“The good old days weren’t all that great,” recalled the crusty old cowboy. “I remember working twelve hours a day, seven days a week for room and board and ten dollars a month. And it sure was tough supporting eleven kids and a wife on that kind of income.”
“Why did you have so many kids?” I asked in amazement.
“It’s a long story but basically its because of a shotgun.”
“You mean you had to get married?” I asked.
“No, no. Nothing like that. I married late in life and when I did finally tie the knot I married a much younger woman. She was very beautiful and about 30 years younger than me. She was a city gal and really didn’t adjust to ranch life all that well because I was always working from sun up to sun down while she stayed back at the house all day. When I came in at night I was too tuckered out to have normal relations, if you know what I mean. This didn’t sit to good with her, she being so young and vibrant. Besides she wanted to have a whole house full of kids running around. Well, that was all right with me but I just didn’t know when we’d find the time to make ’em. So she came up with a novel solution.”
“And what was that?”
“She said that around lunch time she would ride out to wherever I was working on the ranch and bring a picnic basket and some homemade wine and we’d eat a nice meal and then have a little romance.” The old man blushed as he remembered those wonderful afternoons.
“But I still don’t understand about the shotgun?”
“In those days of course we didn’t have walkie talkies or two way radios. So every time I felt in the mood I would just grab the gun I carried in a scabbard on my horse, raise it into the air and fire it. About thirty minutes later she’d find me and we’d have a picnic,” he said with a wink.
“Sounds like a great arrangement!”
“Yeah. It worked out real well until quail hunting season came along. Then it got a little confusing.”
“That’s a great story,” I said.
“Well, that ain’t the end of it. After we had ten kids running around the house I thought that was about enough. I was having a real hard time making enough money to support them all. Besides, I was feeling a little bad about getting my wife pregnant so often. I casually made the comment one day that if she had one more kid I was going to shoot myself with my shotgun. Of course I was just joking. I would never do that and leave her behind with a ranch and ten kids to support.”
The old rancher continued, “As the springtime approached I was feeling a little affectionate and decided I better get out the old shotgun and clean it to get ready for the season, if you know what I mean. At that point I did not know that my wife was in the family way for the eleventh time. Anyway, I was cleaning my gun, holding the stock between my knees and looking down the barrel to see if I got it clean when my wife walked into the room. She sees me with my eye looking down the barrel of that old shotgun and I guess she thought I was going to shoot myself because she was pregnant again. She ran over to me screaming, jerked the gun away and said, “Don’t do it! Don’t do it! You’d be shooting an innocent man.”