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Lee Pitts: The Power Of Negative Thinking

“Knock, knock,” said the speaker. “No, this is not a knock knock joke like the kind you used to tell as a kid,” said the lecturer. (I was in the audience of a self-help training seminar for a group of agriculturalists who had come to hear a famous motivational speaker.)

“When I said knock knock what did you hear?” asked the speaker. “Some of you heard opportunity knocking. You are optimists, you are optimistic about your life and your business. We refer to you as “Bulls.” Now there are others in the audience, you know who you are, who heard that sound of opportunity knocking and just complained about the noise. These people we call pessimists. In business we refer to you as “Bears.”

‘Which are you,” the speaker asked. “ Are you a bull or are you a bear?”

“Have you ever wondered why we refer to an optimist as a bull and a pessimist as a bear?” (I was paying $250 to learn something and the speaker was asking me all the questions!) “Financial bears actually take on the characteristics of their namesake. Financial bears generally have shaggy hair, hairy bodies and wide heads. They live in the dark and have teeth suitable for grinding. Financial bears are also an endangered species, the last ones being spotted during the Carter administration. They sleep half the year, have bad dispositions and can be very dangerous when injured. Financial bears never make as much money as bulls.”

“Bulls on the other hand, are noble animals,” said the speaker (obviously a bull). “Bulls have been around since the Stone Age and have always been known as work animals. They can adapt to changing environments, are easily domesticated and haven’t read a newspaper for the last three years. They generally don’t worry about what happens as long as it happens to someone else. Nearly all rich people are financial bulls,” said the speaker. “Now that you know all this which would you rather be, a bull or a bear?”

Having posed the question the speaker went around the room and asked each one of us what animal we were. There were several sub-species of bulls in the crowd. The optimistic bulls included cattle feeders, millionaires who got into the purebred business, real estate brokers, 84 year old codgers who still flirted with women, stocker operators, single men who were contemplating marriage and other optimists. We bears tended to migrate towards the back of the room. Our group included cow-calf operators, cowboys, bankers and other married men.

Naturally, the speaker zeroed in on our sad, little group figuring we needed the most help. He asked each one of us to stand up in front of the group and tell how we had become so bearish. It was kind of how I envision Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. A cow-calf operator stood up and said, “I’d sure like to be a bull but I worry about being too optimistic.”

Next a cowboy got up, shuffled his feet and told the group. “I feel bad when I feel good because I’m afraid that I’ll feel worse when I feel better.” We all nodded in agreement, knowing the feeling quite well.

Finally the banker got up and told his sad story. “I used to be bullish, in fact I was a raging bull. But then I became a banker in a small agricultural community. The truth is I changed from a bull to a bear.”

“Was it kind of like a sex change operation?” asked the cowboy as everyone laughed.

“No, nothing as drastic as that,” replied the banker. “I simply became a bear by financing too many bulls.”

Clever Cows And Brainy Bovines

I admit I’ve never run cattle where it snows. If that makes me any less of a man in your eyes then so be it. But I have compensated for my deficiencies in extremely cold weather by ranching in places where it NEVER rained. Still, I was fascinated by a study I read about cows eating snow. Or do they drink it?

It seems Don Adams of the Range Research Station in Miles City, Montana, identified all the cows in his study with electronic identification so that their coming and going from the water trough could be recorded. Don found that 65% of the cows came to water daily, some came every second or third day, while some never drank out of the water trough at all during the four month study. Don assumed that some cows were eating snow thereby saving themselves the long daily trek to the trough. Clearly these were intellectually remarkable cows.

My friend Skinner once told me about a set of Nevada calves that were consigned to his auction in Famoso, California, home to some of the most clever and cunning cows in America. Skinner took pride in the fill he could get on cattle but this set of calves refused to drink. He had the yard crew splashing in the water trough and the dumb calves still didn’t get it. So Skinner got a backhoe and made an artificial river through the pen just so the calves wouldn’t die from dehydration before he could collect a commission. Yes, those were some stupid cattle. As the old cowboy vet Ben Green would say, “They didn’t have as much sense as a weak minded west Texas jackrabbit.”

