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Splitting Heirs

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Lee Pitts

As an animal science graduate, my favorite subjects were genetics and animal breeding, although this statement may sound a little kinky to liberal arts students. I think many purebred cattle breeders enjoy the cattle business so much because they, too, are fascinated by genetics and can hardly wait to see the results of their planned matings.

It’s funny though, while I’m intrigued by the study of genetics, I have no interest whatsoever in who I’m related to.

I had an aunt who was a “genealogy nut,” although a good case could be made she was just a full-blown nut. My kooky aunt had boxes and boxes of printed matter “related” to the genealogy of my family no one wanted when she passed away. 

On one huge wall of her house, she had photos, or copies of photos, of my relatives laid out in the format of a family tree, with two people becoming four, then 16 and so forth. I’m sure if Kodak had been around at the time, she would have photos of Adam and Eve.  

Judging by the looks of some of the folks on her wall, I’d have to say there was a lot of dry rot in my family tree. At a minimum, I’d say there were a lot of branches and twigs needing pruning. Judging by the looks of some of these scary looking folks, it’s little wonder I look more like a peach pit than I do Brad Pitt.

I think my aunt pursued our family’s genealogy with such vigor hoping to find some famous movie star, soldier or athlete we were related to, but the closest she came was when she discovered we’re related to John Wesley Hardin, one of the most infamous, no-good murdering gunslingers the West has ever known. John Wesley allegedly murdered his first man at age 15, and 26 other murders have since been attributed to him. Actually, my grandparents’ name was Hardin but after John Wesley Hardin ruined his last name, my relatives changed their name and added a “g” to the end. 

Luckily, my aunt could never find credible evidence we were related to the worst president in history, Warren G. Harding, up until now. I say up until now, because I think the current occupant of the White House is making a good case that he deserves the honor.  

I’d like to say my name was actually Pitt, like the great looking actor Brad Pitt, but I figure my family had to add an “s” to our last name so people wouldn’t get Brad and I confused.

Practically every time I saw Auntie Bev, I used to belittle her lifetime of work trying to find someone famous she was related to. 

For example, she would get really offended when I mentioned someone she really hated in town had just joined the Mayflower Society, an organization of people who could document their descent from at least one of the 102 passengers who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 at Plymouth Rock.  

I used to argue with her all the time and would drive her nuts with statements like, “Did you know, Auntie Bev, genetically speaking, 98.4 percent of our genes are identical to that of a modern day chimpanzee?”

Or, “Auntie Bev, did you know we are very closely related to vegetables like turnips and rutabagas? That’s right, according to author Bill Bryson, about half the chemical functions taking place in a banana are fundamentally the same as those taking place in your body! And over 60 percent of human genes are fundamentally the same as those found in fruit flies. So, Auntie Bev, if you want to expand your photo gallery on your wall of who our family is related to, you might want to frame a photo of an onion, a fruit fly or a chimp and put that on your wall.”

Oh, that one really got her, but the deepest cut of all was when I said, “There is more difference between a zebra and horse, genetically speaking, than there is between you and a member of the ass family. Relatively speaking, of course.”

So, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when Auntie Bev cut me out of her will!

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