‘Kinda makes a feller soft’

Baxter Black, DVM
On the Edge of Common Sense

They stood in the back of the room lookin’ like two Oakland Raider linebackers at a preppie quiche-tasting party. They had on unblocked hats with flat brims and each man wore a neck scarf and new Wrangler’s. Steve ambled over and asked where they were from. “Nevada,” they said, “We ranch.”

They discussed the cattle business and bad-mouthed the government, as usual. Pretty soon they got to discussin’ mutual acquaintances. Steve had a friend named Pat from way up around Brothers, Ore.

“Quite a character,” Steve said. “Pat would trade out vet work with his neighbors. One day, one of his ranching neighbors who was an ex-mechanic came over. Pat asked him to walk around his ol’ beat-up tractor to see if it needed anything. The neighbor took a professional stroll around the rusting and dented piece of antique farm machinery and said, ‘Pat, if you’d pump up that right front tire, it’d steer better.’”

Pat lived and ranched 12 miles from the tiny town of Brothers but the wife and kids lived in the nearest big town 60 miles away. Four years ago he finally got a radio telephone. He rings through a big transmitter on a mountain top and patches into the Portland exchange 200 miles away.

“We know Pat,” said the Nevada boys, “He’s been down our way lookin’ to buy a place. Seemed like a nice enough guy but we’re worried about him. See, we don’t have no phone. Turns out he spends weekends in town with his wife and kids. That ain’t the best way to run a ranch, ya know. Livin’ that close to town kinda makes a feller soft.”

Steve asked, “How far out are you?”

“Wull,” said the buckaroo, “My ranch is 72 miles from Fallon but the one he is lookin’ at was a ways off the road.”

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