Heather Hamilton-Maude: White Truck Syndrome
My wonderful wife is the picture of perfect health with only one known ailment: she suffers from what is known in the medical community as “white coat syndrome.” At home, my wife’s blood pressure hovers right around 110/75 but when she goes in for her annual checkup and the doc takes her blood pressure it explodes to 200/95. Once outside it immediately drops back to 110/75. Our doctor explained that he often sees this “white coat syndrome” amongst his patients. They are so fearful of the doctor in the white coat that the minute they see one their blood pressure skyrockets.
My wonder-horse Gentleman had what I diagnosed as “white truck syndrome.” Normally Gentleman was just like his name, charming, intelligent, pacifistic and laid-back, a majestic stallion in every sense. That’s right, I said “stallion.” Let it be said that conquistadors, great charros and Lee Pitts all rode stud hosses. The reason we left Gentleman’s maleness intact was because I was afraid if we removed his manhood he’d be even more lazy than he already was.
The second Gentleman saw our vet’s white truck his personality changed demonstrably. Gone would be the charming individual everyone knew and loved and he became this deranged, psychotic killer. Gentleman’s normally soft and sensitive nostrils would become so wide you could shove a Coke can up each one. His eyes would turn white, his ears would stand at attention and he’d become this biting, kicking devil. The horse that under normal conditions couldn’t buck off a wet saddle blanket was now kicking a hole in the moon. It was as if some evil horse whisperer murmured in his ear, “That truck’s carrying the big needle that will turn you into worm meat.”
Usually Gentleman was so lazy I could ground-tie him by merely dropping my reins and he’d be in the same spot the next day. But if I did that when the vet’s white truck was within five miles it was bye-bye horsey. Luckily, it wasn’t just any white truck. With so many white trucks on the road, Gentleman would have worried himself to death. It was just the vet’s white truck. A horse-eatin’ Frenchman could drive up the road in a white truck and Gentleman wouldn’t care. The same was true of people Gentleman should have been afraid of like the tallow truck driver, hide buyer, auctioneer, horseshoer, taxidermist, or a horse trader who called himself a “Mexican equine export specialist.” None of them in a white truck elicited even a “ho hum” from Gentleman.
I was told Gentleman’s fear of the vet had something to do with the nasty scar around his leg that was there when I bought him for $600. It was the result of a barb wire incident and being sewn up by a cowboy with some baling wire and a potato sack needle. But Gentleman didn’t have an aversion to baling wire, potatoes or the smell of Copenhagen, just the vet.
Or so I thought.
One day the vet’s truck was in the shop so he drove the family sedan to preg check the cows. Gentleman hardly noticed. Then I witnessed something I thought I’d never see: the vet walked up to Gentleman and patted his neck. Instead of blowing up Gentleman went back to sleep. He was so calm we decided to do some long deferred maintenance. Needless to say, I was bewildered. But not for long.
The next time the vet came he was back to driving the much-dreaded white truck and it was like watching the second installment of a very bad movie as Gentleman was back to his demonic ways. I have since ruled out the moon, tides, or time of day. It simply had to be the truck.
After diagnosing my horse with white truck syndrome I came up with only two possible cures. Either the vet had to change his penny-pinching ways and trade in his 20 year old truck on a new $60,000 model, or I had to replace a perfectly fine ten year old $600 horse with what would be a much costlier, though inferior, reproduction. It turned into a battle over which would die first; the vet’s truck or my horse. Sadly, Gentleman lost the race. Even though he lived to be 33, Gentleman suffered from white truck syndrome until the day he died.
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A short essay by Justin Tupper, Vice President, United States Cattlemen’s Association