It did not surprise me that the calves came from Nevada because it’s the home of the dumbest cows I’ve ever met in an alley. I don’t know why this is so because Nevada is home to some of the smartest people I know. Perhaps their cows merely lack socialization skills from living out in the boonies so far away from civilization.

While Nevada is home to the dumbest cows, the highest IQ cows call Arizona home. There are cows and steers there that have evaded capture for 20 years. I’ve been on an Arizona gather where we pushed cattle down off steep slopes all day only to find at the end of the day, when our dogs were lost and our horses exhausted, that all the cows we thought we kicked off the mountains into the valleys, were laughing at us from the mountain tops. Yes mam, those were some brainy bovines!

Now that I’ve made the cows of Nevada mad, let’s see if I can’t get under the skin of some breed associations. In my opinion, I’ve found Brahmans are the smartest breed. I owned five Brahman bulls once and they were smarter than I was, which I admit, isn’t saying much. I know it’s a small sample size but if all Brahmans are as smart as those five, the breed goes to the head of the class. I swear, they knew what I was going to do before I did. They were gentle too.

As for the dumbest breed I’d go with Holsteins. In my experience they are dumber than sheep and have mush for brains. Most of my fence posts had more brains than a set of half Holstein chucklehead cows I made the mistake of buying once who didn’t even recognize their own offspring after they gave birth to it. I swear, they got an incredulous look on their face when they first saw their calf and then ran from it with their bag swinging to and fro. If it weren’t for the fact that they are unexcelled in producing two of the most glorious feedstuffs on earth, milk and veal, I’d say the only other things they’re good for is making cow pies, chewing their collective cud, and fantasizing about getting bred by a real bull at least once in their pathetic lives. Still, I feel for them for as John Wayne once said, “ife’s tough- it’s even tougher when you’re stupid.”

• Note to residents of Nevada and Holstein dairymen… please send your angry letters to MENSA for Cows, Bullpucky, Rhode Island. Please be advised, it’s a very small organization and you may not hear back from them.

Lee Pitts: One Too Many

I understand a lot of folks have quit looking for work and are out of a job, an experience I’ve never had as an adult because I’ve never had a job to be unemployed from. I’ve never belonged to that class of people known as “salarymen” and haven’t had to dust off my resume in over 40 years.

I never knew what I wanted to be when I was growing up but I was sure of one thing… I didn’t want to work by the hour. I did that in the fruit orchards as a high schooler, and later in the oilfields as a college student, and I swore I’d never do that again! Right now I couldn’t tell you within two dollars what the minimum hourly wage is, which is what I’d be making if I entered the job market. One of the big reasons why I’m self-employed is that I’m the only person who would hire me. Another reason is that if I ever did get into a position where I was truly paid for what I was worth I’d starve to death. I could’t live on that little.

Besides not wanting to work by the hour, I never wanted to sell myself short to some big corporation. I don’t take orders well, I’m more stubborn than a one-eyed mule, never did play well in the sandbox, and I don’t respond well to people of authority. I’m just not the corporate type. I hate meetings and memos, and I only own one suit, which I’ve worn exactly once. I’m a lousy salesman and I’m not a team player. I wouldn’t last thirty minutes as a Walmart greeter. I’d tell those customers where to go!

Granted, there are downsides to working for yourself. I can’t ask for a raise or complain to the boss. (I suppose I could but it wouldn’t do any good.) I have no pension, golden parachute, or safety net, and without my wife’s medical insurance I’d be in debt to the doctors for over a million bucks. Talk about homeland insecurity!

