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Irons in the fire: Just say no

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattleman Published on 25 July 2016

Given my weak resistance to any sort of peer pressure, it truly is a wonder that I haven’t ended up as a strung-out junkie spending his days in and out of county jail.

Thankfully, and lucky for me, most of the folks in the crowds I hang out with generally have a reasonable moral compass and resist the temptation to take advantage of fools and children.

I’m a poor horse trader, and I’ve been stuck with more than one unsound, “green-broke” sorry excuse for an equine because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. My past is littered with thousand-dollar cars and pickups that may have been worth half that amount. Even when I have an out, I still somehow stick my foot in the trap.

As you can imagine, I’m an easy target at auctions. Farm auctions and estate sales are the worst because you can nickel and dime yourself to death. Before you know it, you’ve shot through your lunch money and the kids’ shoe budget.

I’ve got bent steel posts, old Crystalyx tubs, an old rotor-tiller and a rusted-out grain auger that have found permanent homes behind the shop. My wife has to put a shock collar on me during bull sale season, when we’re talking about real money.

My latest victimization to my naïveté and my inability to decline any unreasonable offer came in the form of a smiling black dog. I should have known something was up when a friend of mine showed up at our last branding in his car with no horse and his dog in the back seat.

I was surely in clear violation of some section of the Code of the West when I loaned him a horse and didn’t make him work the ground crew all day, but what was I supposed to say?

Upon his departure that afternoon, he called me over to his car and told me he was going to leave his dog with me. He’d bragged about this dog to me when he bought him as a pup a year earlier. “He’s a good one. I just don’t have the work for him.”

My response was that I already had plenty of dogs.

“But you don’t have a good one,” was his comeback.

Well, admittedly, I couldn’t really argue that point. Naturally, I had to keep the dog. I knew I’d be in trouble with my wife, so I looked him in the eye and told him that the dog was going back to his place if he didn’t work out.

Of course, the dog didn’t work out. There was no handle on this dog, and if he did perhaps get the itch to go after a cow, he’d just circle and occasionally try to grab a tail.

I was in enough trouble just for keeping him in the first place, but when he killed two chickens and chased the horses behind the house, he had to go. I called my buddy and told him I was returning his gift.

Not shockingly, his response was, “Will you do me a big favor? Will you put him down for me? He probably won’t work for anyone else, either.”

“Well, that’s a dirty trick,” I thought. But, of course, what could I say? No – do it yourself? So now I’ve got this dog that I don’t want, but I don’t really want to “off” him either.

Lucky for me, the dog had a friendly smile, and my sister and her daughter and son came to help put the cows on the mountain a few days later. My 15-year-old niece is a dog lover, and her 25-year-old brother has made no secret of the fact that he has the brass to properly handle the situation if a dog wreaks havoc in the sheep pen or chicken house.

I figured if I played my cards right, I might be able to be on the good end of a bad trade.

I’m pretty sure my sister just took pity on me because she knows my pathetic history, but somehow the smiling black mutt ended up on a truck headed east. The last I heard, the dog had adopted my tough-talking nephew and was now his farming partner.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s good news for everybody – as long as they don’t ask me to take the dog back.  end mark