As our group of friends drove to the Como Steakhouse last Thursday, we encountered a bull, free-ranging along the two-lane road between Holly Springs and Senatobia. His herder/retriever, stick in hand, was not happy and trailed a good hundred yards behind the well-horned Angus-mix that had decided to go on the lam. I felt his pain. Loose livestock was one of the banes of my childhood.
In the early 1970’s, to hear it said that ‘So-and-So’ had just called and our cow/horse/pig was out again meant that, in short order, I would be joining my father, brother, uncle and grandfather in pursuit of some dumb beast who felt the other side of Gordon Road had more to offer than did his home pasture. Hours later, we would finally shoo the escapee through the gap in the barbed-wire, pull it closed and walk the entire fence to find the weak spot. We weren’t farmers, but most of the males of our clan did like to have a few animals on hand to try and trade for a small profit every now and then. This male – the sweaty, fat kid in the Husky blue jeans – had no such desire.
We slowed and moved to one side as we motored past the black bovine. “Uh oh, somebody’s cow got out,” my lovely wife pointed out from the back seat. “Yep,” I said and sped away towards Como.
As a freshman in high school, I was a full-fledged member of the Future Farmers of America, even participating with the FFA parliamentary procedure team that won district. I was on the dairy judging team, too. I knew nothing about dairy cows, but the other choice available to me was poultry judge, and although I liked large eggs, I had no desire to manually confirm which hens could produce them. Our Ag class had two teachers – C. Q. Hoover taught shop, hands-on, and Mr. Earl Lofton was classroom instructor.
The class’s all-male environment, coupled with the shop being located a significant distance from the main school building, led to, shall we say, shenanigans. The best stories about Ag under C.Q. Hoover and Earl Lofton – goats in the library, etc. – can only be told by “career” Ag guys, not the students who took only the mandatory 1st year class but the lifers who followed it up with Ag 2, Ag 3 and Ag 4. Nevertheless, here are a couple of tales in which I was either involved or had a front-row seat.
#1: A close friend, who I won’t name, thought it would be a good idea one day to casually set a broom on fire and slide it under the tables where we sat during Mr. Lofton’s lecture period. The slow burn became a blaze while we all sat there as though nothing was going on. Finally, Mr. Lofton, sniffing, spun around from the blackboard to find a dozen blank-faced innocents with smoke boiling up between their legs. I can still see his wild eyes as he slung the table to the side and stomped the broom out. “Whatever [expletive deleted] did this is lower than a [expletive deleted] lizard’s belly! I’m going to find out who did it, and I’m going to tear his [expletive deleted] up!” he gracefully pointed out. True to his word, two days later, Mr. Lofton did find out, and he did tear his [expletive deleted] up.
#2: On a field trip to prune a local farmer’s fruit trees, this same friend, in either a bold act of defiance or a blatant act of stupidity, got our entire class, including Mr. Hoover, physically ejected from said farmer’s property. As we sprinted away from the farmer, who ran after us yelling curse words that I didn’t realize adults knew, I looked back over my shoulder to see the tree my friend had “pruned.” It had been a peach tree. It was now a “pole” with a single, naked limb about 6 feet off the ground on its right side. There was not a leaf, nor even a small branch, left on it anywhere. I picked up the pace and dove through the doorway of the old yellow school bus, just as Mr. Hoover scratched off. I think the farmer actually threw rocks at the bus until we were out of range.
Our group finally arrived at the famous Como Steakhouse. I wouldn’t have made a very good farmer, I concluded, but I did wonder if the guy back on Highway 4 ever got his bull up. “What would make that darn cow want to get out anyway,” I pondered as I bit into an excellent 10 ounce filet, medium rare.