I also do a lot of things I’d be fired for if I worked for a big corporation. If I get tired of writing I go work in my shop and if I need a break I don’t ask for anyone’s permission. I never wear a wrist watch and I don’t get rudely awakened by a rooster or an alarm clock. I get up when I wake up, work until ten at night and never really know what time it is. I quit when I get tired. As a writer I’ve had at least one deadline per week, and usually two, for 40 years but I get my work done so far in advance that I’m not pressured by my deadlines. That’s because for me my work is also my pleasure. And my hobby. I love what I do and as long as you do that your job is never “work”. Although we’ve only taken one major vacation in 43 years of married life I feel like I could take one at any time if I wanted to. But that’s just it: I don’t want to. I live where other people come to vacation so why would I leave?

It takes a certain kind of person to be self-employed and I’m it. I think a lot of other people are that kind of person too but they’re afraid to make the jump to being self-employed. You don’t find many college students majoring in entrepreneurship these days. Although I loved college life, and found my wonderful wife there, I think I could have been just as successful in my work if I’d used the $20,000 I spent to pay my way through college to start my own business. Even if I failed it probably would have been a better education.

In the final analysis everything has worked out just fine. I might have made more money and had a lucrative pension working for the government but I’ve never had to live in an appliance carton and I’m infinitely more happy than if I’d have worked for a slave-driver.

“Oh, what’s that honey?”

Excuse me but I gotta go now, I hear my wife calling, reminding me that having one boss is more than enough.

Lee Pitts: Bearly Camping

After sheltering in place and being cooped up with the family for 60 days I’ve got just the ticket for you. Why not load the entire family into one vehicle and go camping this summer?

I can vividly remember my first camping experience. When I was about five years old my father brought home a “doghouse” (a shack where oil well drillers and roughnecks ate and took breaks) he was given after a drilling company abandoned a site. My father brought the doghouse home on a low bed and by the time he got it off the truck using pry bars, pipes and winches it was ready to fall apart. My Mom took one look at the delapidated doghouse and put her foot down. “I will not live next door to that shack,” she proclaimed. But she sure enough did.

My brother and I were so excited about our new clubhouse that we begged our parents if we could “camp out” in it the very first night. I was dying to try out my new sleeping bag my grandparents gave me. So we unrolled our bags, turned out the flashlight and tried to go to sleep but little did my father know when he got it, that doghouse was haunted. It made all sorts of creepy noises and scary images kept flashing by its broken windows. I theorized, “I betcha some guy fell from the derrick and died and it’s his ghost that haunts our new clubhouse. That’s why it was free.”

My brother scoffed at the idea but to make a long story short, I lasted until about nine o’ clock before I “had to go inside to use the bathroom.” My brother only lasted another half hour before he followed me inside. He claimed he wasn’t scared and only came in, “To check on the health and welfare of his younger brother.”

Ha! That would have been a first!

We tried several more times but never did make it all night and slowly we lost interest in the clubhouse so my mother turned it into a dollhouse for my sister with frilly curtains and old wallpaper. We eventually ended up burning that dirty old doghouse for firewood.

Both my wife and I had been serious campers in our younger years but hadn’t been for awhile so while we were being held hostage by Covid 19 I said, “I feel the call of the wild beckoning. Why don’t we go camping? We can still maintain social distancing and the campgrounds won’t be crowded.”

Initially we were devastated to learn that all the state and federal campgrounds were closed. “Wait just a darn minute,” I said. “We have a 9,000 acre state park out our back door why don’t we just camp in our backyard. We can roast some weinies and burn some marshmallows and camp out like the good old days.”

It was hard to find a place to unroll our sleeping bags amidst all the rattlesnake holes and poison oak but I finally found a site that was only semi rocky. It was a cloudless night and a bright moon and I said, “We ought to do this more often. Just look at all those stars. Even if only a few of those stars have planets it’s likely there is some kinda life out there. Just look at all of them. The fact that we can see so many, do you know what that means?” I asked my wife.

“Yeah, it means you forgot to put up the tent!” she replied.

