Of Cats And Critters; Farmers and Friends

Well, I have finally backed out of the cable cabinet, so I am done p.laying cable monkey for a while. 240 cables, all the same color, without a tag on any of them.

Obviously, the fellow who ran those cables initially had never had to go trace down a cable to find out why something did not work.

Anyhow, I see Kali is getting some rain. Of course, Kali usually gets some rain, but they have been a bit dry lately.

As I remember, our last dry summer was in ’67. It was so dry down around Buzzard Roost that the Baptists were sprinkling and the Methodists were using a damp cloth. That’s pretty dry, for this part of the world.

Of course, where I came from they really have dry summers. The whole earth dries up and cracks. ‘Ol Hardman was telling one time that he was out trying to stack some tumbleweeds for his cow. He put down a stake and chain to hold the stacker, and the chain fell into one of the cracks in the ground.

Hardman said he could hear the chain rattling around down there, even though it was out of sight, so he got under the seat of his truck and got his flashlight. He shined it down the hole, just in time to see a yellow hand pull his chain out of the other end of the hole hole.

Obviously, that crack was sort of anti-gogglin, since straight down from Kiowa County is out west of Australia a few thousand miles.

Anyhow, that was the summer the Tulsa and Oklahoma City fireplugs were chasing dogs. Jack Ried had a good well, though. That well never did go dry, even though the windmill that pumped the water didn’t have enough breeze to turn. He had to hire folks to pump the handle in relays to get enough water to water his stock.

That was the year the Oklahoman reported that there were places in the Panhandle where it took 25 acres of land to support one cow and one calf. They had to graze at 20 miles an hour just to keep from starving to death.

That winter was so dry and the dust storms were so bad Jack finally drove his tractor up on a dust cloud and put a belt on the power takeoff to drive the pump. Pumped enough water to water his stock, and supply his neighbors, but the dust finally settled and left his tractor hanging by the PTO belt from the windmill tower. Took about a month for another dust cloud to come up so Jack could unhook and drive his tractor down.

Jack was so tickled to get his tractor back and a little breeze blowing to turn the mill that him and his hired man rented themselves two dust clouds. Plowed them in Oklahoma, seeded them in Kansas, cultivated them in Colorado and Texas, and harvested them in Missouri! Planted them in corn. Got 35 bushels to the acre! If they had any rain they would have gotten a hundred bushel to the acre, for sure.

Yep – that was the year Ettie Ten-Eyck swore the hogs got so poor you had to grease the skillet to fry bacon. She claimed it was so dry the cows gave powdered milk. Ettie said her son milked their cows with a vacuum cleaner!

Way back when, I used to read Oklahoma Farm and Ranch. It had a “Liars Corner” column every month, where any liar could make five bucks with a good whopper. One time this farmer turned politician sent in a real good story for that column. They printed the story, but they didn’t send him the five bucks. They said the “Liars Corner” was for amateur liars only. Pros and politicians were lucky to see print for nothing.

That’s where I heard about the fellow who was such a liar he had to get his neighbor to call his hogs. And the winter that was so cold that folks went to church just to hear about Hell.

Speaking of Hell, I heard that the funeral homes in Washington, D.C., have started charging triple to bury politicians and government appointees. They raised the price because it takes so much time to screw them in the ground. That sounds reasonable to me – considering what the politicians and political appointees have spent their lives doing to us.

But, to get this back on track, I remember when the chatter at the Jackpot was about rain gauges. They would take those glass tubes that tooth brushes used to come in and pour a little rosin in them. Then they would heat the tube in hot water until the rosin melted to make a level at the bottom of the tube. then they melted a little more rosin to stick the tube to the 1 inch end of a ruler – and nailed the ruler to the top of a convenient fence post – voila! They had a calibrated rain gauge.

One guy, don’t remember who, said he was sick and tired of announcing how much rain he got. Every time he’d say how much rain he got somebody would raise him a couple of hundredths. ‘Ol Hardman told him he ought to do what he did – stick a funnel in the top of his gauge so he could brag about having as much rain as anybody else.

It was dry, for sure. Jack Cooter, the county agent, said one rancher up above Sentinel raked hay all week and only dumped the rake on Tuesday and Thursday. Jack said this fellow’s hay crop was so bad he had to buy a bale of hay to prime the rake.

