Steve waited until all the horses went through the sale Saturday morning (I mean, you never can tell when the world’s perfect horse will be sold for a buck and a half, which was about what he was carrying). Then, when they started on the cull cows, he looked at his companions questioningly, and they nodded and rose en masse and walked out into the yard.
Dud was there, and Doc and Herb, and their dogs, of course. But it was Steve who called the hunker. He looked around for just the right kind of stick. You know, about finger thick and maybe a foot long. He found just the right one lurking over by a dead pickup truck and stripped the leaves from it. Then, as he looked around on the ground, so did his three companions. They each picked up a straw left behind by an ancient bale of bedding, and stuck them in their mouths.
Calling a hunker, each knew, meant that the caller had something important to say to his friends. It’s a ritual that must be respected. You could call it the Cowboy Camp David, maybe.
But most people don’t.
At any rate, Steve’s been around a good long time now, but has yet to reach retirement age, so maybe the wisdom of a working cowboy will be worth some temporarily aching knees. Like a brood mare looking for a birthing bed, Steve scuffed his boots in the dirt and turned slowly. To do it right, of course, the hunker must take into account the position of the sun and the distance below their boot soles to the seasonal water table.
Satisfied at last, Steve dropped into a hunker, and his pards followed suit, amid groans from Doc and Herb, whose knees weren’t quite as young as the other two.
And then Steve took the stick and doodled in the dirt there between them. They looked to see if the doodle would give them a clue to the subject du jour. Nope.
Finally, Steve said, “You know, fellas, I been thinkin’…”
He looked up into each of their eyes. Wisdom’s about to happen.
“Occurred to me that if each of us in the whole world had a horse to feed and care for, it would solve the problems of unemployment and war.”
They all nodded because their knees ached and it was time for coffee.
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