Now I must stop here and explain that for 40 years my wife and I have lived on the outskirts of a small town called Los Osos. If you know your Spanish you know that means “The Bears.” There used to be millions of them in these parts and I started telling my wife how the California Missions had been saved from famine by all the bears they killed right in the mountains where we live. The thought of that, of slithering rattlesnakes and the howling coyotes made sleep difficult. I made it until about nine o’clock before, “I had to go inside to use the bathroom.” My wife came in about a half hour later. She said she wasn’t scared mind you, she just “Wanted to check on my me.”

Ha!

Lee Pitts: A Bunch Of Clowns

Step right up to witness the greatest show on earth. We are working the cows at the Pitts’ place and believe me, it’s a real three ring circus.

Circus day is different than any other and you can feel the excitement in the air. There are clowns everywhere decked out in gaily colored cowboy hats, baggy pants, red noses, ropes and canes. Actually they are the town’s people, the bearded lady, the tattooed man and other assorted freaks of nature who have come from far and wide to help preg check the cows. Of course, I am the ringmaster in charge of making sure the performance lives up to its billing.

In ring number one the trick rider is attempting to get the cows into the arena. As he rides around the ring the daring rider suddenly slides under his horse and is riding between the horse’s thundering legs. Actually someone loosened the cinch on his saddle and didn’t tighten it up before the trick rider got back on board. The neighbor kids especially enjoyed the antics of the clown on the horse from their ringside seats and after the trick rider regained consciousness he accused the little buggers of being the ones who loosened the cinch in the first place.

In ring number two the wild animal tamer is attempting to get the wild animals in the lead-up chute with nothing more than a paddle with rocks in it. It is truly a death defying act as several of the cows attempt to put the head of the wild animal tamer in their mouth. As he cracks his whip one of the wild cows charges, and the wild animal tamer then transforms himself into a “The Great Human Rubber Man,” sliding between the narrow gap separating the boards of the corral.

In the third ring is the cattle working chute where the worlds’ tallest dwarf who 5’ 2’ is attempting to work the headgate while the strongest man in the world is filling syringes. As the ringmaster (me) paces up and down the chute making sure everything is being done correctly he notices that the injectable wormer is being dipped on the backs of the wild cows instead of in their mouths. Oh well, you know the type of low-lifes that a circus attracts. It is very hard to get good help that will come to the Pitts’ place more than once to work cattle. Believe me, no one ever wants to run away and join this circus and spend the rest of their lives working for peanuts.

Just then the fat lady steps right on top of the ringmaster’s foot causing me to scream in pain.

“Oh, did I step on your foot?” the fat lady asks.

“It must have been you. I don’t see any elephants,” I reply.

The real show-stopper occurs when the world’s tallest dwarf accidentally lets a cow through the headgate and the wild cow chases my contortionist wife across all three rings of the circus. Just in the nick of time she jumps to the top rail and performs a high wire act, tip-toeing high above the beast without a net. The neighbor kids once again roar their appreciation for the greatest show on earth.

After the final beast is tamed it is time to feed the performers before they pack their bags and leave. I serve my best chili beans and the fire eaters douse the flames with barrels of expensive foreign beer. Then darkness signals the end of another successful circus day. All the clowns in this traveling menagerie gather up their belongings, load up their tired steeds and head on down the road in search of their next free meal and the greatest show on earth.

Don’t laugh, this show will no doubt be coming to your town some day soon.

Lee Pitts: Computer Cowboys

I had an interesting conversation with a guy who said he was an “emerging technology specialist.” Or, was it “emerging technology officer?” Anyway, I do remember him specifically telling me that I’d better start getting in line for welfare and food stamps because I’d soon be replaced by a computer.

“Really?” I replied. “You think a computer can write a semi-humorous humor column?”

“Trust me,” he said, “if they can make a computer that will drive a car, steer a rocket into space or vacuum your carpet they can make one to replace the senseless dribble you write. You do know that already there are computer linguistic engineering programs to correct your spelling and grammar and rewrite poorly written sentences?”

