Lee Pitts: Sorry cattle
It was a strange phone call. Everyone knew that old Bean Belly Bill always sold his cattle to the same buyer every year, so why was he calling Red, a field man for an auction market 500 miles away?
Despite his reservations, Red returned Bean Belly’s call and, sure enough, old Bean was going to give him a shot at his cattle. Normally Red wouldn’t go so far out of his trade area but we’re talking here about a big deal: 2,000 head. There was only one stipulation: “You gotta be here early this Saturday if you want to bid on em.”
This meant that Red would have to miss his son’s homecoming football game on Friday night, and his son was the star quarterback playing in his last season. But we are talking about 2,000 head and opportunities like that come around as often as a cowboy’s pickup with a PETA sticker on it. So Red made the 500 mile journey on a Friday freeway clogged with urbanites escaping the big city. Which also made finding a motel room difficult. The last room in the only town close to Bean Belly’s ranch was a frilly bed-and-breakfast that cost $250 for one night, which was more than the monthly mortgage on Red’s house! As if to rub it in, with the lights off the room looked exactly like the $49 rooms Red usually stayed in.
Red had heard stories about Bean Belly being tight, but that also described his wire gates. By the time he got to Bean’s house Red’s hands were sore, his back hurt and the abuse had only just begun. Right away he knew the stories of Bean’s frugality were accurate because there was only one running board on Bean’s old truck, and it was on the driver’s side. The passenger, usually his poor wife, had to climb up in the truck unaided. After opening 12 more gates Red’s body was feeling arthritic and abused.
Red first tried to get Bean Belly to consign the cattle to the auction where he’d get the best price but Bean wouldn’t hear it. He’d only sell them off the ranch. After haggling over terms Bean invited Red to lunch in town. They took separate trucks and by the time Red arrived at the coffee shop Bean Belly had invited a farmer friend and the banker to join them for lunch. Naturally, Bean stuck Red with the tab.
Red gave Bean Belly the price he’d pay for the cattle and Bean told Red he’d “Get back to him.” But he never did. So Red called Bean and found out that Bean had sold his cattle to the same buyer he always sold them to at the same price Red had bid. When the buyer of Bean’s cattle and Red next crossed paths on sale day the cattle buyer laughed and asked Red, “Next time you appraise Bean’s cattle could you price them a little lower so I don’t have to pay so much? Ha, ha.”
It finally dawned on Red that Bean never had any intention of selling his cattle to him; he’d merely been the appraiser. Having missed his son’s football game really irked Red, so he sent Bean an invoice for his “appraisal service.” There was a mileage charge for the 1,000 miles he’d driven, the exorbitant cost of the frilly B and B, the lunch tab, and a chiropractor’s bill for straightening out Red’s crooked back from opening and closing all the gates. Red knew Bean Belly would never pay, but he wanted him to know that he was on to his little game and was NOT amused.
A few weeks later as Red and the auction owner were walking the pens to see what they had for that week’s sale, they stopped at a pen that contained a shelly old cow that might not live until sale day, and a wild-eyed bull that had already done more damage to the auction facilities than would would be covered by any commission earned.
“What in the heck are these?” asked the auction owner disgustedly.
“They are sorry cattle,” Red replied.
“You can say that again,” said the auction owner.
“No, you don’t understand,” said Red. “These money-losing creatures are Bean Belly Bill’s way of saying he’s sorry.”