairier faces of the world. He should have known better.

After making her point, Aunt Pinky explained, "Back in the day, it seems like some of us girls made a pomade of sorts using glycerin, a little corn starch and beeswax, melted and blended together, a little dye for color and scent if you wanted it. Then, you pour it into a mold and let it set up. That's as close as I can get you.”

It sure seemed reasonable enough, except for the glycerin. He didn't have any. Hooter had lard, though. He heated the concoction over the camping stove he kept in the shop, just in case. Seemed like a mineral something or other was along those lines, too. He figured a dab of mineral oil couldn't hurt. Still unsure, he added a dash of mineral spirits, too.

When it was blended and gooey enough, Hooter poured the mixture into the bottom third of an empty beef can he'd sliced in two. Then he left it until the next night.

Malleable potential

Hooter was unsure what to expect when he checked on his experiment the next evening, though he'd already christened it “Hooter's Old Original 6%.”

Peering over the ragged edges of the torn can, Hooter was impressed with the smooth-looking, cream-colored substance. He plowed a fingernail across the surface, rolled a crumb of wax between thumb and forefinger. The consistency felt right. He dabbed a little on the end of his mustache, rubbed it together and then curled it up to check the hold and consistency. He liked it even better than the wax he already liked and was waiting to receive in the mail.

So, it was with a song in his heart and visions of a booming new business that Hooter showered and then applied a light but even coat of the wax. He even liked the scent of it, which he attributed to the lilac bushes Delmar had out by his hives.     

Hooter woke up the next morning and brushed his teeth. He felt good. Judging by the reflection staring back in the mirror, his mustache looked good, too. He filled his tea jug and hit the road. As the day wore on, pride grew in his handiwork; even the stiff northerly breeze couldn't budge a whisker while he was fixing fence.     

As soon as set foot inside the feed store, though, he knew something was amiss.

Everyone pointed and laughed.

"Halloween ain't for a while yet," woofed Izzy.

Instinctively, Hooter felt for his lip. It seemed a tad patchy.

Cousin Charlie was kinder. "I take it you mixed your batch of wax?"

"Yep. Why?"

Charlie pointed to the glass-front, vaccine cooler.

Best as Hooter could tell by the wavy reflection, there were bare spots where whiskers should be; the whiskers that remained looked to be a garish shade of orange or pink.

"Looks like a herd of circus worms rummaged through there," Lonnie allowed. He picked up a pair of thinning scissors from the bargain bin. "If you wouldn't get all-fire extreme over things and you still had your Internet and debit cards, this could have been avoided."

Hooter was still gazing at his reflection. "The price of challenging mediocrity,” he muttered. “You know, not everybody believed in Disney Land before Walt built it.”

"That ain't Disney Land," said Lonnie, pointing the shears at Hooter's bedraggled mess.

Cousin Charlie looked at Hooter, at the shears and back. "Any ideas?"

"Not unless somebody knows who Trump's barber is.”

Don't forget to BOOKMARK  
Cattle Today Online!