“Yeah, I know. I once ran a column I wrote through one of those computer programs and it said I was writing for an audience at the eighth grade level!” With my knees knocking and my heart palpitating I asked the emerging technology specialist, “How long do you think I have?”

“A year, at most. You’re already on life support,” he said. “I just read a book, for example, that was written entirely by a computer.”

“You’re kidding me? Was it any good?” I asked.

“No. But that’s not the point. Neither is most of the stuff in bookstores now. The point is, no industry is safe from the computers and robots.”

“I know. I never thought that there’d be a machine to pick wine grapes or mow a person’s lawn. And I never would have ever believed in a million years they could make a computer-driven robot to milk a cow!”

“Any farmer or rancher,” he said, “that is having a hard time finding labor now will either buy a computer/robot to do the job, or cease to produce that crop. It’s that simple.”

“Wow. You’re really smart. I bet your services must be very much in demand. But I know one occupation that’s safe: the cowboy. You can’t tell me,” I said, “that a computer will ever pull a calf, build fence, castrate bulls, get into the mind of a colt, fix a spur strap, shoe a horse, out think a cow, train a cow dog, give a vaccination or put a prolapse back in and sew it up with a needle, leather punch and some whang leather. And I doubt that calves will voluntarily load themselves on a cattle truck or sit down on a hot iron to brand themselves.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure if I were you,” said the emerging technology specialist. “You do know that computers are already grading carcasses? I’ve no doubt the scientists will come up with water troughs that tell a manager back at headquarters when a ball valve is broken, or there is no water in the tank. Just as helicopters are now being used to gather cattle in some instances, I’m sure there will be drones that will do the same thing. It’s quite easy to imagine a computer system where computers open and close gates to sort cattle.”

“You sure are intelligent,” I said. “What was it you said you do?”

“I’m an emerging technology specialist.”

“You must make a lot of money and have a corner office in a tall building somewhere.”

“I do all right,” said the blushing emerging technology specialist.”

“I guess I’d better start looking for another job,” I said, downhearted.

We parted ways and I spent a lot of time thinking about what the emerging technology specialist said. That is, until we accidentally ran into the smart guy recently when we were shopping in a big chain drugstore that shall go nameless. There standing by the self-checkout lines was the emerging technology specialist.

“Hey, how are you doing? Remember me?” I asked. “What are you doing here?”

“This is where I work,” he mumbled and looked dejectedly at the ground as if he’d been caught stealing money from the plate in church. “I help people if they have trouble in the self checkout line.”

And sure enough, that’s what it said on his name tag, “Emerging Technology Specialist.”

“Wow, this is not what I imagined. Tell me, do you like your job?”

“It’s all right. I get minimum wage and it’s part time, but it does leave me plenty of time to play video games.”

The Last Word

I am a voracious reader of obituaries about people I don’t know and I’ll admit that some obits I read with a deep sense of sadness, and a few with just a smidgin of joy. One conclusion I’ve reached is that far too many obituaries are either too long, or too short. Many people who have led very full, rich and rewarding lives get only a short paragraph or two, while scoundrels, mass murderers, rapists, crooks and career politicians get half a page.

Death is like religion and politics in that it’s not something you are supposed to write or talk about, and I do so in this instance with great respect. I have stared death directly in the face a couple times myself and believe me, it is no trifling matter. Life is funny sometimes, but death never is. Having said all that, I feel I simply must address the issue of less-than-flattering obituaries about folks who deserve better.

Let’s face it, we won’t all die at the peak of our obituary value and often times our many virtues and accomplishments aren’t remembered when people are grieving. And I ask you, do you really want to leave the composition of your obituary up to an angry ex-wife, someone who can’t write, or a bunch of ungrateful stepchildren that were left out of your Last Will and Testament?

