Thursday, May 25, 2017

In Honor of Jackasses

In have only one book featuring jackasses. Hm. Maybe there are some human jackasses, but in this case, I'm talking about the equine variety. Same book has mules, too. And horses. And cattle. And... yeah, lots of animals.

The star of "Tales of a Texas Boy" (KU/KOLL) is a kid named Eddie growing up on a farm in West Texas. The notion there'd be plenty of critters in these tales isn't too hard to swallow. Let me see. Eddie loved animals so when he told me his stories to write up for him, the stories that came to his mind almost always had an animal featured. Let me think here (and cheat by looking at the book) to give a list of the animals Eddie included in his almost-true tall tales: jackrabbits, rattlesnakes, horses, mules, cattle, coyotes, fish, bears, hogs, dogs, hens, eagles, sheep, mammoths (of the elephantine variety).

From TALES OF A TEXAS BOY (Lare Print Paperback), I introduce you to Bucephalus, a mammoth jackass, bought at auction by Eddie's Pa.

The Auction Excerpt

There weren’t no beef cattle for sale, as they are sold in herds not one animal at a time. They did have milk cows, though. Pa and me was looking over a Holstein, just about the biggest cow I ever did see. The auctioneer went from pen to pen auctioning off the animals.

The crowd of buyers followed him around and bid on the ones they wanted. When they got to the Holstein, Pa and me were already in the pen inspecting the cow. The auctioneer come into the pen and pushed on the cow to move her aside. The cow stepped right on my foot. I didn’t think it polite to yell out, so I just tried to shove on the cow to get her to step off.

“You move aside, boy,” the auctioneer said.

“Yessir. I’m tryin’ to,” I answered.

Pa walked around from the other side of the cow and saw I’m stuck, so he gave the cow a big push so she’d step off’n my foot. I’m glad I wore my cowboy boots or she woulda broke my foot for sure. I decided I’d stay out of the pens from there on out.

The auctioneer bid up the cow and she went for the nice price of thirty-five dollars. The bunch of us moved on to the next pen. Pa and I watched as they sold off a heifer, then a nice-sized sow.

After awhile, we reached the pens where they stabled the mules. I knew Pa wasn’t interested in the mules as we breed them ourselves, so we just waited through the bidding until it got to something interesting.

We came to an empty pen and we all walked by. Then, another empty pen and we moved on past that one, too. Finally, we came to the end of the line of pens and lined up in front of the one holding an animal. There weren’t a single horse, cow, mule, or pig within three pens of the one where we found ourselves at last.

I looked in and my jaw dropped like a rock. There stood the biggest, blackest, and meanest looking jackass I ever did see. Two men were holding lead ropes tied to his halter. His head was up and he was puffing his nostrils as he stood there stiff up against the back of the pen. The lead ropes were stretched to their fullest and the two men didn’t look too happy to be in the pen with this critter.
He were at least eighteen hands, so he was near as tall as Pa. His head reared up another three feet. Maybe you’ll think I’m exaggeratin’, but I swear it’s the truth. He was the biggest Mammoth Jack I ever did see.

The bunch of men standing outside the pen were mumbling to each other and looking at the auction book. Pa was holding a copy, so I asked for it and read about the farm he come from in Georgia and other such information.

The auctioneer started up, “What am I bid for this fine jack?”

“Ten,” I heard from the other side of the crowd. All a sudden, the jackass reared up against the ropes and one of the men holding him got flung up on the fence. The other one dropped the rope and scrambled over the side of the pen.

The Jack threw his head down and went for the man who was on the ground. The beast’s mouth was gaped open and he was clearly trying to do some serious damage. Men outside the pen jumped up and grabbed the hands of the man in the pen and jerked him right out. The Jack reared up and slammed his front hooves against the side of the gate.

Crack! The gate splintered and the Jack came tearing out. A brave man grabbed hold of the ropes but he just got hauled behind the jackass like he was no more’n a sheet flyin’ in the wind. Another in the crowd with some presence of mind opened the gate across the alleyway and the Jack went into the next pen. A bunch of the fellas slammed the gate shut.

“Aw, c’mon folks, this Jack is only four years old. He’s worth a lot more’n that. Who’ll give me fifteen?”

Nobody said anything for a bit, then Pa held up his auction card and said “Fifteen.”

The auctioneer pointed at Pa and grinned. I believe he thought the bidding was just getting started.
“Do I hear twenty? Twenty. Twenty. I’ve got fifteen. Who’ll give me twenty?”

Nothin’ but silence.

“Gentlemen, I can’t believe you won’t bid on this fine animal. Just look at the hip on this outfit. He weighs in at over fifteen hundred pounds.”

The auctioneer looked around at the silent crowd. He tried one more time.

“He’ll be a fine stud. Your mules will be big, strong fellas. C’mon now, I’ve got fifteen. Give me seventeen, seventeen. Alright, give me sixteen.”

It didn’t do no good. The crowd figured any jackass that could break down a two by twelve board gate was more’n they wanted to deal with.

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