Lee Pitts: Feeds and feeding
In preparing to become a rancher we were taught in college how to identify locoweed, nightshade and milkweeds. I know, it sounds like three members of Congress or a rock band, but they are actually poisonous plants that livestock can eat. In a course called “Feeds and Feeding” we learned about all sorts of feeds and plants that can be lethal to four-legged critters. I particularly remember water hemlock, which looks like a wild parsnip. It’s a good thing I never developed a taste for parsnips because we learned that if you mistakenly eat water hemlock, thinking it’s a parsnip, just the juice on the knife you used to cut it with could kill you in less than half an hour.
Knock on wood, in all the yeaars I’ve owned livestock I’ve never had one die from eating a poisonous plant. I never lost a cent from murderous milkweeds or lethal lupines. I, on the other hand, have suffered severely from dangerous feedstuffs, and yet not one class was offered at my alma mater on poisonous plants for people. Although feedstuffs never killed my cows, they nearly killed me on several occasions.
The primary plant product I’d advise all men to be weary of is the flour found in wedding cake. Research on seven continents over 20 centuries has proven that it’s easily the most dangerous feedstuff known to man. But not once was I warned about the dangers lurking in something so innocent and pretty looking as wedding cake.
Grains in the form of alcohol can also be dangerous to consume. I’ve never been a big drinker and haven’t had a drink in over 20 years. My abstinence was caused primarily by the time I attended a social “hour” that lasted five hours the night before a big bull sale in Nevada. Some Basque “friends” introduced me to a libation they call Pecan punch. It tasted good and would have made a nice pairing with a good meal, but little did I know the five glasses I had were my meal! Although I didn’t find any news of it in the newspaper, I think we must have had a big earthquake the next day because the earth was moving all day long. The painful stomach spasms and my rapid, but weak, pulse easily made it the longest day of my life. Although that punch tasted really good, the dangerous firewater killed off parts of my brain that still have not recovered some 30 years later. I feel most fortunate to have survived.
I’ve only eaten truffles once in my life, figuring that anything a pig roots out with their snout is not something I want to eat on a regular basis. I just don’t have the snout for it. The one time in my life I ate them was when a “friend” invited my wife and I to a fancy restaurant. It was so exclusive they didn’t have ketchup on the table and they shaved truffles on everything. Usually after finding no prices on the menu my wife and I would have shared soup or snuck out, but since I was under the impression our host was picking up the check, we both ordered complete dinners and a dessert with, you guessed it, shaved truffles. When the bill came our former friend put his hands in his pockets… and it wasn’t to retrieve a credit card. Paying that bill caused me extreme pain, nausea and permanent neurological damage and to this day just hearing the word “truffles” can send me into convulsions.
I’ve had several major medical operations, too many to count, and have suffered through some serious diseases in my life, but I’ve never been in as much pain as the time I ate bad beans at a bull sale in Arizona. The worst part was that the beans waited until I was seated in a small commercial airplane without a restroom to start talking behind my back. Shortly after we lifted off the runway those whistleberries really took off! I was writhing in my seat trying to be courteous to the other passengers, at the same time that those dastardly beans were desperately wanting to express themselves. Believe me, after just 20 minutes of that two-hour flight I’d have gladly eaten a bushel of water hemlocks if someone had offered.