I didn’t think so. The only way to make sure that all your achievements and good qualities are mentioned in the final summary of your life is to write your obituary yourself.

Do-it-yourself obituaries, that’s what I’m talking about. Because death is no time to be humble.

I’ve written my own obit, hopefully well ahead of its publication date, and it’s so good I can hardly wait to die to have people read about me. Now you too can write your own obit thanks to my new business idea: DIY Obits. Here’s just a sampling of the obituary templates I hope to be offering soon:

Enter your name , age 89, died from- a) a long illness; b) being caught in the arms of his mistress; c) a terrible accident involving a vacuum truck and a septic tank. (pick one).

Skeeter Nelson, got married- a) after meeting the love of his life in church; b) being on the wrong end of a loaded shotgun.

Lying Jim Lardbucket was- a) a devoted spouse, loving husband, and wonderful father; b) a no-good, dirty rotten skunk.

Mumsy Flickenfloss was happily married – a) for five of the 35 years she was betrothed; b) so many times we lost count.

Hog Eyed Kate Orpheus had – a) three wonderful children; b) her first marriage end in an annulment and four more marriages end in divorce.

Magpie Sally Shnglebottom III graduated from- a) MIT and Harvard at the top of her class; B) Harvard street elementary school and graduated dead last in her class in beauty college.

Mysterious Dave Mathews was a lifetime member of- a) Rotary; b) the human race.

One Thumb Slickpickle had a Gold Card- a) in the PRCA; b) taken away from him by American Express.

Snuffy Rellano served- a) in Korea and Vietnam and flew 35 combat missions; b) 22 years of a life sentence in Leavenworth.

Useless Nestor Windbelly had many jobs including- a) rock polisher, hearing aid mechanic, mystery shopper, network conceptualizer, and airline excuse maker; b) working for the state making license plates.

Miss Salom Ella devoted her retirement years to- a) helping at the hospital, delivering Meals on Wheels and traveling to Ecuador for Habitat for Humanity; b) competing in slot tournaments and collecting Tupperware.

Who Flung Dung leaves behind- a) ten kids, 35 grandkids and three angry ex-wives; b) a couple big and burly bill collectors from Caesars Palace.

Please go on the Internet to sign the online registry and make a contribution in his/her name to- a) The American Red Cross; b) DIY Obit. (You didn’t think I’d go to all this trouble for nothing, did you?)

Lee Pitts: Fancy Foo Foo Food

I’ve always loved being able to identity things. Whether it was guessing state license plates from afar, parts of dead frogs in zoology, breeds of dogs, Democrats or Republicans, makes of cars, kinds of cattle or cats, and crops growing along the road. It’s one reason why I enjoy grocery shopping so much which I’ve done religiously with my wife for 46 years. We’re lucky to live in an area where hundreds of crops are grown and I love being able to identify all the different fruits and vegetables, as well as the cuts of meat. From yards away I can identify Chinese artichokes, bok choy, white asparagus, purple sweet potatoes, purple carrots, kumquats, calabash, fiddleheads, daikon radishes, rutabagas, Hass avocados, kohlrabi, jackfruit, star fruit, tomatillo, tripe, top sirloins and tiger nuts (Insert snarky comment here).

My wife was a cashier in a grocery store for over 30 years and when grocery stores made the switch to scanners she had to learn to identify every single fruit or vegetable in the store and its corresponding number code so when it was weighed all she had to do was punch in its code and the computer did the rest. I remember quizzing her in the produce aisle and in the process I learned all the names of vegetables too. My wife became so good at this that she became the go-to authority in the store. For example, another checker would hold up a fruit and yell out, “Diane, what is this?”

“It’s an ugli fruit,” she’d reply.

“I know it’s ugly, but what is it.”

“I’m telling you it’s an ugli fruit.”

Eventually my wife would just yell out its code and the other checker would find out it truly was called an ugli fruit. You should have heard the exchange when my wife informed them the name of a vegetable was “yardlong”.