This same fellow took his team of horses and a wagon to a dry creekbed to get himself a load of sand. Bright moonlight night, he started about two in the morning. Got to the place about four, and had just finished loading the wagon when dawn broke.

Of course, he starts for home, figuring he could get the wagon unloaded before it got too hot, you know. He noticed the horses are making light work of pulling the load, going faster and faster. He looks around at his load and discovers the last of the load of sand fleas he’s shoveled up by moonlight are abandoning the wagon. He had to turn around and go back and get himself a load of sure enough sunlit sand.

That fellows name was Johnson, and he was some kin to Beatrice at the Stockyard Cafe’s late husband. He was the unluckiest fellow around. He drilled himself a real nice new deep well one time but he was really disappointed with it.

It tested out with a 41 percent moisture content. Had a lot of sand in it. He claimed he did it on purpose, though. Said he didn’t have to brush his teeth as often, that way.

One time this Johnson fellow came in the Stockyards Cafe by himself. Beatrice asked him if his wife had come to town with him, or was she sick?

“Naw,” he drawls, “She ain’t sick, none. We lost the lid to our stove, and she’s to home settin’ on it to keep the smoke out of the house.” That lie got a warm reception, for sure.

But there was almost always somebody playing “can you top this.” Like the time the wind blew between 50 and 70 miles an hour for a week. Nettie, she was still Nettie Rollo then, swore that it blew so hard it blew the sunshine off her tomatoes.

Or the time some salesman was talking to Lane Cooter, Junior. He tells Lane, Junior that he hears Western Oklahoma got over 24 inches of rain last year. “Yep,” says Lane, Junior. “And I was at home that night, too!”

I wasn’t at home, but I remember that night. We had at least eight inches of standing water. Standing on the clothes line.

You know, I was a judge in a corn picking contest once. Not that it was much work. All I had to do was make sure the wagons were empty when they went in the field, and nobody threw a few clods in the wagon or some such. After the loaded wagons were weighed and the empty wagons reweighed, the heaviest load won.

Now, professional corn pickin’ is done a little different. The picker carries a peg with him. He jams the peg between the ear and the stalk, reaches his hand around the top of the cob and the stalk, and squeezes. The ear will pop off clean every time.

While we were standing around tallying weights the stories started. One fellow said he was picking as hard as he could, when he dropped an ear. He didn’t want to lose any weight for lack of that ear, so he picked two ears while he leaned down and picked up the corn and threw it in the wagon. Only trouble was he threw his peg in the wagon, too. He jumped in the wagon and got his peg, only to be hit in the head by those two ears of corn he picked.

‘Nother feller said that was nothing. He dropped an ear of corn, too. And he didn’t want to lose that ear and maybe the contest, so he reached back for the ear he’d dropped. In the confusion, he got aholt of his foot and threw himself in the wagon.

The contest winner, though, both in the corn pickin’ contest and the liars contest that went with it, was an old feller that wore his peg on a string around his neck. He said he was picking corn so fast that he had to throw it in the wagon with both hands. Otherwise, it would have piled up in front of him.

After the judging was over we all retired to the Jackpot for more palaver. Somehow the subject got around to threshing stories. Now, maybe you have seen those old steam powered traction engines. Those behemoths powered the original threshing machines.

Those things were about the size of a railroad engine, and about as much fun to move. There used to be a custom of sneaking out at night and filling the boiler with soap, so the first time they blew the whistle for more shocks they would fill the air with soap bubbles.

The threshing crews would break in a new hand right, though. They would send him down to the chaff exhaust to grab a handful of chaff, so they could see that the threshing was clean and no grain was going out the chaff chute. When the greenhorn got ready to grab, the boys would pour about a bushel of rotten eggs into the thresher. That smell would knock out a nose for days!

You know something? Farmers know more jokes and stories than I do. They have to. Farming is too hard and dangerous not to have a good laugh several times a day. Have you heard the latest joke going around about farmers?

“This farmer was arrested for child abuse. He tried to give his farm to his children.”

Do you know what a farmers money clip is? An aluminum pull tab bent around a penny!

How about the two hired men who were lifting a few and talking about their bosses. One had just got through bragging about his boss and the other one said, “That’s nothing. My boss is doing so well I think he’s writing a book.”

