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Cowboy Humor

Old Soldiering

Chicken Yellow by Hannah Rose MillerLeft: Chicken Yellow, by Hannah Rose

Cowboy Humor by Ben Marshall

A couple of young people came waidin' up our stream the other mornin' lookin' for their orange cat.

They got to the chicken coop where they told Ricardo they consulted a cat psychic who said their pet had been chased into hiding by a black and white border collie.

The psychic also told them the property where the cat was hidin' out had water runnin' through it.

We had to plead guilty to both the border collie and the water but we told them we hadn't seen their cat and would probably have noticed since black and white border collies chasing orange cats are a rare sight to see on our two-hundred acres.

Then they said sadly, "Our cat has been missing for four days."

I looked at Ricardo and we both shook our heads. The cat was dead.

Other than that not much happened that morning.

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Well, there was the episode after the young couple left where our ranch's caretaker, Ric, broke down the bobcat in the middle of our driveway. It was blockin' traffic both ways until he could pull it off the road with his old two-ton.

J. W. and I just sat in the kitchen waiting for Ricardo to cook up some eggs while Ric worked away. We picked a place where we could best hear him clanging his big chains over the asphalt. It's a game we play and we call it "old soldierin" when we have to explain it to outsiders.

It's a pretty easy game to understand and it doesn't cost much to get outfitted. All you need is a chore that has to be tended' to.

And the timin' has to be right. It can't be on a busy day because you don't want to be seen as a slacker. On a quiet day, however, no one ever really notices when somethin' gets left undone because they're old soldiering themselves.

That's the point to winnin' at the game of old soldierin' if there is a point. The person who caves in and does the chore loses.

Now, if we had lacked the wit to take it to the next level where we could add or create new chores, the game would have died out somewhere in our childhood. But it didn't.

We also reworked our definitions of the chores we were already committed to accomplish. For instance, do you put the broom back with the handle pointin' up or down after sweepin' out the stalls? We had to agree on what was the right way and the person who couldn't stand the wrong way any longer and put it back the right way was the loser.

Sometimes it gets ugly. We went for a month once usin' little plastic bags for the kitchen trash because we both were too lazy to go down to Guerneville and pick up the large garbage bags. I do remember our mom callin' both of us "the height of laziness" a time or two.

In the case of the broken bobcat, Ric's reluctance to ask us for assistance because he was so stubborn coupled with his exaggerated draggin' of the large chain across the driveway (somethin' we saw as a cry for help) became a new, temporary chore.

They are the best kind because they have a time limit.

Both of us wanted nothing more than to rush down and watch Ric get himself into even more trouble but the one who did would wind up helpin' out so he would lose.

We never set up the rules or the chores verbally. It's all done on assumption but it seems to work pretty well.

In the case of the missin' orange cat, J.W. never said a word other than referrin' to the couple as "hippies." It was clear findin' that cat wasn't goin' to be one of our chores.

And, I think I had to agree with him. Heck, I didn't even know there was such a thing as a cat psychic.

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