“No it’s not, it’s only eight inches,” another checker would reply.

“It may be two inches but it’s still yardlong, also known as asparagus bean, number 345.”

I tell you, it was like the old Laurel and Hardy routine Hardy routine of Who’s on First.

In the good old days when I was a kid we didn’t have to learn all these foo foo foods like Napa cabbage, sea chokes, sea beans, lichis, paw paw, and jicama. (No, that wasn’t a hiccup.) A paw paw is also known as a yam bean. I wish they’d make up their mind, is it a yam or is it a bean?

In my youth you went to a barbecue and it was beef steaks, potatoes, French bread drenched in real butter, iceberg lettuce, green beans and homemade vanilla ice cream. If you got real daring it was a green Jello salad instead of a red one. But now it’s empenadas with goat cheese, pomelos with soapberry dressing, Brussel sprouts with Fava beans and onion seeds, a salad made from four different kinds of leafy greens, roasted leeks and rhubarb. Speaking of rhubarb, anyone who has ever raised the stuff, like me, knows that dogs like to pee on it, so I’d stay away from the rhubarb pie if I were you.

The outbreak of fancy foo foo food has gotten so bad that at the last branding we attended someone brought their own fake meat because their teenage daughter was going through the mandatory vegetarian phase all young girls go through. As usual, my buddy fed the congregation of dogs who worshipped at the barbecue pit little pieces of meat. When he fed a pinch of the fake beef burger to a Dachshund it gagged it back up and started barking at it. It wouldn’t stop barking until the offensive burger was wrapped in newspaper and thrown in the trash can. Even then the Dachshund with extremely good taste kept snarling at it.

This gave me a great idea. I’m sure you’ve seen “service dogs” in the grocery store? I told my buddy he could get rich by developing a strain of Beyond Meat® sniffing dogs and selling them as service dogs so that whenever a sensitive shopper came across fake, or other fancy foo foo food, their service dog would sniff it out and start yapping so incessantly at the disgusting feedstuff that every shopper in the store would know to stay away.

Lee Pitts: The Numbers Game

I’d be willing to bet you, gentle reader, that you can’t take a single page of this publication and fold it in half eight times. Want to bet? The only reason that I know you can’t do it is because I lost a sizable bet trying.

I gave up gambling decades ago after a former friend of mine told me his unbeatable system for playing blackjack. I started out with a five dollar bet as instructed. Every time I won I pulled the initial five dollars back. If I lost I had to double up. If I lost again I had to double that bet. My friend said that I could not lose money because eventually I had to win and then I would get my original five dollars back.

On my last trip to Reno I tried the system. As usual, I was having a string of bad luck and after losing eight hands in a row my next bet had to be $1,280 dollars just to get my original five dollars back. It was then the dealer told me about the one thousand dollar table limit. But it didn’t matter because I had no money left anyway. So much for my friend’s “can’t miss” system. We haven’t spoken in years.

Numbers and figurin’ never were my best subjects. A clear illustration occurred when I had to get my horse, Gentleman, shod. Monty, my regular shoer was down with a bad back so I called up a farrier I found in the phone book. I should have known I made a mistake when I was his only appointment that day and he arrived in a shiny new rig without the slightest trace of a hunch back.

“How much will you charge to shoe my horse Gentleman?” I inquired.

“That will he $150,” he replied without a trace of guilt.

“Well, you can just load up and go back to where you came from.”

“Now wait a minute,” the replied. “If you won’t pay me a $150 how about if I just charge you one penny for the first nail and double it for every nail after that?”

This guy must have thought I just fell off a turnip truck or had an I.Q. equal to room temperature. “Mister, you got yourself a deal.”

The horseshoer slid underneath Gentleman and hammered in the first nail and just as the farrier promised the second nail was only two cents, the third one four and the fourth nail was only eight cents. Even after he added up all eight nails I got one whole hoof shod for $1.28.

