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Collecting coyote ears

Laugh Tracks in the Dust
Milo Yield
Damphewmore Acres, Kan.

Every evening, the CEO of a large bank drives in his Range Rover from work in downtown to his estate “ranchette” in the far suburbs. Every evening he drives past a ramshackled produce stand with a sign that reads, “Smith’s Fruit and Veggies.” Almost every evening the banker stops to buy some fresh produce.

One evening as the banker is making his purchase, Smith, the stand’s sweat-stained owner, asks the banker: “What do you think about the situation in the stock market? Is it going to keep rising until the election in November?’

The banker replies arrogantly: “Why are you so interested in that topic?

“I have a million dollars in your bank,” the produce guy says, “and I’m considering investing some of the money in the capital market.”

“What’s your name?” asks the banker.

“John H. Smith,” the produce guy answers.

When the banker arrives at the bank the next morning, he asks the manager of the Customer Department, “Do we have a client named John H. Smith?”

“Certainly,” answers the customer service manager. “He is a highly esteemed customer. And, he has a million dollars in his account.”

That evening, the banker stops at the produce stand and says to the owner, “Mr. Smith. Would you ride with me to the bank tomorrow morning and be my guest of honor at our board meeting and tell us the story of your life? I am sure we can learn something of value from you.”

Smith agrees to the appearance at the board meeting, and the banker introduces him to the board members: “Mr Smith, who owns and operates a fruit and vegetable stand, is also our esteemed customer with over a million dollars in his account. I invited him to tell us his story. I am sure we can learn from him.”

Mr. Smith, still wearing his sweat and fruit-stained apron, tells this story: “I came to this country 50 years ago as a young immigrant with an unpronounceable name. I arrived without a penny. The first thing I did was change my name to Smith. I was hungry and exhausted. I started wandering around looking for a job, but to no avail. Suddenly I found a dollar bill on the sidewalk. I bought an apple. I had two options: eat the apple and quench my hunger or start a business. I sold the apple for two dollars and bought two more apples with the money. I also sold them and continued in business.

“When I started accumulating dollars,” he continued, “I took English lessons and was able to rent a garden spot in the suburbs and buy some seeds and fruit tree seedlings. I didn’t spend a penny on entertainment or clothing. I just bought bread and cheese to survive. I saved penny by penny and after a while, I bought some new gardening tools and equipment, and bought my own land, and expanded my clientele by erecting my own produce stand from used lumber.

“I did not spend a penny on the joys of life,” he continued. “I kept saving every penny. A few years ago, I was able to buy a produce stand on a busy corner because I was frugal and had already saved enough money.

“Finally, three months ago,” Smith concluded, “My brother, who was a lawyer-lobbyist in Washington, D.C., died suddenly and left me a small portion of his wealth — a million dollars, which I deposited in your bank.”

•••

Last week, I started describing ways we country kids played and passed the time when we were youngsters without anything fancier than a used bicycle and a riding horse, if you were lucky like me. I had use of, but didn’t own, a favorite horse, an ugly, but high spirited, gray horse named “Mousey.” She was small, about 13 hands high, but could go all day with plenty of energy to spare. She had hard hooves and never needed shoeing, in spite of covering many a mile on gravel roads.

In the spring, a favorite pass-time was to get with a school buddy and ride our horses every weekend looking for dens of coyote puppies. We were eager to find them because, at the time, the county paid a $2 bounty on coyotes. We had to cut the ears off the coyotes and turn them in to the county treasurer. I remember she always turned up her nose and looked disgusted as she paid us the bounty. She never actually counted the ears and I suspect we could have lied about the number of bounties we were due — and gotten away with our ruse.

I can recall that we actually found three dens of coyote pups, but one of them wuz a pure bonanza becuz under a large flat limestone rock were actually two litters of coyote pups. One older litter of six and one younger litter of eight.

When I collected my half of the $28 bounty money, I thought I wuz in hog heaven becuz those were the days when my favorite “jawbreakers” and other candies, and candy cigarettes, too, sold for 1-cent a piece.

•••

One time I actually kept a coyote pup as a pet, but it went wild as a young adult and never actually made a good pet. I can’t even recall the name I gave it.

I also had a pet fox when some neighbors dug out a den of foxes. I named it Freddy and it wuz friendly, but Freddy’s teeth were so sharp that he could draw blood while playing with you.

Freddy was impossible to keep in a pen. He’d dig out or chew through any pen I made. Finally, I put him on a chain attached to my Mom’s clothes line. Alas, Freddy proved himself a crafty predator on Mom’s free-range chickens and I had to give Freddy to the zoo in Chanute, Kan.,

•••

Words of wisdom for the week: “Don’t trust everything. Salt looks like sugar.” Have a good ‘un. ❖


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