If Only I’d Have Known

Riding Hard



With the onset of old age come the regrets and remorse of how I should have lived my younger life if only I’d have known then what I know now.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that it would be the last time I gaped in wonder at the Grand Canyon, the mighty redwoods, the beauty of Lake Tahoe and the haunting Badlands. If only I’d have known it would be the last time I saw a show in Vegas, listened to the poets in Elko, rafted the Rogue or flew into Seattle and Sydney, Australia, on a sunlit day. I wish someone would have warned me that I’d never again experience enchanting New Mexico, the Alamo in San Antonio, the Lincoln Memorial, the village of Williamsburg and the music on Bourbon street. If I only knew I’d have lingered a little longer.

I would have said goodbye a little differently if I’d known it would be the last time to tell my mom I loved her, to give my horse Gentleman one last carrot and my dog Aussie a big old bone. I would have been with my Grandpa the day that he died instead of regretting it the rest of my life. I wish I would have asked Grandpa to teach me how to troll for fish and how to barbecue a steak. I should’ve paid more attention when Grandma tried to teach me how to play the piano. Who knew that I’d one day become a leatherworker and would have benefitted greatly by letting my mom teach me how to put in a zipper, construct a gusset and the proper maintenance of a sewing machine, after all, she kept us all fed by working 14 hours a day as a seamstress?

I wish I’d have made a list of all the books I ever read so that I’d never read the same book again. Life is too short to read the same book twice.

If only I’d have taken advantage of the opportunities given to me to learn how to operate a backhoe, truck crane, milling machine and lathe. Why didn’t I learn to speak Spanish better than I did after studying it for five years in school? I wish I’d have read more novels, fewer People magazines and definitely more directions. (Hey, what can I say, I’m a man.)

You may laugh but I wish I’d of raised a goat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I raised sheep and cattle for a living, but I’ve always been curious about goats. It seems they have several advantages: you don’t have to sheer them, they aren’t the picky eaters that horses are and the kids are so darn cute.

Speaking of kids, had I known we couldn’t have any I’d have held more babies, been a 4H leader longer and read to more toddlers. I wish I’d have known how valuable our first cars would one day become then we might have hid them away for decades. And why didn’t I collect land instead of old and rusty horse bits?

Why didn’t someone tell me to always wear a leather jacket when arc welding, to never wear flip flops in the shop and the right way to sharpen a knife? I should have paid more attention in my one computer class in college. If only I’d have properly appreciated the eight hours of undisturbed sleep I used to get instead of having to get up at least twice during the night. If only I’d have known to always floss my teeth, eat fewer sweets, run more marathons and walk every day. I should have taken more adult education courses, paid more attention to pool sharks, learned all about diesels from Uncle Buddy, kept on tooling leather after a couple sessions in Cub Scouts and gone to auctioneering school. If only I’d have known I’d one day become a writer I’d have taken a typing class in high school instead of trigonometry. I’ve regretted not knowing enough about electricity. If I knew I’d one day become a cowboy I’d have fallen in love with horses a lot sooner.

If only I’d have known… I would have fished more, worried less, done more doodling and less dawdling.

Why didn’t anyone tell me these things?

Maybe they did and I just wasn’t listening.
Top Dog

If a Martian were to land on earth and say, “Take me to your leader,” there’s no doubt in my mind it would be taken to a Chihuahua, Border Collie or a Bichon Frise. That’s because in our society dogs definitely rule.

Who else gets to eat for free and never has to do the dishes, always has doors opened for it and gets its hair trimmed like they were a topiary? Who else gets carried around in purses and pushed in prams? Urban dogs never have to cook, clean house, vacuum the carpet, or mow the lawn. They sleep, eat and play all day while the human must work in order to buy expensive dog food. The only exception are working dogs on a ranch where its obvious who does all the work and makes all the important decisions. The dog does, of course.

Basically a dog’s play time consists of having a dumb human throw a tennis ball for it to retrieve over and over again. If the human refuses to pick up the slobbery ball the dog whimpers and whines like a child until its demands are met. When it’s not fetching tennis balls or napping in its own bed the dog and the human go for a constitutional so the dog can poop in someone else’s yard. And when its done the dog turns to its private lackey human and says, “Hey, pick that up.”

And the stupid human does!

If you still doubt who is top dog consider flying on a commercial airliner these days. It is a law that for a dog to fly it must have enough room to stand up, turn all the way around and roll over. If you’re a people passenger there are no such rules and if you must squeeze in a middle seat there isn’t even anywhere to put your arms, let alone roll over.

Or consider traveling in a vehicle. The dog never has to drive and is chauffeured everywhere it has to go, like doggy day care, the dog beach, swimming at the pool or its weekly massage. If the dog gets road rage at all the moron drivers it merely puts it head out the window while sitting on the driver’s lap and barks out its displeasure.

It’s obvious that we work for them. We’re constantly freshening up their drinking water every time we flush the toilet. We buy them clothes, take them fishing and hunting, and let them sit in your recliner to watch their favorite TV shows. And they never have to get up to fetch the snacks! They decide what time we get up in the middle of the night and you can never sleep in because the dog needs to be let outside. And if you refuse they snarl, growl or howl and pee on the carpet to remind everyone who is boss.

Maybe it has always been this way but I think it’s become more apparent these days as we’re now taking our dogs into grocery stores and restaurants. It used to be that people would see a baby in such places and fawn over them but nowadays when they look into a baby stroller and get all googley-eyed and talk baby talk, more often than not there’s a beagle or poodle pup in the pram.

Dogs never get married, divorced, drafted, investigated by the IRS or given a ticket for chasing cars. Their relatives never drop by and then stay for a week. They’re never embarrassed by things their parents do because they don’t know who their parents are.

Unlike the millions of homeless people in America today dogs always can sleep with a roof over their heads, protected from the elements. And there’s always food to keep them well fed and healthy. And when they’re diagnosed with a deadly disease they aren’t kept alive by doctors and drugs to suffer a painful death but instead we “put them to sleep” to save them from all the pain that humans must endure.

If you still wonder who is presently top dog in this country I refer you to a popular television series called America’s Got Talent where talented singers, dancers, magicians, and other entertainers compete for a million bucks. And who, you may wonder, won the most recent contest?

A dog, of course.


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