It’s The Pitts: Goodfella Comes Calling
By Lee Pitts
One of the disadvantages in trying to eke out a living in the cattle business on rented land is the owner of the land will often be asked for access to the ranch to hunt, bird watch, shoot black powder, look for fossils or cultivate weed.
And, I’m not talking about crabgrass or dandelions.
One of the reasons the owner of the ranch could not say “no” to trespassers was because he hoped to develop the ranch at some point in the future, and he was going to need help from some pretty shady characters, including city council members, bankers, planning commissioners, alternative financiers and all sorts of political types.
So, when one of them would call for permission to hunt or perform some other clandestine activity, like bury someone, the owner had to say “yes.”
Most visitation requests were to hunt on the ranch for quail, pheasants, elk and wild hogs, all of which I’d never seen on the place in the many years we rented it.
But, this did not mean we didn’t have varmints including squirrels, rabbits, gophers, opossums, chipmunks and snakes, of both the human and reptile variety.
I was afraid Gentleman might step in a gopher hole at a breakneck walk and break a leg, so I didn’t mind the squirrel hunters so much.
And, I’ve been told 350 squirrels can eat as much as one cow, and I was not paying exorbitant rent just to feed 15 cows worth of squirrels.
But, I was concerned about hunters who didn’t know the difference between a cow and a deer and didn’t realize just because an animal went “moo” didnʼt mean it was a moose.
Sometimes it seemed like my landlord was throwing a big party on the place every weekend, and I had no control over the guest list. We were infested with all kinds of guests including one rich dude, who it was rumored provided “alternative financing” to the ranch owner.
Long before political correctness kicked in, I believe the guy would have been called a mob loan shark.
Naturally, one doesn’t say “no” to a man like this.
The alleged mobster was the only guest the ranch owner ever warned me about in advance.
I knew he must have been a big shot, because the night before his visit my landlord called to say I was to treat this guy like my life depended on it. I was to give the visiting VIP anything he wanted – which, I guess, included MY TRUCK – which the mobster immediately requisitioned.
I would have said something if not for the bulge in his jacket under both armpits and the jagged scar on his face, running from his jaw to his forehead.
It turned out one of the goon’s interests was Greyhound racing, and I’m not referring to big buses skidding around racetracks. He showed up at the ranch to let his Greyhounds get a little exercise when we were very busy loading a truck with cows that had come up empty on preg checking day.
Things had gone swimmingly well until the gangster arrived with three of his adopted dogs that could no longer keep up with the pack on race day.
As my new friend prepared to unleash his three adopted Greyhounds, I meekly asked, “Will they come when you call them? Will they bother my cattle? Have they been trained at all?”
“Kinda,” replied the hoodlum.
“Being kinda trained is like being kinda pregnant, either they are or they’re not,” I said, mostly to myself.
But, my words came out too soft and too late as the Greyhounds assaulted my cattle from three directions.
As a result, the cattle tore down the ranch infrastructure including the corral and the lead-up alley. And, I actually had cows that had previously been loaded jump back out of the truck.
The grumpy trucker left with only half a load, and we spent the rest of the day trying to chase down the wayward Greyhounds.
I think they still must be out there having a great time chasing down real rabbits instead of the fake ones they couldn’t catch at the track because we haven’t seen a rabbit or a squirrel since the gangster’s visit.