John Mattingly: Socratic Rancher 7-22-13 |

John Mattingly: Socratic Rancher 7-22-13

As related in my last column, I had a neighbor, Sam, whose only daughter became a belly dancer. Though a rough-cut, hard working man, Sam had a soft spot for his daughter and was protective of her. When I ran into Sam at our irrigation division box on the lateral, he made it clear to me that I was not welcome to come around and meet his daughter, Irene.

But fate intervened. I came across Irene’s red GTO in the barrow ditch of the road on my way to town for parts, where she had ended up after she somehow impaled a red-winged blackbird on her radio antenna. Miraculously, the bird survived the encounter, but could not fly with a broken wing. My inclination was to bury the bird, but Irene insisted I take her and the bird to a vet.

Irene definitely stimulated my adolescent sensibilities, such as they were. She wore black pants that fit as tight as the skin on a summer sausage, a V-neck blouse with ruffles and sequins, and sun glasses over a perfect nose and pouty lips. I had to shuffle a bunch of tools off the seat of my pickup to make a comfortable spot for her. She looked at me like I was a moderately bewitching novelty, such as a dog who could drive.

Luckily there was a vet down the road only a few miles, and while I coaxed my old truck along, she asked, “What are you, some kind of farmer?”

All I could do was nod.

“Look,” she said, suddenly deciding I wasn’t so bad, given that I was helping her out, “it’s not you. It’s some kind of bad karma. The first night I was back in the old folks home, I find a pile of girly magazines in the closet — if you can imagine — but that was nothing: there was a live baby bat between the sheets of my old bed — yeah, a bat, in my bed. Imagine how that felt. My father, of course, stepped on it. Talk about nightmares.”

Irene went on to tell me that the next morning she got stung by a wasp on the neck. Then Sam wanted her to come out to the fields with him, but when she put her right foot into a chore boot, a spider bit the end of her right big toe, which gave her a limp, which was the reason why she was operating the brake and gas pedal with he left foot, which is part of the reason why she ran off the road after impaling the bird. But worse of all, this morning when Sam started his pickup, a kitten had been hiding under the hood and had been injured by the radiator fan. That’s when Irene had to go to town to do something, anything, only to end up in my dirty old truck holding a wounded bird.

When we presented the bird to the vet, she offered money, but the vet just shook his head. Seeing this, Irene burst into tears and put her head on my shoulder.

To be concluded … ❖


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