Laugh Tracks in the Dust

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My good rancher neighbor, ol’ Slim Mann, recently told me a couple of stories about his long-departed pappy that conjured up in my mind vivid and funny Mental Home Videos.

I figger you’ll enjoy seeing these two events happening in your mind, too, so I’m a’gonna share ‘em with you.

Slim’s daddy, whom I never had the privilege of knowing, was a tough-as-they-come cowboy with only one chink in his tough veneer and that wuz a deathly fear of snakes — all snakes. To him, the only snake he didn’t fear wuz one he couldn’t see. If he saw a snake, only when it wuz dead wuz it a good snake.

So, picture this. Slim went out to the family’s machine/seed shed one morning and spied a plump prairie rattler holed up in the shed. So, Slim fetched a garden hoe and promptly dispatched it.

However, he saw a chance for a little family fun and, never one to pass up such an opportunity, took advantage of it. He gathered up the dead rattler and coiled it up in a lifelike manner in plain sight near the path he knew his ol’ Pappy would soon be walking. He also leaned the hoe conveniently against the side of the building. Then he waited.

In a few minutes the old man came traipsing down to the machine shed and, sure enuf, he spied that rattler and, after he’d about jumped out of his skin, ol’ Pappy grabbed the hoe and very thoroughly killed that snake for the second time.

It wuz only when he saw Slim doubled up in laughter that he realized he’d been “got.”

Now the second of Slim’s pappy stories happened years earlier when the family had only an outhouse for life’s necessities.

One morning, Slim’s daddy made his way to the outhouse for the morning necessity. It wuz quiet for only a few moments when the outhouse door burst open and Slim’s daddy came out yelling and stumbling over his pants at his knees — being hotly pursued by a very large, and apparently angry, blacksnake.

Pappy lived for many more happy years. The blacksnake died a violent death. And Slim had a funny Mental Home Video to carry around in his mind forever.

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My good Iowa sheep shearing buddy, ol’  Nick deHyde, relates a story about animal behavior that might warrant a chuckle.

Let me set the background. Nick’s raised a small flock of whitefaced sheep for decades. He also raises, trains and loves Border Collies. He also lives within easy driving distance of Iowa State University and has a good relationship with the animal science department.

So, when a female animal science teacher called Nick and requested that he bring one of his Border Collies to be the main attraction at an animal behavior class in the sparkling Hampton Livestock Pavilion on the ISU campus, he readily agreed.

On the day of the class, Nick loaded up Zig and headed out to make their mark in higher education. Now, I’ll mention that Zip is a mature, no nonsense, lets-get-this-job-done-and-move-on-to-the-next kind of Border Collie.

When our intrepid pair arrived at the pavilion, they were greeted by the teacher, a large class of students and a small flock of mature Suffolk ewes.

Nick started the class by signaling Zig to gather and pen the flock, then move the ewes around the arena on command. All the while, Nick wuz explaining what wuz happening from the ewes’ viewpoint and from Zig’s viewpoint.

After about an hour of work, the action died down and Nick could see Zig wuz getting bored just holding the ewes in place. He sensed he was sitting on a powder keg if the action didn’t pick up quickly.

Well, sadly, but funnily, the action started all by itself when one obstinate ewe decided she’d make a break out of the flock to fend for herself. Bad decision!

Without a command, Zip closed on the recalcitrant ewe like a fanged lightning bolt and proceeded to carve her up from stem to stern. In the moments it took her to see the error of her ways and return to the safety of the flock. her nose wuz bleeding and she had a bloody 3-cornered skin tear.

That’s when things got interesting. A veterinarian was called in to close the wounds. Nick washed the blood out of the ewe’s fleece. And then the awkward moment came when Nick needed to say something educational to the wide-eyed students.

Nick sez, “Well, kids. I apologize for Zig’s behavior. He shouldn’t have done what he did. But, this is a class on animal behavior and what you just saw was a sheep who behaved independently of the flock and the instinctive reaction of a bored-to-death Border Collie who decided to teach her a lesson.”

I’d say ol’ Nick did some fast thinking and some fast talking on his feet to get he and Zig extricated from a bad situation.

He told me that he suspected that he and Zig’s “guest teaching” days were over at ISU. But, within a few days, the teacher  called and invited him back next year for an encore performance. Nick don’t know if Zig was included in the invite.

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Last week ol’ Nevah and I went to hear Mark Chesnutt in concert in Emporia. It wuz an enjoyable night out with friends, but, I confess, in my old age, with hearing aids, the concert would have been twice the fun at half the volume.

That’s all the wisdom I can import for one week. Have a good ‘un.

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