“Oh, how do you know?” asked the first hand.
“Well, I heard him talking on the telephone and he said he’s thinking about Chapter 7.”

How about that bumper sticker I saw on a Kansas farmers truck? “If Dolly Parton were a farmer, she’d be flat busted too.”

Or the bumper sticker on a haywire and rust pickup down in Gulfport. “It’s hard to believe I’m feeding the world!”

The Department of Agriculture makes it even harder on farmers. Bill Foster had one of those government men come around not long ago. Bill didn’t much want that fellow on his place, but the gummitup man showed him a card and told Bill that card let him go anywhere, any time he wanted to go.

The fellow started for Bill’s equipment shed. Bill told him not to go in there, he had some equipment up on blocks and it wasn’t safe, but the government man just waved his card at Bill.

The next thing Bill knows the government man is heading toward the barn. “Stay out of there, I don’t want you disturbing my cows,” says Bill.

“Well, they will just have to be disturbed, because I have this card that lets me go anywhere,” says the government man as he opens the barn door.

About one second flat the man comes flying out of the barn just ahead of Bill’s prize bull. The man and the bull make about six laps of the yard, while Bill sets on the fence grinning like a possum eating bumble bees.

“For Gawd’s sake, aren’t you going to do anything?” the man yells.

“Show him your card, show him your card,” Bill yells back.

Well, that’s about all the funny stuff I can think of right now, but if I knew any I sure would tell some stories appropriate to the weather. Like the one about the “hard water fishing.” Ice fishing.

This fellow decides he’s going to take a day off and go ice fishing. Ice fishing is where you load the outhouse on your truck, take it out to the middle of Lake Minnehaha and set the doniker up in solitary glory. Then you knock a hole in the ice and fish through the hole. But this dude, he’s from Texas or somewhere.

So he loads up his sixteen foot John boat, puts the chains on his pickup, and heads for the lake. When he gets to the lake, he measures his boat real careful. Then he gets his ax out and he chops and he chops all day long, and he still can’t get his boat in the water. Because the water freezes as quick as he chops somewhere else, you see.

But all I can remember is hot stuff, like the time out in Learned, Kansas, when Independence Day came and went and it hadn’t rained a drop all year. So the red line in the thermometer said 126 and it felt it, too. Everybody spent most of their time running to the well to drink and soak their clothes, and as soon as the water dried they would make another trip to the well.

One old cowboy had unloaded the last of his stock and was sitting on the corral fence waiting for the sale to get over, when a little black cloud showed up on the horizon. That cloud kept getting bigger and blacker, and pretty soon you could see rain falling out of it.

Folks started running for cover. All except this old boy out there on the corral fence. He just sat there, eyeing the cloud, rolling and smoking one cigo after another.

Jakey Burg went by at a fast trot hollered “Hey Bud, you’re aabout to git wet!”

The Cowboy just looked at Jakey and said “I ain’t seen no rain since last year. And if it rain today I’m a settin’ right here on this fence until she’s over.”

He did, too. And when it was over he came in the cook house for a dry sack of Bull Durham and a cuppa joe. Smiling all the way.

There were a lot of sqvare heads, Swedes living around Kansas. They had a little street fair and celebration one day. Had a nice polka band and all, when Shorty Davis saw a BIIIIG girl he liked the cut of’s jib.

Now, in that part of the world, they mostly called things by opposites and Shorty was six six if he was an inch. He would have been a tall scofer but he wore size 18 boots. With that much turned under he missed being really tall.

Anyhow, he turns to Soapy Smith and me and sez “You see t
hat girl over there?”

“Lot’a girls over there,” Soapy said.

“The big girl, the one with the red blonde hair.”

“Wut about her?” Soapy asked.

“I’m gunna ask her to dance,” sez Shorty.

“Well, ask her then.”

“I’m going to ask her,” sez Shorty.

“I dare you,” said Soapy.

“I will, in a minute.”

“Shorty, I dare you to ask her,” Soapy broke out. “You ain’t got a hair on your butt if you don’t ask her.
After three or for more go arounds Shorty got nerve enough up to cross the street and walk up to the girl. And being Shorty he addressed the situation directly.