I was really liking this deal but was feeling kind of guilty for ripping off the farrier. But by the time he’d finished Gentleman’s second hoof I was getting an uneasy feeling in my wallet. After doubling the price for each of the nails in the second shoe I was owing the farrier $662.40 and even Gentleman was looking at me like I was an idiot.

I said, “Whoa! Let’s think about this.” I did some back-of-the-napkin figuring and discovered that the third horseshoe would cost me $167,779.20 and by the time the horseshoer was done Gentleman’s new shoes would come to $42,949,680.00.

“Let’s just call it an even forty three million dollars,” said the farrier with a smirk on his face.

Not having that much loose change, I offered to trade Gentleman straight across in exchange for the shoeing bill. For the second time that day the farrier demonstrated superior intelligence by declining my generous offer. Next I offered the farrier a chance to double his money merely by folding a piece of paper eight times. But he knew that trick.

“Forty three million dollars!” I exclaimed. “Where would I get get that kind of money?”

The horseshoer, with a computer where his bad back should have been, replied, “If you just invest $1,000 today at eight percent in just 400 years you’ll have 23 quadrillion dollars.”

“After paying you 43 million for shoeing Gentleman where am I going to get the initial $1,000? “ I asked.

Needless to say, the next time Gentleman needed shoes I welcomed my old shoer back with a big hug and an open wallet. The minute Monty started shoeing Gentleman he asked, “How come Gentleman’s only wearing two shoes and they’re both on the same side?

Lee Pitts: Life Is Too Short

Life is too short to…

worry about stuff that’s probably never going to happen.

read a bad book or watch a terrible movie just because your paid for it.

spend your life staring at your I phone, computer terminal or boob tube.

work 40 years at an occupation you hate for bosses that are dumber than a dead battery.

ride rank horses or put up with crazy cows.

listen to fake news or eat fake meat.

commute two hours each way every day to work.

watch fireworks on TV. Go see the real thing.

roll your own smokes.

listen to rap music.

feel guilty about what our ancestors did to the slaves and Indians. You didn’t do it.

loan money to any of the three F’s; friends, family or fools.

get drunk every night and wake with a monster headache every morning.

stay tethered to the home place your entire life. There’s a big world out there… go see it.

marry for money. You can borrow it cheaper.

worry about the number of Facebook friends you have, Instagram followers or You Tube subscribers.

shave every day.

fish in a dry hole or hunt deer without a tag.

brag about your ancient ancestors incessantly. You should be far more concerned about how your kids will turn out.

wear tight fitting jeans or loose fitting boots.

wait on the government to do the right thing.

live in fear of germs, dirt, dentists, chiggers, fire ants or a little cow manure.

argue. Who says you have to attend every feud you’re invited to?

spend the holidays by yourself. Go volunteer at a soup kitchen.

hang around with losers.

worry about what percentile your baby is in.

keep marrying the wrong type of person just because you get little lonely. Get a dog instead. You can still feed it out of a can, they’re much cleaner and they don’t talk back.

play golf or poker with a cheat, or ever bet against the house. Lotteries are for suckers.

idolize film or TV stars or put athletes on a pedestal just because they can throw a football or dunk a basketball. There’s a very good chance they aren’t who you think they are.

continue to stay on hold while waiting for them to “be with you shortly.”

pay dues to your enemy.

pile the family into your Smart Car and take off on a family vacation from coast to coast stopping every 58 miles to recharge for 2 1/2 hours. (up to 21 hours if you’re plugged into 120 volts.) And good luck finding a charging station in Pie Town, Dunmovin’ or in places the trains only stop if they hit a cow.

play video games or get in a Twitter war with someone you’ll never know.

worry about the rights of beets, cooked carrots, tubers, tofu, or rutabagas.

use inferior tools made in China.

argue with your spouse and then be shunned for the following week.

stay in bed until noon every day.

own a horse you can’t catch.

worry about how old you are. (You can’t do a thing about it… except die.)