Back in the 1800’s when cattle wearing different brands shared the same range it was quite common for ranchers to eat the beef of another rancher. After all, for every beef of your neighbors you ate that was one of yours that you could sell for $12.50.
One of the more amusing stories I’ve heard from this era occurred when Burk Burnett, legendary founder of the Four Sixes in Texas, invited Don Waggoner over to his ranch for dinner. Waggoner was also a famous rancher as well as a wonderful horse breeder. As an enticement for coming over to his house for dinner Burnett promised Waggoner that he would serve him something he had never eaten before. Waggoner showed up for dinner and was served a delicious meal but after the last course was served Waggoner remarked to Burnett, “You have not furnished anything I have never tasted before.”
“Oh, but I have,” responded Burnett, picking up a platter. “Taste a piece of your own beef.”
Even though we don’t have such problems in this day and age with cattlemen eating other rancher’s beef we still have a similar problem. Only now it is called “.picking up the check”.
My road agent buddies and I routinely traveled with a fellow who would have got on famously with Waggoner because he was always eating steak that somebody else paid for.
This “friend” knew all the tricks, including being a master at grabbing for the check but never quite having the strength to wrestle it away from one of us. Another of his famous tricks included waiting until just before the server brought the check and then excusing himself to use the restroom. I swear he could travel for a week with a new set of clothes and a dollar bill in his pocket and never change either one.
The trick that made us mad enough to retaliate was when he invited us all to the most expensive restaurant in Wyoming. To our astonishment he actually asked the waiter for the check and when it came he placed his American Express card on the tray. “But sir…we do not take credit cards,” said the waiter. And surprisingly our friend was not carrying any cash! We all had to pay for the dinner he had invited us to!
So we decided to get even. We found a very expensive restaurant that we knew took his brand of credit card and invited our tightwad friend to dinner. Naturally, he accepted. When we got there he assumed his normal role of insisting on ordering appetizers for the rest of us including calf fries and caviar. As was prearranged we all ordered the most expensive meal on the menu: filet mignon at $22 per portion. The salad and potato were extra of course. Naturally our friend led us in ordering four rounds of drinks apiece at $4.50 each. It was a nine napkin dinner and we could barely squeeze in the chocolate suicide cake at five bucks a slice. We were all suffering from over-eating disease when at the proper signal Tom announced that he had to go to the cashier’s stand for some antacid. Next, Butch got up to go to the bathroom and when he did not return for twenty minutes K.C. had to go look for him. I had forgotten to call my wife and once in the lobby of the restaurant I asked the waiter to tell Willard he’d left the lights on in his car.
This left our moocher friend sitting at the table all by his lonesome when the waiter brought the sizable check. Meanwhile, we had all met outside at the car, laughing and congratulating ourselves.
Stiffing a guy for a check is one thing but leaving him stranded is another, so we waited until he came out to give him a ride back to the motel. We stayed until quitting time but he never did come out.
We never found out if he paid the check, washed dishes or escaped out the back door but when we called him the next morning to join us for breakfast he impolitely declined our generous offer for some reason.