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Lee Pitts: Rural cleansing

I could never be a homemaker. It’s waaay too much work and too much of it is of a repetitive nature. Take dusting furniture, washing dishes and vacuuming the carpet for example. You do it once and six months later you have to do it all over again. The problem is I’ve always been a dirty person by nature. I swear, I can get dirty taking a shower. And everything I like to do makes one filthy, from working in the shop to working cattle. I can even get dirty eating a sandwich and like the polar bear I do my washing up after I eat, not before.

I think the worst job a homemaker has is washing clothes. You get them all clean and before the day is over already there’s a bunch more multiplying in the hamper. This would drive me nuts.

When I worked in an oilfield compressor plant I got so dirty that during the week we’d all throw our jeans and tee shirts into a bucket of a foul smelling concoction that I think was a mixture of turpentine and gasoline. This got the oil stains out but left the clothes a little scratchy and stinky. The only time I took the clothes home and washed them in my mom’s washing machine she hit the roof because evidently I’d left behind a strong petrochemical residue in the machine that left its mark on all the clothes she washed for the next 25 years.

For the first three years my wife and I were married we couldn’t afford a washer and dryer so we had to wash all our clothes in a laundry mat that was dirtier than a bus stop bathroom. The management there had the gall to complain that my manure-stained clothes were fouling their machines. They asked us to take our business, and my smelly clothes, elsewhere.

The day my wife and I bought our first washer and dryer was probably the happiest day in our married life.


The problem was I made my living working ring at cattle sales for 40 years and there’s no dirtier job in America. I’m surprised Mike Rowe never featured the occupation on his Dirty Jobs TV show. It was way more dirtier than cleaning hog pens. Unknown to most ranchers, we ring men performed a vital service. We were the only thing standing in the way between the bull’s mop-like, manure-loaded tail and the buyers sitting in the stands. If the bulls had been on a particularly hot ration it could get real ugly and at the end of a sale my entire backside might be covered in fecal matter. So next time you go to a bull sale just remember the sacrifice the ring men are making on your behalf and treat them with a little more respect.

I will forever be remembered in the livestock auction industry for my trendsetting fashion. You see, before I started working auctions the ring men wore sports coats, slacks, silk ties, Polo shirts, Luchese alligator boots and Stetson 300X silver belly hats. This made no sense to me. Why ruin an expensive set of duds knowing they were going to get splattered with manure? My outfit consisted of jeans, a greenish-brown shirt, rubberized boots and a yellow rain slicker so that before I rushed off to the airport to catch a plane to my next sale, I could just hose off. I think the passengers on the plane appreciated this and might not even have known where the foul smell was coming from. Today, if you go to a cattle sale you rarely see the duded-up ring man of yesteryear and I’m proud to say that I was the one who started this dressing-down trend.

If I had a little extra time before catching a plane I might go into some gas station restroom and change my clothes and wad up the dirties to throw in my soft-sided suitcase to take back home to surprise my wife with. I remember one particularly gross gas station bathroom where there was a pertinent quote scratched into the stall door. Instead of saying, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” it said, “Cleanliness is next to… impossible.”

I’m quite sure the quote was left there by a ring man.




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