“Pardon me, Miss,” Shorty said. “May I have this dance?”

“Hunhh?” was the startled rejoinder from the girl.

“Would you grant me the favor of a waltz?” Shorty asked again.

“Vell,” the girl said, “I’ll tell you. Vhen I dance so, I sveat so; when I sveat so, I stink so; so I don’t t’ink so.”

Speaking of girls, I remember when I went to school over in east Texas. We had a teacher name of Miss Nanny. Pretty thing, she sure was a peach. The only thing was that she had a temper and just flat hated being called “Miss Goat.” That got her goat.

That would get you parked in the corner with your nose in the crack. But one day we found something else that riled Miss Nanny, real good.

This was just after WWII, Hitlers War, and the hem lengths had just gone above the knee for the first time. Most knees you saw were very much in the open, because nylons were still as scarce as hen’s teeth.

Miss Nanny’s boy friend took her to Waco, and she bought one of those new short skirts. A couple of the girls had seen her down at Woolsworth’s and the Rexall, and talked up seeing Miss Nanny dressed in style.

About a week later Miss Nanny wore her new skirt to school, and several of the boys were cocked and ready to pull her string.

First assignment Miss Nanny stepped up to the blackboard and stretched to write, when one of the boys at the front gave a gasp.

“Lewis,” asked Teacher, “What’s wrong with you?”

“OOOOOH, Miss Nanny, I saw your GAAAAARTER,” said Lewis.

Miss Nanny turned bright pink. “Lewis, you take your books and go home for two days. Two days, do you hear?”

Then she turned back to the blackboard and started writing again. And then another boy sounded off.

“James, what’s the matter with you?” Miss Nanny snapped.

“OOOOOH, Miss Nanny, I saw both of your GAAARTERS!”

Teacher turned flaming red. “James, you get your books and go home and don’t come back for two weeks.”

She turned back to the blackboard and dropped her chalk. So she bent over to pick it up, with her back to the class. And suddenly another boy jumped up and started dragging his books out of his desk.

“Lloyd, what’s wrong with you?”

Lloyd didn’t say a word. He just snatched up his stuff and headed for the door. Miss Nanny had to run to catch up with him and grab him by the ear.

“Boy, you tell me this minute what’s wrong with you. Now!”

Lloyd squirmed for a few seconds but Teachers grasp on his
ear was relentless. “Teacher, what I seed I can tell my schooldays are OVER!”

Now, I had best change the names and location, because Windy Ward’s children are still around. And from the listing on the internet pretty substantial folks, too.

Windy had a hardscrabble farm until they built a big dam downstream. When the water finished backing up, Windy’s farm was waterfront property. So he moved his wife to town, leased most of the farm to a resort outfit, and lives off the rent. But then he gets lonesome.

So he built a bunkhouse size building on a part nobody wanted to rent. And that shack didn’t have the first window in it. He claimed him and his buddies fished out of it, and didn’t want any windows so they could go to bed without the settin’ sun bothering them. Actually they played poker in it all night, and didn’t want daylight keeping them awake during the day.

But anyhow, Windy had a buddy named Fritz. One day Fritz was walking up Main Street and here comes Windy comes out of Fred Tillman’s beer joint.

“Hey Windy, where you going?” Fritz hailed him.”

“Oh, hey, Fritz. I’m going up to the drugstore. Muh wife ain’t looking too good, lately.”

“I think I’ll go with you, Windy,” Fritz says. “I don’t like the looks of the one I got at home, neither.”

Which reminds me of the story that went around about the night Windy’s wife, Jane, woke him up.

“Windy, wake up,” she said, shaking him. “Get your gun, quick. There’s a burglar in the house. He’s settin’ in the kitchen eating the rest of that pie had for supper.”

Windy rolled back over. “At’s OK, leave him be and I’ll bury him in the morning.”

Folks used to talk bad about Mrs. Jane’s cooking. I heard that before Jane married Windy her daddy came home and found her bawling her eyes out.

“What’s the matter, Janie?”

“Oh, Daddy, it’s so awful,” she sobbed. “I baked a loaf of saffron bread and the cat ate it.”

“That’s all right, girl. I’ll get you another cat.”

This entry was posted in Humor. Bookmark the permalink.