Columns » Bob Lancaster




September always comes with a great sense of relief. If the heat and drought linger, at least you know the dog in the Dog Days is doomed. Fall is on the way. You can almost smell it.

It's the time for celebrating organized labor, ha ha ha. It's the time for football resumption, for getting out the squirrel rifle and oiling that sucker up. It's back-to-school time, and having long ago endured the ivied cookie-cutter formalities, I can only participate indirectly now, doing what I can to spare today's youngsters the indignity of exposure to charlatans like Einstein and Darwin and the fiendish agendas of the hellbound — liberals, homos, skeptics, heathens, feminists, abortionists, Negroes, Mexicans, and the poor, the last just another way of saying the ne'er-do-wells who haven't even cleared their first billion yet.

Bring God back to the classroom and throw out the Big Bang. Exalt Phyllis Schlafly and raze Jefferson's wall. Rewrite the textbooks like they do in the Lone Star, and make sure everybody's got a gun and keeps it handy.

Here at my own digs, it's the time when we begin psyching up to get the cotton in one more time. We still pick ours by hand, with a long line of people dragging cotton sacks and singing spirituals as they toil along, and because of our forefathers' foresight, we can require them to do this essential work for free. We never told them about emancipation and all that nonsense.

We tried the mechanical cotton-picking machines, but couldn't make the adjustment — it's been done the old way for thousands of years — and got rid of them finally, except for the one we keep in the yard as a relic, a curiosity, in the honored place where the plastic pink flamingo used to stand guard. People drive by it and gawk and honk. I'm not sure what they're trying to say.

It's the time to get the stock ready for the annual county fair, going on, God willing, to the state fair. Grooming them, having them run wind sprints. Sheep aerobics are a hoot.

I hate to say it but I'm giving serious consideration to getting out of the show livestock business. I don't have a good reason. It's merely the aesthetics of the thing. I've seen all the ordinary-looking farm animals I need to see. And they're all ordinary-looking, even the exotic fowl that look like Sideshow Bob and the goats that look like Don Quixote. They get to looking like the same creature — like a giant chunk of Spam that throws off smaller chunks of itself, some of which oink, some of which moo, some of which bleat, some of which cluck, but all of them just ambulatory protein which my own cells hanker to import and reconfigure into banked naked-ape obesity that I don't really need any more of.

You can take a cow to the beauty parlor, I suppose, but it's like they say about putting lipstick on a hog. A professional makeover might make your Guernsey look more like a Belgian Blue, but get it back home and turn it out to pasture and within the hour it's the same old ordinary-looking cow being the same old ordinary-looking cow, making goo-goos at an old idiot bull that idles the time away by day-dreaming of getting a second chance to trample Wally Hall.

And cows won't clean up after themselves. Even if they lacked the pride, you'd think they'd want to do something about the irritation factor with all those nasty flies buzzing constantly around the base of their tails. A cat will clean its hindquarters, and a dog will sometimes, not regularly but when it runs out of anything else to do, but a cow won't do it. I assume relentless cow messiness is why the UFOs always promptly dump the cow carcasses back into meadows they beamed them up from for one of those mysterious midnight autopsies. You'd think it wouldn't be hard to sanitize and deodorize a space-ship autopsy dock, but apparently it is.

Pigs are supposed to be much more intelligent and have more self-esteem, but a pig won't clean itself either. One time I tried marking off a back corner of my duroc lot and making it into a sandbox so my pigs wouldn't have to wallow in their own offal. Much more sanitary and civilized, but they wouldn't use the sandbox. Wouldn't go near it. It was like they expected me to erect a privy over it, so they'd have some privacy when they went to do their sandbox business. But I told them I'd be damned if I'd do that. Next thing they'd demand a hot tub.

A show pig just isn't worth it. Get him all prepped for the livestock show, throw him into the judging pen with the other contenders, and they all look alike, just a bunch of  ordinary-looking pig clones running around, biting one another and squealing at you to go fetch them another square yard of cotton candy.

Show rabbits aren't as nasty or overbearing, but I've come to mistrust them also. I can't prove it but I suspect their meekness, their passivity, is a cover for some kind of furtiveness. You catch a whiff of plot around them and it gives you to wonder what's up, doc.

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