In a Sow’s Ear 6-1-09 |

In a Sow’s Ear 6-1-09

Hank and Wade, two over-the-hill cowpokes sat on a bench enjoying the summer sun. Once a pair of rope-swingin’, bronc-ridin’, girl-watchin’, brush-poppin’ buckaroos, the old punchers got to philosophizin’ on the subject of how they wanted to leave this mortal coil.

“Hank,” said Wade, “ya ever give a thought ’bout goin’ ta meet yer maker?”

“Now much,” said Hank. “I mainly jist worry about goin’ to the latrine a dozen times a night.”

“Well,” said Wade, “I been thinkin’ ’bout how I wanna git planted.”

“That right?” said Hank. “So, ya gonna have ’em park you in a box and then drop you in a hole in the ground? Or ya gonna have ’em poke you in a furnace and git all burnt up so that what remains is a pile of ashes and pieces of bone? Then one of yer loved ones will scatter yer ashes somewhere? Ya got any loved ones left?”

“Got my dog, Jock,” said Wade indignantly. He reached down to stroke an aging Border Collie’s head. “What I’m cogitatin’,” Wade continued, “is buildin’ myself a box fer my remains. Then I’ll git a backhoe out here to the ranch, git a hole dug and when I tip over, all they gotta do is heave me into the box, push it in the hole and cover me up. Kinda like what a cat does.”

“They ain’t gonna let ya do that,” declared Hank.

“Ain’t no law agin’ bein’ buried on yer own ground here in Montana. I’m gonna build me an iron-railing fence right out there on the west 40.”

“Who’s gonna manufacture yer box?” asked Hank. “Hells bells, we’re both so stove up with arthritis, can’t neither one of us hold a hammer.”

A sly smile made its way across Wade’s leathery face. “Got that covered,” he said. “Heard of a guy in Red Lodge makes cowboy coffins.”

“Haw,” said Hank, “yer makin’ that up.”

“Nope, I ain’t. Guy makes plain pine-boxes, no trimmin’s coffins. Got the information right here.” Wade reached in his back pocket for his worn leather wallet. With gnarled fingers, he extracted a card. “See here?”

Hank squinted, holding the card out at arm’s length. “Sure is chicken-track printin’,” he complained. Slowly he read, “Cowboy Coffin and Pine Box Co. Affordable Human and Pet Coffins,, Red Lodge, Mont.”

Hank scratched his head. “Say, Wade, mebbe yer onto something. You and old Jock there could sorta be planted together.”

The upshot? Wade and Hank each ordered a pine box. They had to tell their measurements. Wade had his made extra long with a pad at the foot end for old Jock. In Hank’s battered pickup, Wade and Hank drove all the way to Red Lodge to pick up their future resting spots.

“Shore are purty, them boxes,” said Wade.

“Yep, glad we done this,” agreed Hank. “We can store ’em in the horsebarn under a tarp till we need ’em.”

“I’ve been thinkin'”, said Wade.

“Again?” said Hank. “What now?”

“I’m thinkin’,” said Wade, “that we oughta put our brands on our coffins.”

For some moments, Hank said nothing. Then he grinned. “Ya know,” he drawled, “that ain’t a bad idea. Let’s invite ever’body we know to bring their brandin’ irons and we’ll have us a coffin-branding party.”

End of story? There’s a party next Saturday out at Wade’s ranch featuring bratwurst, beans, beer ” and branding. You’re all invited. Bring your irons.

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