Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lee Pitts: Sorry cattle

It was a strange phone call. Everyone knew that old Bean Belly Bill always sold his cattle to the same buyer every year, so why was he calling Red, a field man for an auction market 500 miles away?

Despite his reservations, Red returned Bean Belly's call and, sure enough, old Bean was going to give him a shot at his cattle. Normally Red wouldn't go so far out of his trade area but we're talking here about a big deal: 2,000 head. There was only one stipulation: "You gotta be here early this Saturday if you want to bid on em."

This meant that Red would have to miss his son's homecoming football game on Friday night, and his son was the star quarterback playing in his last season. But we are talking about 2,000 head and opportunities like that come around as often as a cowboy's pickup with a PETA sticker on it. So Red made the 500 mile journey on a Friday freeway clogged with urbanites escaping the big city. Which also made finding a motel room difficult. The last room in the only town close to Bean Belly's ranch was a frilly bed-and-breakfast that cost $250 for one night, which was more than the monthly mortgage on Red's house! As if to rub it in, with the lights off the room looked exactly like the $49 rooms Red usually stayed in.

Red had heard stories about Bean Belly being tight, but that also described his wire gates. By the time he got to Bean's house Red's hands were sore, his back hurt and the abuse had only just begun. Right away he knew the stories of Bean's frugality were accurate because there was only one running board on Bean's old truck, and it was on the driver's side. The passenger, usually his poor wife, had to climb up in the truck unaided. After opening 12 more gates Red's body was feeling arthritic and abused.

 Red first tried to get Bean Belly to consign the cattle to the auction where he'd get the best price but Bean wouldn't hear it. He'd only sell them off the ranch. After haggling over terms Bean invited Red to lunch in town. They took separate trucks and by the time Red arrived at the coffee shop Bean Belly had invited a farmer friend and the banker to join them for lunch. Naturally, Bean stuck Red with the tab.

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