Back To The Blanket
I was sifting through the rubbish and rubble of our lives because my wife said I had to start throwing away some of my valuable junk. It’s pretty depressing when you look back on your life and realize it can be summed up in 23 apple boxes.
The first box was from my “farming period” when I partnered with my ex-brother-in law on 100 acres of hay. It was a time in my life that I’m not proud of; a cattleman stooping so low to become a plow chaser and dry land dirt farmer. As a rancher it sickened me to be turning the grass upside down and hoping it wouldn’t rain on our hay. Whoever heard of a rancher not wanting it to rain? I felt so ashamed.
I started wearing lace up boots and getting to the coffee shop two hours before sunrise to commiserate and complain with my fellow farmers. I joined the co-op, went to farm auctions and almost joined the Farm Bureau. I started getting free magazines, hired an accountant and was on the lookout for any government programs I might qualify for. I laid awake nights worrying about organophosphates, whatever they are. I pasted a “Save the Bees” bumper sticker on my truck, opened an account at Farm Supply and learned an all new language with words like fungicides, biocides, insecticides and herbicides. It all sounded like The Far Side to me. I was too proud to ask my fellow farmers what a carbofuran or nematode was. I even met the Farm Advisor, although I noticed he kept his distance. Perhaps it was my “Eau de Cow” deodorant. I was no longer welcome at brandings and my horse Gentleman wouldn’t even look me in the eye. He had barely forgiven me for raising sheep, and now this!
The first box I dug into was a good example of how low I’d stooped. It was full of baby tractors. My wife took one look and said, “Throw those toys away.”
“They aren’t toys,” I replied as I sat there pushing and pulling them down straight rows, making engine noises like, “Vroom, vroom” and “zoom, zoom.”
“I can’t throw these out,” I replied. “This is the best investment I made while I was a farmer. I might even be able to get back half of what I paid for them.” I didn’t tell her that, as usual, I had bet wrong and my toys were the wrong color, a nauseating orange, instead of the much valued green or red.
I hid the box so my wife wouldn’t find it and then hit the mother lode: four boxes crammed full with farmer caps. Instead of having the name of an auction market or ranch on them, they had words like Accel, Hinder, Case, Deere and Checkmate embroidered on them. As if I played chess!
My wife thought she’d fool me by suggesting we only keep the hats that pertained to ranching. Little did she know that the chemical companies came up with names for switch-hitters like me, with hats that said Stirrup, Spur, Roundup, Mustang, Lasso and Wrangler. (I had one on my rump, I might as well have one on my head.) I even found a cap with the word “Rattler” on it, although I think it predated the rope of the same name.
I made one pile that was for caps that conveyed my Macho image like Patriot, Sniper, Swagger, Esteem, Empower and Venim. That’s when I noticed that farmers probably aren’t the best bet to win a spelling bee considering how they spell Venim and Sevin.
I immediately discarded the cap that said “Widow” on it, feeling that it sent the message I was looking for love. Likewise the cap that said “Nudrin”, as if I was remotely interested in a clothing-optional lifestyle!
Before I’d even gone through the first box I realized the error of my ways and “went back to the blanket.” That’s what Indians called tribal members who “went white” but came back to the tribe. So I got rid of the evidence, cleansed myself and went back to others of my tribe… cowboys, large animal vets, semen salesmen, artificial insemination practitioners and semen collectors. I did this knowing it’s risky because, judging by the evidence, some of their caps could get a guy arrested.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Oct. 16, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News